How Algorithms Govern
Your Life

Mishcon de Reya’s Academy recently welcomed David Jevons, an Economist and Partner at Economic Consultancy Oxera, to discuss the far reaching impact of algorithms. In conversation with Real Estate Managing Associate Nick Kirby, David explained how algorithms work, what impact they have on businesses and how they could wrest control of our life choices.

We live in an increasingly digital world where AI is now commonplace. Today’s businesses are able to capture, store and analyse data about competitors, consumers and the wider world, helped by technological advances such as cloud computing. Algorithms rule the internet and make autonomous decisions that drive our behaviour and govern our choices. At this event, David also explained how algorithms are changing society and opening up new markets, as well as predicting how they may be used as a force for good in the future.

Mishcon Academy
Tech Talk: How Algorithms Govern Your Life

David Jevons
Economist and Partner, Oxera Economic Consultancy
So, today we’ve been talking a little bit about how algorithms are changing the society in which we live, a little bit about how they are working for people and some of the risks that they might pose.

I’m an economist, I spend a lot of my time looking at data and how firms use that data in making decisions which effects our daily lives – what posts come up in our social media feed, how much we pay for insurance, those sorts of things.

Some of the benefits of algorithms that we’ve seen so far have been that they’ve enabled consumers to compare products much more easily – now, instead of going round lots of insurance brokers we can go to a price comparison website say.  We are also seeing those algorithms opening up whole new markets as well.

There are definitely some risks associated with using algorithms and both firms and consumers are becoming more aware of how algorithms are influencing our daily lives.  We’ve seen people starting to question some of the outcomes that they’ve got from algorithms so they may feel surprised when they pay more for a product than somebody else.  It’s forcing firms to think really hard about, is that fair?  Is that what we want to do?  Maybe it is, maybe they are exploiting a situation though.

In terms of future developments, I think the next big area which is going to be very controversial will be in their use in healthcare.  When we start to understand how we can get better interventions in healthcare, there will be a lot of questions about whether that’s fair, is it ethical?  We’ll have to think very hard about the use of algorithms and particularly their predictive nature when looking at people’s health.