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Math Technology

When Algorithms Control the World 150

MTCicero writes "The BBC has an interesting if not apocalyptic take on the spread of algorithms into everyday life. Perhaps the author should have spent a little more time discussing how algorithms in everyday life have improved things like communications, medical care, etc... I guess doom and gloom sells more ads. From the article: 'At last month's TEDGlobal conference, algorithm expert Kevin Slavin delivered one of the tech show's most "sit up and take notice" speeches where he warned that the "maths that computers use to decide stuff" was infiltrating every aspect of our lives. Among the examples he cited were a robo-cleaner that maps out the best way to do housework, and the online trading algorithms that are increasingly controlling Wall Street.'"
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When Algorithms Control the World

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  • Hmmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by h4x0t ( 1245872 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @03:59PM (#37195558) Homepage
    It would seem to me that physical principles govern the world in which we live. All of which can me shown mathematically.
    Some goofy apes using maths to run their roomba or make money isn't exactly mind blowing of frightening.
    But then again i'm not the target audience of this story.
  • by jmcbain ( 1233044 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:13PM (#37195814)

    I really don't see what the problem is. Algorithms are all around controlling everything we do. Like any technology, it is how they are used by humans that determine if their use is good or bad.

    Look at the list of the greatest algorithms in history [siam.org], as selected by SIAM (Society of Industrial and Applied Math) in 2000. Our lives would be completely different and worse without them.

    • Monte Carlo method
    • Linear programming solutions via the Simplex method
    • Krylov subspace iteration methods
    • Decomposition approach to matrix computations
    • Compiler optimization for FORTRAN
    • QR algorithm for computing eigenvalues
    • Quicksort
    • FFT
    • Integer relation detection
    • Fast multipole

    Since this paper was written in 2000, I would guess that the Google founders' PageRank should be included in there as well.

  • Little Known Fact (Score:4, Informative)

    by jjeffries ( 17675 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:23PM (#37196012)

    Algorithms, in general, were invented by Al Gore. Being a humble public servant, instead of naming his invention directly after himself, he instead spent his valuable time developing the very word "algorithms", a portmanteau of the words "Al Gore Rhythms".

    Don't be misinformed.

  • by emurphy42 ( 631808 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:24PM (#37196028) Homepage
    Here's some more explanation from TED [ted.com] and from his own current company [areacodeinc.com]..

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun