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Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World.Yes, what DO Algorithms have to do with grants—an interesting and perhaps perplexing question?

As always, I tend to read different sources, and saw in The Wall Street Journal’s September 20, 2012 Bookshelf review by Evgveny Morozov, “The Tyranny Of Algorithms,” which was a review of Christopher Steiner’s new book, Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World.

Morozov writes: “In "Player Piano," his 1952 dystopian novel, Kurt Vonnegut rebelled against automation. For Vonnegut, the metaphor of the player piano—where the instrument plays itself, without any intervention from humans—stood for all that was wrong with the cold, mechanical and efficiency-maximizing environment around him.

Vonnegut would probably be terrified by Christopher Steiner's provocative "Automate This," a book about our growing reliance on algorithms. By encoding knowledge about the world into simple rules that computers can follow, algorithms produce faster decisions.

While "Automate This" hints at some of these thorny issues, it says very little about the ways to resolve them. The real question isn't whether to live with algorithms—the Sumerians got that much right—but how to live with them. As Vonnegut understood over a half-century ago, an uncritical embrace of automation, for all the efficiency that it offers, is just a prelude to dystopia.”

And here’s another review of Steiner's book.

So how DO predictive algorithms relate to grants?

For example, you just finished an electronic proposal submission to a fundor minutes before the deadline. You push the SUBMIT button and you instantly receive several ERROR messages. The clock is still ticking towards the deadline. You go back and correct the listed errors. You repeat the SUBMIT function, and with 30 second to spare, you receive an automated email saying it was officially received by the fundor, and let out a sigh of RELIEF!

One month later you receive an email from the fundor indicating that your proposal will not be reviewed because you used a 10 point Arial font instead of a 12 point Times New Roman font. Adding more insult to injury, you didn’t have a one inch margin around the borders.

You “SCREAM” out loud, scaring your cube-mates! You have just experienced a manual algorithmic review by the fundor’s staff that used a ruler and magnifying gas to make your proposal ineligible for review by their Review Panel.

This combined automated and manual algorithmic review helps the fundor reduce the number of proposals they read. Start thinking like Christopher Steiner the next time you submit a proposal so that you are not caught in the “Tyranny of Algorithms!”<>