Algorithm-Based Illusions of Understanding

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademic


Understanding is a demanding epistemic state. It involves not just knowledge that things are thus and so, but grasping the reasons why and seeing how things hang together. Gaining understanding, then, requires some amount of inquiry. Much of our inquiries are conducted online nowadays, with the help of search engines and social media. I explore the idea that online inquiry easily leads to what I will call algorithm-based illusions of understanding. Both the structure of online information presentation (with hyperlinks, shares, retweets, likes, etc.) and the operation of recommender systems make it easy for people using them to form the impression that they are conducting inquiry responsibly, whereas they are in fact led astray by irrelevant cues, spurious links between information or, even worse, various forms of misinformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-64
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Epistemology Review and Reply Collective
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2019


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