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Chosen for You, the book that reveals the secrets of Internet algorithms

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Two billion lines, perhaps even more: the set of algorithms that regulate the online activity of Google, which dictate how it will respond to our queries, is made up of two billion lines of code. If they were in a book, two billion lines would take up 36 million pages and the volume would weigh 25 tons. More or less like 25 thousand copies of War and peace, which by itself is not exactly an agile booklet.

E Facebook? Its algorithm is just over 60 million lines long, but it is capable of doing many things we didn’t know it was capable of, like figuring out for yourself that two people are in a relationship. Without either of them telling him. The company unveiled it in 2014, in a post titled The formation of Love, in which it is recalled that “relationships begin with a period of courtship” and in particular that “on Facebook they exchange messages, visit profiles, share posts on their respective timelines” and that “during the 100 days preceding the of the relationship we observe a slow, but steady increase in the number of posts shared between the future couple: a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship starts and a low of 1.53 posts per day 85 days after the start of the relationship ”. Because? Because “courtship is suspended and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world”. Because the relationship has begun, and Facebook knows it.

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by Emanuele Capone


Chosen for you, the secrets of the Internet in a book
These, the one on Google and the one on Facebook, are just two of the many curiosities that can be found while reading Chosen for you (Castelvecchi Editore, 115 pages, 14.50 euros), the beautiful book by Francesco Marino dedicated precisely to “how algorithms govern our life and what we can do to defend ourselves”. Marino, who also works as a digital strategist for companies and institutions, manages an interesting page on Instagram dedicated to technology and it’s among the collaborators of Italian Tech (here a piece of his on NFT), divided the book into 3 main chapters.

In order, they are dedicated to Input, Processo e Output, that is, how we who surf online provide sites and apps with the information they need (even unknowingly), how these sites and apps process it and how they give us the results we want. Or what they want.

The book is well written, easy to read, with many practical examples to try to understand a topic that is not easy to understand: it will appeal to those who are already interested in the subject, but even more so to those who have never done so in fear of running into excessively complicated explanations.

We particularly appreciated what can be considered the two final appendices:

  • a chapter dedicated to learn more about the apps we deal with every day (from Amazon to Twitter, from Spotify to Instagram and Tinder), with information on how they do what they do and why;

  • a section with 10 tips to try to escape from conditioning and from the bubble that we somehow built ourselves.

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