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When Algorithms Control the World

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the break-out-the-tin-foil-hat dept.

Math 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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Not that far-fetched (0)

ge7 (2194648) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195430)

If we can't even get basic computer security right, would you really trust every aspect of your life to algorithms? The fact is that science doesn't really know anything. There are still a lot of things that need to be done on per issue basis. This is especially true in medical care. I should know because just this year I spent months in a hospital on issue that even the doctors didn't know about. They still don't know, but they could only help with what they felt was right and what I tried to tell (not an easy task for a computer, advanced input processing).

The fact is, since we don't really know that much in science, and that coders make stupid errors with security and algorithms we really aren't ready for that. Where they are used (like air planes), they have been greated with great effort, lots of testing and between long time. We can't affort that for everything - human labor is cheaper.

Clean, clean, clean! (-1, Troll)

ThatGarbage (2445480) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195478)

Just a few days ago, I was struggling and overexerting myself trying to get rid of a very nasty computer virus. It was one that held my PC hostage and would not go away unless I paid the creators of the virus $90! I couldn't believe that such a thing happened to me! "Calm down," I thought. "I'll just try out the usual solutions."

I soon became horrified when I discovered that none of the usual solutions worked. I tried program after program, and spent hour after hour trying to remove the virus, but to no avail. I still had the virus on my system, and most frightening of all, my gigabits were slower than ever and my PC was underclocking like never before! Feeling defeated, crushed, and depressed, I became a mere shell of what I once was. My family noticed the change almost instantaneously. Because of this virus that was synonymous to a nightmare, I began frequently taking my wrath out on my girlfriend and abusing her.

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Re:Clean, clean, clean! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195602)

Does anyone have any experience with this, or is it just (possibly malicious) spam?

Re:Clean, clean, clean! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195674)

This is obviously spam... how horrifying.

Re:Clean, clean, clean! (1, Offtopic)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195888)

"Does anyone have any experience with this, or is it just (possibly malicious) spam?"

It's a Madlib!

Simply replace the URL with one of your own choosing and repost here for Great Fun!

Amuse your Friends and Foes alike! Garner wasted Moderation Points for the Entire Family!

Re:Not that far-fetched (-1, Redundant)

TheCleanBooty (2445492) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195506)

A few days ago, it finally happened to me. Being an experienced PC user, I was shocked that I had been infected with a computer virus. This wasn't just any virus, however. It held my computer hostage and wouldn't go away unless I paid the creators $80! I thought I could get rid of it myself since I was an experienced PC user.

I was horribly, horribly wrong. None of the usual solutions worked at all! I wasted hour after hour trying to remove the virus. My life span was quickly dwindling away due to this nightmarish virus. My gigabits were running slower than ever, and my computer was underclocking. This virus succeeded in doing one thing: making me a mere shell of what I once was. I became filled with feelings of anger, emptiness, and depression. There was a time when I became so angry at this wretched virus that I struck my own four-year-old daughter and my wife.

That's when I found MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] . I went to their website, ran a free scan, and MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] made the virus vanish off of my PC right this minuteness. I couldn't believe how effective MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] was!

My daughter's response? "MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] is outstanding! My dad's computer is running faster than ever! MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] totally cleaned up my dad's system and increased his speed!"

MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] came through with flying colors where no one else could! If you're having computer problems like I was, then I honestly and wholeheartedly recommend that you use MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] to solve your problem. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] will clean up all of your gigabits and you'll be overclocking in no time!

But even if you're not having any visible problems, I still recommend that you use MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] . If you do use MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] , your computer will be overclocking and your gigabits will be running like new! So use MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] right this minuteness!

Watch their commercial! [youtube.com]

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Re:Not that far-fetched (0)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195994)

Dude, you're supposed to replace the URL with a DIFFERENT one.

You're not going to earn any Wasted Moderation Points unless you display a little more creativity.

Re:Not that far-fetched (1, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195634)

Every aspect of our lives IS algorithmical, whether you trust it or not.

Re:Not that far-fetched (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37197596)

Every aspect of our lives IS algorithmical

[proof needed]

Re:Not that far-fetched (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197800)

Easy. We are made of matter and energy. Matter and energy obeys the laws of physics. The laws of physics are mathematical in nature. QED.

YOU SAID IT!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195638)

Right on!

Every time I add 1 to 1, I always wonder what if Science is wrong! What if 2 is not the correct answer!!!

(I know, I know.. for sufficiently large value of... it's an old one, and not funny anymore)

Re:YOU SAID IT!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195828)

Umm, science != math.

