From Uber ratings to credit scores: What’s lost in a society that counts and sorts everything?

photo credit: Dan Komoda/Institute for Advanced Study

April 30, 2024
In her book, UC Berkeley sociology professor Marion Fourcade investigates what our dependence on ratings and rankings means for the future of individuality and society.
Have you ever hailed a ride from an unrated Uber driver? Dined at a zero-star restaurant? Made a pricey online order from the lowest-rated Amazon vendor?

Likely not. That's because rating systems have overhauled the way we travel, eat and shop. Born from the early days of e-commerce on sites like eBay, ratings help weed out scammers and lend some semblance of order to a fast-changing online marketplace.

But there's a darker side to this reliance on ratings and rankings, says Marion Fourcade, a UC Berkeley sociology professor and director of Social Science Matrix. Supercharged with AI technology, they're increasingly changing how we value each other and ourselves.

In her new book, The Ordinal Society, Fourcade and co-author Kieran Healy, a sociology professor at Duke University, explore the origins of the technology that gave rise to the systems that sort us today. They trace the rapid evolution of online search from the early days of Yahoo to the digital capitalism made mainstream through Google. And, they warn, the process companies use to gather information — from data on our online browsing to our biological measurements — can shape markets, societies and social life.
Read the full article in Berkeley News