搜索引擎是否在操纵我们的思维? | 双语阅读

2018-06-02 16:24:54 评论 2,459

一项研究发现,搜索引擎的自动补全搜索建议功能,能够以非常强有力且基本不被注意的方式影响我们的思维。

Photo credit: Getty Images

1,A couple of months ago, a veteran investor in Silicon Valley conducted an experiment: heextracted all the data that Facebook and Google each held about him and compared the files.

几个月前,硅谷一位资深投资者展开了一项实验:他整理了Facebook和谷歌(Google)分别持有的有关他的所有数据,然后把这些资料进行对比。

The results startled him — Google held dramatically more information, by a large multiple. “It’s amazing,” he told me over breakfast in San Francisco. “Why is nobody talking about that?”

结论让他震惊,谷歌持有的信息是Facebook的好几倍。“结果是惊人的,”我们在旧金山共进早餐时他告诉我,“为什么没有人讨论这个问题?”

① extract [ˈekstrækt] vt. 提取;摘录;榨取 n. 汁;摘录;提取物

例句:European officials also acknowledge that it is trying to extract maximum political advantage from any bond purchases it does make. 欧洲官员还承认,它方每次买入债券时,都试图获取最大的政治优势。

② startle ['stɑːt(ə)l] v. 惊吓;惊奇 n. 惊愕;惊恐

例句:Study it in a mirror: the widened eyes, the wrinkled nose, the head pulled back like that of a startled heron. 照着镜子研究它:眼睛睁大,鼻子皱起,脑袋回缩得像一只受惊的鹭。

Photo credit: Getty Images

It is an interesting question, particularly if you use Google’s services numerous times each day, as I do.

这是一个有趣的问题,特别是在你每天多次使用谷歌服务的情况下,就像我这样。

One answer might be that Google executives have been savvy in building political support networks. Another is that Google hangs on to the data it collects itself, and then uses it to create targeted search-and-advertising offerings, customised for users. Facebook lets third-party developers access its data, which is why the antics of Cambridge Analytica have sparked so much furore.

一个答案可能是谷歌高管擅长建设政治支持网络。另一个答案是谷歌紧握它自己收集的这些数据,然后利用这些数据创造针对性的搜索和广告服务,为用户定制。而Facebook让第三方开发人员获取其数据,这是剑桥分析(Cambridge Analytica)的荒唐行为引发众怒的原因。

③ savvy ['sævɪ] n. 悟性;见识 v. 理解;知道

例句:She is alive to the potential contradictions in all this for aNo Logo author, and savvy enough to know how the system works. 她注意到了这一切给一个写出《NoLogo》的人带来的潜在矛盾,也足够精明地知道这个系统如何运作。

④ customise ['kʌstəmaɪz] vt. 定制,改制(以满足顾主的需要)

例句:This year's FT survey of more than 800 of the top purchasers of customised programmes bears out the point. 英国《金融时报》今年对800多家购买定制课程最多企业进行的调查证实了这点。

⑤ antic ['æntɪk] adj. 古怪的;滑稽的 n. 滑稽动作;丑角 vi. 扮小丑;做滑稽动作

例句:A glimmer of antic intelligence seems at last to have returned to the Warhol eyes. 一丝黠慧似乎终于回到沃霍尔眼中了。

⑥ furore [,fjʊ(ə)'rɔːrɪ] n. 勃然大怒;骚动;狂热

例句:People familiar with the bank had suggested Citi would resume payments once the political furore over compensation had died down. 知情人士曾暗示,一旦关于薪酬的政治风波平息,花旗将恢复支付遣散费。

Photo credit: Getty Images

2,This distinction may make Google sound morebenign, but does it mean we can relax? Robert Epstein, a psychologist with the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California, thinks not.

这种区别可能会让谷歌听上去更友善,但这是否意味着我们可以放松了?位于加州的美国行为研究和科学技术研究所(American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology)的心理学家罗伯特•爱泼斯坦(Robert Epstein)不这么认为。

In recent years, he has conducted extensive research with fellow psychologists and data scientists into Google’s “search”, or “autocomplete”, function. This has left him convinced that search engines can sway our minds in extraordinarily powerful and largely unnoticed ways too — and not only about politics.

