Algorithms Control The World

Source: Swfung8 (CC)

A graphical expression on Euclid's algorithm using example with 1599 and 650. Source: Swfung8 (CC)

Jane Wakefield explains for BBC News:

If you were expecting some kind warning when computers finally get smarter than us, then think again.

There will be no soothing HAL 9000-type voice informing us that our human services are now surplus to requirements.

In reality, our electronic overlords are already taking control, and they are doing it in a far more subtle way than science fiction would have us believe.

Their weapon of choice – the algorithm.

Behind every smart web service is some even smarter web code. From the web retailers – calculating what books and films we might be interested in, to Facebook’s friend finding and image tagging services, to the search engines that guide us around the net.

It is these invisible computations that increasingly control how we interact with our electronic world.

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.

“We are writing these things that we can no longer read,” warned Mr Slavin.

“We’ve rendered something illegible. And we’ve lost the sense of what’s actually happening in this world we’ve made.”…

[continues at BBC News]

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  • Yith

    There were a few neat bits in that TED talk that I hadn’t heard of before (I saw the TED talk weeks ago online); but the idea that algorithms shape the world around us in profound ways is a very old idea.  However, few have explained this as clearly and nicely as Slavin.  Any time that I try to tell people about such things they either don’t believe me or else come away feeling underwhelmed.  As with comedy, it’s all about the delivery. 

  • Yith

    There were a few neat bits in that TED talk that I hadn’t heard of before (I saw the TED talk weeks ago online); but the idea that algorithms shape the world around us in profound ways is a very old idea.  However, few have explained this as clearly and nicely as Slavin.  Any time that I try to tell people about such things they either don’t believe me or else come away feeling underwhelmed.  As with comedy, it’s all about the delivery. 

  • Breckbeeman

    i for one welcome our new algorithmic overlords…

  • Breckbeeman

    i for one welcome our new algorithmic overlords…

  • Breckbeeman

    i for one welcome our new algorithmic overlords…

  • Breckbeeman

    i for one welcome our new algorithmic overlords…