Yes, algorithms do educate!

Rainri Back, Adjunct Professor, Department of Theory and Foundations, Faculty of Education, Brasília University (UnB), Brasília, DF, Brazil.

Logo Educação & Sociedade Revista de Ciência da EducaçãoIn the essay Who does the control society want to form?, published in the journal Educação & Sociedade (vol. 43), I try to defend the thesis according to which society forms its individuals. The most basic premise is relatively simple. Every society has its specific characteristics and the formation of its individuals ends up reflecting these characteristics. So what is the basic characteristic of the Western society? To answer this question, we start with a very interesting idea from the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. According to him, each society is defined by its machines. What would be the machines of Western society? Computers, right? Therefore, society is forming its individuals according to the characteristics of the computers with which they interact daily.

Well, therein lies the strategic importance of algorithms. In short, they are instructions written in computing language. They are designed to respond to the data we register on the Internet when we use smartphones or computers. By responding to our data, algorithms induce us to behave in a certain way. For example, I search for the price of a product on a website, but I do not buy it. Then I go back to the website to look for the same product. Mysteriously, in the meantime, it is more expensive. So I am induced to buy it because I am afraid of another price increase. It is an algorithm-based online sales technique. It is called “dynamic pricing”.

There are countless other examples of algorithm-based behavior induction. One of them is related to our political behavior. I cite 2016 elections in the United States. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, Cambridge Analytica psychologically profiled millions of Facebook users. Thus, it was able to target them with specific and temporary messages in order to induce their vote. And I could also cite 2018 elections in Brazil. This is what a report published in the US newspaper The New York Times shows. According to it, YouTube induced the vote of millions of Brazilians with massive recommendations of videos on extreme right-wing topics.

In short, inducing certain behavior is one way to form, to educate someone, right? The education of children, students etc. is to a great extent based on inducing behavior. People acquire a certain psychological, moral and political profile when they are encouraged or repressed to develop certain behaviors. Yes, it is possible to induce, by means of algorithms, our behavior every time we use smartphones or computers. But what profile do the algorithms hope to form in us? My conclusions are not very optimistic. They expect impulsive, unthinking responses; they expect to pulverize our affections in order to sell various commodities; above all, they expect to separate us into private spaces whose access depends on a private password. In a word, they expect to depoliticize us.

In the following video, Rainri Back discusses the motivations for writing the article and invites you to this thought-provoking read.

Read more

AVELINO, R., DA SILVEIRA, S. A. and SOUZA, J. (org.). A sociedade de controle: manipulação e modulação nas redes digitais. São Paulo: Hedra, 2018.

BRUNO, F. et. al. (org.). Tecnopolíticas da vigilância: perspectivas da margem. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2018.

DELEUZE, G. Conversações. 3. ed. São Paulo: Editora 34, 2017.

FISHER, M. and TAUB, A. How YouTube radicalized Brazil. New York Times, 11 ago. 2019 [viewed 2 May 2022]. Available from:

LAZZARATO, M. Signos, máquinas e subjetividades. Edição Bilíngue. São Paulo: Edições SESC; N-1 Edições, 2014.

O’NEIL, C. Weapons of math destruction: how big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. New York: Broadway Books, 2017.

WELLS, G., HORWITZ, J. and SEETHARAMAN, D. The Wall Street Journal. Facebook knows Instagram is toxic for teen girls, company documents show. 14 set. 2021 [viewed 2 May 2022]. Available from:

WONG, J.C. The Cambridge Analytica scandal changed the world – but it didn’t change Facebook. The Guardian, 17 mar. 2019 [viewed 2 May 2022]. Available from:

Para ler o artigo, acesse

BACK, R. Who does the control society intend to form? Educação & Sociedade [online]. 2022, vol. 43, e243734 [viewed 2 May 2022]. Available from:





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Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

BACK, R. Yes, algorithms do educate! [online]. SciELO in Perspective: Humanities, 2022 [viewed ]. Available from:


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