最近几年,他与心理学家同事和数据科学家就谷歌的“搜索”或“自动补全”功能进行了大量研究。这让他相信,搜索引擎能够以非常强有力且大多不被注意的方式影响我们的思维,不仅仅是在政治方面。

⑦ benign [bɪ'naɪn] adj. 和蔼的,亲切的;吉利的

例句:Moreover the current Fed chairman's comparatively benign view of the economic outlook seems to be in the ascendant. 此外,这位现任美联储主席对经济前景相对乐观的看法,似乎开始占上风。

⑧ sway [sweɪ] vt. 影响;统治;使动摇 n. 影响;摇摆;统治

例句:He has held sway over Britain's media industry for a generation. Prime ministers have feared and feted him. 他主宰英国传媒业整整一代人之久,历任首相都畏惧他,将他奉为座上宾。

Screenshot: aibrt.org

“A search engine has the power to manipulatepeople’s searches from the very first character people type into the search bar,” says a research paper that this group presented to a psychology conference in Oregon last month. “A simple yet powerful way for a search-engine company to manipulate elections is to suppress negative search suggestions for the candidate it supports, while allowing one or more negative search suggestions to appear for the opposing candidate.”

“搜索引擎有能力从人们在搜索框键入的第一个字符开始操纵人们的搜索,”上月该研究团队向俄勒冈州的一个心理学大会递交的报告称,“搜索引擎公司操纵选举的一个简单但有力的方法是,为其支持的候选人减少负面搜索建议,同时给出对方候选人的一个或多个负面搜索建议。”

⑨ manipulate [mə'nɪpjʊleɪt] vt. 操纵;操作;篡改

例句:"We will not tolerate market players disseminating confusing information in an attempt to manipulate the market," he warned. “我们不容许市场人士人为地制造信息混乱,企图操控市场,”他警告称。

Photo credit: Getty Images

3,Epstein’s group asked 661 Americans to pick one of two candidates in an Australian election. Since they did not know much about Antipodeanpolitics, the participants were instructed to research them with a Google-type search engine that offered the usual autocomplete suggestions when words were typed in.

爱泼斯坦的团队邀请661名美国人在一次澳大利亚选举中的两位候选人中选择一位。由于参与者不太了解澳大利亚政治,他们被指导使用一个谷歌风格的搜索引擎搜索这两名候选人,在键入文字时,该搜索引擎会提供通常的自动补全建议。

However, the researchers also varied the search suggestions shown beneath a candidate’s name, including a range of positive and negative words. The results were stark. When participants were later questioned about their voting preferences, changing the ratio of positive to negative suggestions in the autocomplete was shown to be capable of shifting the preferences of undecided voters by nearly 80 per cent — even though participants seemed free to search for any material they wanted.

然而,研究人员还改变了出现在候选人名字下方的搜索建议,包括一系列正面和负面词汇。结果是明显的。当参与者后来被问到他们的投票偏好时,他们的回答显示,改变自动补全建议中正面和负面建议的比例能够让犹豫不决投票者的偏好改变近80%,尽管参与者看上去可以自由搜索他们想要的任何资料。

Another study found that when participants were only offered four autocomplete suggestions, they were very easily manipulated; when there were 10 to choose from, they were not.

另一项研究发现,当参与者只得到4种自动补全建议时,他们很容易被操纵;当有10种建议供选择时,他们就不容易被操纵了。

⑩ Antipodean [æn,tɪpə'diən] adj. 正相反对的;澳大利亚的

例句:New Zealand is showing that it, too, is ready to play its part in the great Antipodean censorship stakes. 新西兰也向世人表示,它已准备好加入到澳大利亚人的审查活动中。

⑪ beneath [bɪ'niːθ] prep. 在…之下 adv. 在下方

例句:Yet there has always been a churlish undercurrent of criticism beneath the adulation. 然而,奉承之下总是潜藏着难以应付的批评。

⑫ stark [stɑːk] adj. 完全的;明显的;荒凉的;严酷的;朴实的 adv. 完全;突出地;质朴地

例句:It was clear that Lehman had three stark choices: find a partner with which to merge, hope for a bailout, or collapse into bankruptcy. 很显然,雷曼兄弟只有三个极端选择:寻找合作伙伴与之合并;等待政府纾困;或宣布破产。

Screenshot: nytimes.com

These results do not demonstrate that Google — or any other search-engine company such as Bing or Yahoo — has used this power to manipulate its users. But Epstein’s paper highlights some patterns that he considers strange.

