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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pew Internet Research Looks at Algorithms

I like their broad definition of algorithms.  Sometimes the implication is falsely given that algorithms are some magical and very complex thing.    But they are simply the way that some processes can be driven by rules.  How these are constructed by analytics can be complex.  Or not, and its better if they are simple and thus transparent.  Its the operational aspects of how this is done and managed that is important.

In PewInternet: 
Algorithms are instructions for solving a problem or completing a task. Recipes are algorithms, as are math equations. Computer code is algorithmic. The internet runs on algorithms and all online searching is accomplished through them. Email knows where to go thanks to algorithms. Smartphone apps are nothing but algorithms. Computer and video games are algorithmic storytelling. Online dating and book-recommendation and travel websites would not function without algorithms. GPS mapping systems get people from point A to point B via algorithms. Artificial intelligence (AI) is naught but algorithms. 

The material people see on social media is brought to them by algorithms. In fact, everything people see and do on the web is a product of algorithms. Every time someone sorts a column in a spreadsheet, algorithms are at play, and most financial transactions today are accomplished by algorithms. Algorithms help gadgets respond to voice commands, recognize faces, sort photos and build and drive cars. Hacking, cyberattacks and cryptographic code-breaking exploit algorithms. Self-learning and self-programming algorithms are now emerging, so it is possible that in the future algorithms will write many if not most algorithms.

Algorithms are often elegant and incredibly useful tools used to accomplish tasks. They are mostly invisible aids, augmenting human lives in increasingly incredible ways. However, sometimes the application of algorithms created with good intentions leads to unintended consequences. ... " 

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