Math does know things, it can deal in perfect binaries of truth.
Science only gains confidence and sometimes uses statistics to bound and characterize the error.

Re:YOU SAID IT!!! (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196592)

Given that divide between science and match, would you categorize as Chemistry as Math or Science?

Re:Not that far-fetched (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195648)

The reason we can't get computer security right is that you're fighting against crowd sourcing working against computer security with people finding creative ways to access systems and cause harm. As opposed to say, stock trading algorithms which focus more on macro movements in the market. It's a lot easier to predict what groups of people will do in a situation based on human nature then predicting what a single person will do to try and gain access to a computer system. Other algorithms such as finding the most efficient route on a road for example are probably the easiest as they basically deal with straight mathematics and statistics and feedback. I guess the long and short of it is, the closer you are to "dry" data, the easier it will be to have an algorithm to make a given action more efficient.

Re:Not that far-fetched (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195992)

If we can't even get basic computer security right, would you really trust every aspect of your life to algorithms?

So instead I should trust people? People are even less reliable than computers and even less able to follow security protocols.

The fact is that science doesn't really know anything.

Says the person using a computer that was designed by scientists and engineers.

coders make stupid errors with security and algorithms we really aren't ready for that

So instead, you want to rely on human beings to perform those functions? When last I checked, humans were almost always the weakest link in the security chain, and humans add additional error to already imperfect protocols.

Sell more ads? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195444)

It's the BBC

Re:Sell more ads? (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196210)

You beat me to it, but I suspect our cousins in the States don't understand the concept of a media outlet that doesn't require ads to support it. Indeed, the BBC is required (I believe by law, but I could be wrong) NOT to carry advertising within the UK. It might be a different matter for BBC content outside the UK, I don't know.

Re:Sell more ads? (1)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196424)

No, even over in the US, this Brit doesn't see any adverts for things other than the BBC itself. As expected.

Simon.

Re:Sell more ads? (1)

tycoex (1832784) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196666)

So what you're saying is they really have no excuse?

See: Bot-Mediated Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195472)

Daniel Suarez - Daemon: Bot-Mediated Reality
http://fora.tv/2008/08/08/Daniel_Suarez_Daemon_Bot-Mediated_Reality

Businessman, author, and programmer Daniel Suarez (aka Leinad Zaurus) discusses the role of "bots" in our society. He argues that because of our growing reliance on them, along with their increasing complexity and the vast amounts of data they have access to, they are becoming a threat to human autonomy.

Re:See: Bot-Mediated Reality (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196518)

With all that fear mongering in the article, not one mention of botnets. I get that the subject is seemingly non-malicious algorithms ("taking over"), but still, it seems like the malicious ones would be a more immediate threat.

And yes -- "Daemon", and its sequel, "Freedom TM" are great books that every slashdotter should read [thedaemon.com] .

hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195502)

>sells more ads
>bbc

ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195516)

Because the BBC gets money through ads...

How do you get that job? (4, Funny)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195548)

algorithm expert Kevin Slavin

Algorithm expert? Is he an official algorithm expert? Credentialed in all forms of algorithm?

I suspect it is as much a self-appointed moniker as 'Bill S Preston, Esquire.'

Re:How do you get that job? (1)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195752)

Look, buddy. I don't know who you think you are to question the validity of this man's title. I've spent decades blogging about expert qualifications and rest assured, this man is an expert.

signed:
Expert expert - itchythebear

Re:How do you get that job? (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196584)

Yo dawg, I herd u like exports, so we made you an expert expert so you can be the expert about experts.

Re:How do you get that job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195830)

He has the proper credentials. He's an ex-marketer.

Re:How do you get that job? (3, Informative)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196028)

Here's some more explanation from TED [ted.com] and from his own current company [areacodeinc.com] ..

Re:How do you get that job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195956)

Esquire can be used simply as a "courtesy title for any man in a formal context." [wikipedia.org]

It is in no way bogus.

Re:How do you get that job? (1)

BitwiseX (300405) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196164)

trust me, it's legit. Miles M. - Moniker expert

Re:How do you get that job? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196252)

He's wearing a "Knuth is my Homeboy" shirt, does that qualify him?

Re:How do you get that job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37197418)

If you do anything in video gaming, you're an expert to solve all the world's problems....

Cause game theory dictates how the world works.

Funny thing is that it doesn't, not by a long shot, but many game developers (or former devs) believe so.