这些结果并不证明谷歌(或者必应(Bing)或雅虎(Yahoo)等任何其他搜索引擎公司)利用这种能力操纵了用户。但爱泼斯坦的论文强调了一些他认为奇怪的模式。

His group discovered that if you type the names of Google competitors into its search engine, followed by the word “is”, phrases such as “Yahoo is dead” or “Bing is trash” may surface in the autocomplete bar. According to Epstein, at that time the same did not happen on Yahoo or Bing’s own search engines.

他的团队发现,如果你在谷歌搜索引擎键入谷歌竞争者的名字,再键入“is”时,“Yahoo is dead”(雅虎已死)或者“Bing is trash”(必应是垃圾)等词句可能会出现在自动补全框中。据爱泼斯坦称,当时雅虎或必应自己的搜索引擎没有出现同样的情况。

Photo credit: Getty Images

4,Another striking pattern cropped up in August 2016. When the words “Hillary Clinton is” were typed into Google’s search engine, the autocomplete offered phrases such as “Hillary Clinton is winning”; on Yahoo and Bing, the autocomplete suggested “Hillary Clinton is a liar” and “Hillary Clinton is a criminal”.

另一种引人注目的模式出现在2016年8月。当时当在谷歌搜索引擎中键入“Hillary Clinton is”时,自动补全建议提供的词句包括“Hillary Clinton is winning”(希拉里•克林顿将获胜);在雅虎或必应,自动补全建议显示的是“Hillary Clinton is a liar”(希拉里•克林顿是说谎者)和“Hillary Clinton is a criminal”(希拉里•克林顿是罪犯)。

⑬ crop up 突然发生;出现

例句:Opportunities for foreigners to invest in Chinese securities firms don't crop up often. 外国机构投资中国证券公司的机会并不多。

Google executives say these different auto-suggestion patterns arose because the company has a policy of removing offensive auto-predictions.

谷歌高管表示,这些不同的自动建议模式之所以出现,是因为该公司的一项政策是移除冒犯性自动预测。

They have also firmly denied they have ever tried to use the autocomplete tool to manipulate users. They have said Epstein’s work was based on a small sample size, using a Google-style search engine rather than Google’s own data. In a rare official comment in 2015 about some of Epstein’s work, executives said: “Google has never ever re-ranked search results on any topic (including elections) to manipulate user sentiment.”

他们还坚决否认曾试图利用自动补全工具操纵用户。他们表示,爱泼斯坦的研究基于很小的样本规模,使用的是谷歌风格的搜索引擎,而非谷歌自己的数据。在2015年有关爱泼斯坦部分研究的罕见官方评论中,高管们表示:“谷歌从未就任何话题(包括选举)对搜索结果重新排序以操纵用户情绪。”

⑭ sentiment ['sentɪm(ə)nt] n. 感情;观点;多愁善感

例句:In that way, Twitter is a very poor tool for judging popular sentiment in Iran and trying to assess who won the presidential election. 这样,Twitter是一个非常无用的工具来判断伊朗的公共情感,并试图评价谁会赢得总统选举。

Photo credit: Getty Images

5,If nothing else, this research should make us allponder the way in which we use that “autocomplete” function. The better auto-prediction becomes, the greater the potential risk that users will become lazily sucked into digital echo chambers. Epstein believes there is a simple fix. He thinks the search engines should put a simple “health warning” about the dangers of echo chambers — and manipulation — on their sites to counter these possible risks.

撇开其他不谈,这项研究应让我们所有人思考我们使用“自动补全”功能的方式。自动预测做的越好,用户懒惰地被吸入数字“回音室”的潜在风险就越高。爱泼斯坦认为,有一种简单的解决方案。他认为,搜索引擎应在它们的网站上就“回音室”和操纵的危险附上简单的“健康警告”,以降低可能的风险。

Whether or not you accept Epstein’s research, this seems a good idea. But don’t expect it to happen soon — or not unless more consumers, and regulators, do what my Silicon Valley breakfast companion did: namely look at the data that all the biggest tech companies hold on us, starting — but not finishing — with Facebook.

不管你是否接受爱泼斯坦的研究,这似乎是个好主意。但不要指望这会很快实现,除非更多消费者和监管者像那位在硅谷与我共进早餐的人那么做:即查看所有大型科技公司持有的关于我们的数据,从Facebook开始,但不止于Facebook。

⑮ ponder ['pɒndə] vt. 仔细考虑;衡量 vi. 考虑;沉思

例句:That day he had a nagging scientific question to ponder. 那一天,他要思考一个恼人的科学问题。

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