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Viewing Algorithms as Emerging Institutions

A conversation with Virgilio Almeida

April 10, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

In the presentation, we introduce an innovative idea: algorithms can be seen as emerging institutions in modern societies. They function as rule sets shaping norms and environments for both humans and machines. As a result, algorithms impact individual behaviors and have broader societal effects. We illustrate this concept by examining examples of algorithms used in public security, government platforms, and recommendation systems across different domains. Our conclusion emphasizes the need to democratize algorithms, similar to how other complex institutions have been democratised in the past, to mitigate the risks they present to contemporary societies.

Virgilio Almeida is a  Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). He is also  Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University.  He held visiting positions in several universities and research labs, such as Harvard University (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences), New York University, Boston University, Santa Fe Institute, HP Labs. Virgilio served as the chairman of NETmundial, the Global Multistakeholder Conference on the Future of Internet Governance, held in São Paulo in 2014.  He is co-author of five books covering topics such as web technologies, e-commerce, performance modeling, and capacity planning, published by Prentice Hall. He is also the author of "Governance for the Digital World," published by Palgrave MacMillan, and his most recent book is "Algorithmic Institutionalism: The Changing Rules of Social and Political Life," published by Oxford University Press. Almeida . His current research interests revolve around social computing, governance of algorithms, the social impact of AI, and modeling and analysis of large-scale distributed systems.


Join Virgilio Almeida to explore how algorithms act as modern institutions shaping societal norms and behaviors. In this upcoming book talk, Virgilio Almeida advocates for democratizating algorithms to counteract potential risks, drawing on examples from public security to recommendation systems.

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