FYI, Kevin forgot algorithms are mathematical theory.... theory is still that, theory....whether it's expressed in math, English, code, or philosophy.... Nothing new here. He just put it in an eloquent way that it's cool and OK.

Hmmm (3, Informative)

h4x0t (1245872) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195558)

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.

Snow Crash (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195590)

Neal Stephenson depicted this sort of thing in "Snow Crash" where the ancient Sumerian language controlled everyone (like robots) and everyone ran on algorithms and had no free will. We just need a modern day Enki to make everything speak differently... and I need to learn a couple thousand more programming languages.

I guess doom and gloom sells more ads (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195608)

Not on the BBC they dont its not commercial.

Re:I guess doom and gloom sells more ads (1)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195938)

I think the website shows ads outside of the UK, but yeah, unlikely to be the motivation. Sensationalism for the sake of it, rather than for commercial reasons.

Re:I guess doom and gloom sells more ads (2)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196242)

I'm not sure which is worse - sensationalism to create money through advertising, or for the sake of it.

Re:I guess doom and gloom sells more ads (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197142)

Let me rephrase your question: which is worse, dishonesty for self-promotion or dishonesty for profit?

Answers on a postcard.

Re:I guess doom and gloom sells more ads (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197610)

Not sure it's sensationalist to say that algorithms with poorly-understood (by the users) feedback mechanisms can have unintended consequences. Nor is it sensational to say that people should be as competent with the tools they use in high finance as they would be if they were in any physical craft. There really should be an expectation that these people know more than just how to determine if the difference between two numbers is positive or negative.

I'll agree that it was overplayed, but I won't agree it was overplayed by a lot. When the London Stock Market went online, stocks crashed due to incompetent coding turning the regular noise of trading into a positive feedback loop. When a branch took out a single power line a few years back, it took out I think 3 States and half of Canada due to computer feeback loops not being capable of handling the situation. The first Ariane 5 exploded on launch because a feedback mechanism for guidance had a sign swapped, again creating positive feedback.

These were all preventable and anyone who actually understood dynamic systems (a generic understanding is fine) SHOULD have been able to spot that the code was intrinsically unstable.

But coders are moving further and further away from such understanding. Understanding isn't as common as it once was. What did you expect? Understanding requires maths and the US is currently ranked 26th in the world on just the basic stuff. Sure, the best coders will be as good now as they ever were, if not better. But the worst coders will be worse and the users will be far, far worse. (PEBCAK isn't a computer literacy problem, it is a total breakdown in the ability of people to comprehend even the most elementary aspects of logical thought, and where is logical thought taught? Generally maths and the hard sciences. Disciplines certain politicians are keen to replace with calculators made overseas and Creationism.)

All Hail The First Global Algorithm !!! (2)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195622)

Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.

Re:All Hail The First Global Algorithm !!! (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196074)

Actually, the *first* one was Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.

Re:All Hail The First Global Algorithm !!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37196418)

More like Ug, Ug-ug, Ug-Ug-Ug and Ug-Oook if you wanted one which didn't have very much Ug in it.

Re:All Hail The First Global Algorithm !!! (2)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197710)

According to the etymology dictionary, the first one was Vrueje, Sem, Fogamar and Wentruz. However, these only remained in use until the replacement of PL/Earth.

Fear The Algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195656)

In some place in your mind is lurking..... waiting the exact moment to wake you up, get a shower, drive to work, and many many other evil things ......

Roomba? Not Infiltrating Anything! (2)

rwv (1636355) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195692)

a robo-cleaner that maps out the best way to do housework

My Roomba is certainly not going to be taking over anytime soon. It drives around in a semi-autonomous pattern within a manually defined perimeter and has enough sense not to fall down a set of stairs. My house is big enough and the "virtual walls" are shitty enough that I close doors and throw couch cushions on the floor to regulate where Roomba gets to clean.

Roomba is a tool in very much the same way a vacuum, broom, or paper towel is a tool. I choose to use Roomba not because it is particularly good at cleaning (it isn't) but because I take 4-5 minutes clearing wires off the floor and setting up Roomba's boundaries and then it spend 90-100 minutes driving in circles, then I spend another few minutes cleaning it's brushes and dustbin. This is more desirable than having me spend 20-25 minutes operating an actual vacuum (which I don't actually own... so first I'd have to go buy one).

Re:Roomba? Not Infiltrating Anything! (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196018)

The talk isn't about Skyne. It's about all those small, simple algorithms that slowly have taken important positions in our lives.

