For decades, many people have feared that the rise of AI will put us out of jobs as machines take over more manual tasks. Therefore, the smart decision is to focus on rare skills to set you apart, helping you land high-quality jobs with greater security.

Yet it’s possible that the real threat in today’s world is posed by a far more pervasive and influential form of AI. Algorithms have come to play a major role in decision-making, both on an individual and organizational level.

The average person may not be aware of what algorithms do or how they affect our everyday lives. Even those who have some idea of their influence don’t accord it much importance. But that needs to change, and the best response is to train your mind for better thinking.

A virtual problem with real impacts

Many people know that algorithms are used on various apps and social media. Netflix uses them to suggest new shows, Spotify uses them to recommend artists, and Facebook comes up with people you may know.

Along with those come targeted ads based on your interest and how these platforms have profiled you. Sometimes the accuracy of these algorithm-based models can be creepy, but it’s generally deemed harmless.

However, what happens when things have a much greater real-world impact? For instance, if you wanted to buy a house, you might be surprised to learn that a computer algorithm denied your loan application. Not all companies today still give you the chance to make a case to another human being, in the form of a mortgage loan officer.

In a much-publicized report in 2016, investigators from the online journalism team at ProPublica delved into the risk-assessment software being used across the country to predict future crimes. Like a scenario out of Minority Report, the team found flaws in the algorithm that lead to discrimination playing a part in a supposedly objective system.

The issue of flawed or inaccurate algorithms having an outsized effect on our lives is real. And it has the potential to affect everyone’s career as employers use algorithms to recruit and hire people. Without realizing it, their biases may be projected onto a system based on machine learning, and the employee suffers by being ruled out of consideration for good jobs.

Dodging the effects

Despite the dangers of this virtual problem, experts believe that algorithms’ benefits are too valuable to be discarded altogether. Moving forward, they will continue to be even more deeply integrated into our thinking.

The first step you can take towards differentiation is to hone your critical thinking. This is the skill that lets you ignore machine-generated suggestions on your feeds, spot fake news, and detect subtle bias.

Everything we encounter in our daily lives has potentially been designed or influenced by an algorithm meant to nudge us in a particular direction. If we aren’t critical in processing that information, we risk losing agency altogether and acting in exactly the way the algorithm’s creator or deployer desired.

Another aspect that helps you regain control over your thought process is creativity. As sophisticated as algorithms can be, they are still designed by humans for a specific purpose. Without that human element, algorithms can’t be self-directed.

Creativity puts you in charge of things machines can’t do. It allows us to detect problems and develop solutions. If you can’t stomach the thought of having an algorithm limit your employment options, why not start a business and become the employer instead?

Many people won’t ever become aware of algorithms’ influence or make an effort to resist it. By doing so, you differentiate yourself and retain your agency in life.

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