Challenge Grant: Our Boosters will match donations up to $45,000. We have $38,328 to go. Please donate!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Altered Algorithms for Choice

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 20, 2006

Amazon.com found itself in big trouble with abortion advocates, because when visitors logged on an searched under "abortion," the web site queried whether they might be interested in "adoption."

"I thought it was offensive," said the Rev. James Lewis [a spokesman for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.] "It represented an editorial position on their part."

It wasn't. No editorial function-- in fact, no human action at all-- was involved. The Amazon computer is programmed to notice correlations. A lot of people who searched under "abortion" did, indeed, also search under "adoption." So the computer helpfully began suggesting that connection.

You can't say that the computer "chose" to ask about adoption, because computers don't really make choices. The "adoption" suggestion was the end result of an algorithm. The Amazon search engine had made a complicated series of dry, mathematical calculations, reflecting the choices made by thousands of users-- many of whom were, no doubt, women facing unexpected pregnancies.

Under pressure from the abortion lobby, Amazon has altered the terms of the search, and the "adoption" suggestion no longer pops up in response to an "abortion" query. This is another victory for the people who describe themselves as "pro-choice," while doing their best to restrict the "choices" of which women-- and, now, even computers-- are aware.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($125,706 to go):
$150,000.00 $24,293.70
84% 16%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 21, 2006 12:40 PM ET USA

    Can we not raise just a big a ruckus that the algorithm was changed? Everyone email Amazon with or objections!!!

  • Posted by: Canismater - Mar. 21, 2006 12:09 AM ET USA

    Wow…thanks for cueing us in Uncle D.

  • Posted by: hUMPTY dUMPTY - Mar. 20, 2006 9:58 PM ET USA

    Just goes to show since algebra was an Arabic invention, and the concept of "0" was condemned by the Church. Fortunately Copernicus' calculations were only hypothetical and thus did not contradict the Bible.

  • Posted by: rpp - Mar. 20, 2006 4:36 PM ET USA

    "I have made up my mind. Don't bother me with facts!"

  • Posted by: corquin - Mar. 20, 2006 11:46 AM ET USA

    So, now even a poor, inoffensive algorism is aborted to prevent further formulaic adoption? What will happen as those little unsolved equations are just thrown out to wither away? Ooops - I'm sorry - I fortot that this was brought to us by the demonic digits at Internal Manipulation, Inc.

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Ignatius Press into the Breach: Trumping the Kasper Proposal 16 hours ago
Has the Vatican finally discovered how to avoid inaccurate English translations? 20 hours ago
The Synod: It's a Wrap! October 21
A chaotic synod? Not in its results October 21
Cardinal Kasper's unsubtle threat October 21

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Key synod report calls for 'gradualism' in Church response to irregular family situations CWN - October 13
As synod concludes, bishops issue message, approve document; Pope weighs in CWN - October 20
Cardinal Parolin: UN must protect innocents from Islamic State CWN - September 30
Synod of Bishops opens with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica CWN - October 6