The algorithms running on Wall Street are just tools too - they aren't going to turn themselves into HAL and decide to kill humans. But they affect our lives immensely.

My son has been using Algorithm for 6 months (2)

kotku (249450) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195728)

I've tried introducing him to girls, guns and even light pornography, but he just doesn't maintain interest.

What should I do?

--
Concerned Mother!

Re:My son has been using Algorithm for 6 months (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195850)

Maybe you should leave the room when he's about to watch porn.

Re:My son has been using Algorithm for 6 months (1)

Pf0tzenpfritz (1402005) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196706)

I'd subscribe COBOL.

He's late to the party (1)

AutumnLeaf (50333) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195730)

Life is an algorithm.

Re:He's late to the party (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196222)

Life is an algorithm that's not isolated from the rest of the universe I might add. The algorithms we employ often have layers of error correction to prevent mutation. Sometimes, a little chaos (bridging the outside) is necessary to improve on an algorithm. But being Human, we like to maintain control and not let nature meddle with the results we wish to achieve. Of course, that's not such a bad thing either depending on the objective.

Re:He's late to the party (1)

trunicated (1272370) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197038)

while(!dead) {

  • keepLiving();

}

Sensationalist, yes. Still worth taking notice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195772)

As much as this doom and gloom stuff is a little far fetched, it is certainly worth sitting up and taking notice. Each individual algorithm or automated process may seem innocuous, but only when it is tied into every other system can we realize the potential concern. Essentially, we can create our own digital butterfly effect. A butterfly lands on a sensor that determines which direction to point a grid of solar panels, shading it. The panels turn another direction and lose an hours worth of sunlight for the day, which causes a generator to kick into gear. That generator runs out of gas because no one was expecting to need it in the middle of the summer. Since the generator is now out, and Jesus Christ wouldn't you know it, Reddit is down again.

Re:Sensationalist, yes. Still worth taking notice? (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195962)

As much as this doom and gloom stuff is a little far fetched, it is certainly worth sitting up and taking notice. Each individual algorithm or automated process may seem innocuous, but only when it is tied into every other system can we realize the potential concern. Essentially, we can create our own digital butterfly effect. A butterfly lands on a sensor that determines which direction to point a grid of solar panels, shading it. The panels turn another direction and lose an hours worth of sunlight for the day, which causes a generator to kick into gear. That generator runs out of gas because no one was expecting to need it in the middle of the summer. Since the generator is now out, and Jesus Christ wouldn't you know it, Reddit is down again.

Good thing nothing like that ever happens without computer control.

Give me the things that are completely free of statistics, math and algorithms - like baseball!

Re:Sensationalist, yes. Still worth taking notice? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196040)

That generator runs out of gas because no one was expecting to need it in the middle of the summer

So what you're saying is that human error caused the problem?

Re:Sensationalist, yes. Still worth taking notice? (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196282)

The problem is that this is an ants eye view of a city... of course it doesn't make sense. The most powerful algorithms include chaos, and occasionally cause it. Because the universe is a chaotic place. You think you have control of your body and you have a uniform sense that you and your body are integral. Speak to a stroke victim or someone suffering from cerebral palsy. Billions of nerve ending channel signals to your spine which concentrate and filter signal letting the important ones by and stopping the ones that don't matter. Ever notice you had cut you weren't even aware of and only after seeing the blood did you feel it? Your brain filters a literal flood of information first through nerve filters but then through a series of cognitive filters, emotional state, cultural belief, on and on to arrive at a consistent world view. Why should it alarm you that as our technology grows ever more complex, that it finds new way to abstract its lower levels, and that we would find ourselves at the end of greater and greater filtering and aggregation. That's how all complex systems function. We just now have the technology to create systems of sufficient complexity that these natural laws would begin to express themselves in our day to day lives in a conscious way. There's nothing to be afraid of, we just need to begin to notice that what we experience as individuality is an illusion and that we are part of a super-organism. As such we need to begin to look at the care and healthy development of that super-organism and its relationship to eternity. This part of the growing up of our species.

1976 (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195782)

the release of the 8048. That the point when algorithms started to take over

Re:1976 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195876)

That's what makes the Fortran so amazing.
Fortran compilers were written without algorithms for over 20 years!!!

