Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Algorithm

[Media prompt] Study reveals bot-on-bot editing wars raging on Wikipedia's pages. … The findings show that even simple algorithms that are let loose on the internet can interact in unpredictable ways. In many cases, the bots came into conflict because they followed slightly different rules to one another.
The Algorithm

Having administered his wife a beating, the imam’s ‘chocolate and flowers’ approach in tatters this morning after she said no to his face again, Mohammed left the house secure in the knowledge that she finally understood obedience was the first right Islam acknowledges for the husband over his wife. Alhamdulillah, he said out loud, reversing down the drive; he had a great job as head of IT at Stela, a large house, he was the wealthiest man he knew. Despite this opulence, and notwithstanding his calm explanations that she was committing the gravest of sins by disobeying him, commentary he had furnished on more than one occasion, she still pushed him away in defiance. Gazing from the road at his house, a two-storey dwelling only partially visible behind a pair of towering oaks, modelled, if he could believe the real estate agent, on the French Norman style, he saw Suha looking at him from behind a curtain. Perhaps after this morning’s thrashing, she would gain a new appreciation for what she had. The curtain closed as he drove off, the Stela accelerating silently into the distance.

The Stela manufacturing plant was just off the interstate, a squat grey building with red guttering, which last year rolled 767,000 autonomous electric cars off the assembly line. The forecast for this year was over one million. Mohammad’s Stela navigated to the main office complex, a nine-storey glass cube shining in the morning light. As usual, he greeted the kafir at the front door with a friendly smile; unbelievers disgusted him, they revolted all Muslims, but circumspection was prudent until certain conditions were sufficient. One of which, as if he needed to recall, was in his hands, and would be initiated shortly. As he ascended to the ninth floor, Mohammed took a deep breath. Today was the start of Operation Scale Down.

Mohammed’s life was immersed in two worlds; Allah and algorithms. More than once he had noted the harmonious interface between the two, and today, as he seated himself at his desk, he reflected for a moment on the role algorithms would play in bringing the world under the Islamic banner. The imams were right, California was ripe for the first step; the Catholic enemy had been invading for decades. It was time to turn the tide.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, there were 12.12 million registered vehicles on Californian roads. And Mohammed knew that today 556,114 of them were Stelas. He logged into his computer, closing his eyes as it booted up. He thought of the five daily prayers, the five pillars of Islam, the six articles of faith, the 114 Surahs of the Quran, repeating softly, “This dark night will be over, and soon we will trample them underfoot, Allah willing.” He thought of the weeks and months he laboured over code, hiding it behind walls behind walls, a task abetted by a cohort of strategically-placed believers.

Mohammed set free his algorithm, a simple one, with just one task; to guide Stelas into high speed collisions with any vehicle on Californian roads operated by Hispanics. Life was so simple when all was said and done. 

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