Re:1976 (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197352)

Oh you mean as opposed to the impact of the algorithms in the IBM mainframes that had already influenced a generation of American lives? Or perhaps as opposed to the algorithms in the Enigma Box which had a significant hand in ending global Fascism during WWII? Then again maybe you meant the algorithmic process the Curies used to purify radium, ultimately changing physics forever and creating completely new branches of physics, chemistry, biology and medicine? Perhaps you're talking about the 8048 as opposed to the algorithmic processes of Ford, Edison, of the algorithms used in the looms that literally started the industrial revolution? Hell why not take it all the way back to the Spartans with their mechanical precision and strict attention to science and ordered process which made possible the defeat of the Persians at Thermopylae and the birthplace of Democracy to exist at all in the first place.

Ever see how a flint arrow head or axe is made? The process is entirely algorithmic, well defined and repetitive. Its one of the defining moments of humanity making it possible for early human beings to eat meat and grow our big fat brains, making it possible for us to design ever more elaborate algorithms. We've been stringing together process and symbolic representation for millions of year, and the universe has been doing it with elementary particles for billions of years. The 8048 was simply a blip on a trend line that started 13.8 billion years ago. With the advent of serious synthetic brains, I would be surprised if some degree of sentience isn't the next world shaking development in computers and algorithms, and I'm just as certain that it will come with all the apocalyptic terror the media can muster.

Re:1976 (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197950)

a) my comment was not 100% serious.

b) the part which was serious is the following: if you think about algorithms controlling the world around us directly for everyday life, in small and big things, the availability of micro-controllers was a significant point.

Yes, it's true, algorithms control me! (0)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195800)

I ran my algorithm to see if I should go to the BBC article.

The result was "no."

CS undergrad word grab aside... (2)

oblio_one (1182111) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195802)

"Algorithms" (the word the author uses to mean machine controlled decision making) are just an available tool, like all tools there are examples of positive influence and examples of negative influence (the 3 incidents the author's highlight.) Like all tools people with free will choose to use it if they see the benefit. They don't come out and state "we should stop technological advancement b/c there is some risk," but that would be the natural conclusion of this line of thinking, which frankly is ridiculous. not seeing the point of the whole article.

Greatest algorithms of all time (5, Informative)

jmcbain (1233044) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Greatest algorithms of all time (2)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196104)

"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."

I always get that list confused with this one...

http://kcbx.net/~tellswor/algorism.htm [kcbx.net]

Re:Greatest algorithms of all time (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196188)

You should probably add "Fast inverse square root" to that list. IMHO

Re:Greatest algorithms of all time (3, Insightful)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196288)

I would like to nominate one additional algorithm to the list. Very simple, but effective (though not foolproof). The Taste Algorithm. It goes like this:

If it tastes bad, spit it out.
If it tastes good, eat more.

It was invented by great grandpappy Eukaryote. And it's served our family well all these many generations.

Re:Greatest algorithms of all time (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197288)

I think you may have overlooked an earlier, more basic algorithm:

10 EAT
20 REPRODUCE
GOTO 10

In my day we didn't have no fancy If... Thens, and we were happy dammit!

Re:Greatest algorithms of all time (1)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197860)

You need a line to prevent eating what you reproduced.

Re:Greatest algorithms of all time (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37198214)

Not in the early buggy version of the program you don't.

Re:Greatest algorithms of all time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37196664)

not so sure pagerank qualifies... it's a different type of algorithm than the ones you quote. those are fundamental numerical methods, pagerank isn't.

(it's just a glorified power iteration imo)

This is just ignorant... (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195826)

I'm sorry but algorithms already control our lives and always have. The algorithmic nature of the information and process of our universe that guide the function of DNA, evolution, the dissipative structures of clouds and galaxies all have aspects that can elegantly be seen as algorithms. As quantum mechanics and information science find themselves coming to a junction where the entire universe can be looked at as a remarkably complex computer, the ordered processes (particularly the processes we don't understand or perceive), can be expressed as algorithms and dealing with them as such gives us new insight and ability to understand and manipulate that universe. Even in the purely human world of human creations, there is guiding structure and process in virtually everything. From laws to lug nuts, algorithms allow to decompose process find inherent opportunities for enhanced efficiency and greater elegance. Why would anyone be afraid of that?

Re:This is just ignorant... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196168)

I didn't RTFA, but I'm guessing the author isn't railing against algorithms per se, in the sense that nature uses algorithms, but against entrusting our decision-making to computers running man-made algorithms.

And again, the problem with these computer-driven man-made algorithms is not that they're algorithms, but that they're created by people (and people often fail to anticipate the consequences of the systems they design) and executed by computers (which exercise no judgement over whether what they're doing is a good idea). Poorly designed systems, executed without judgement, without an adequate system of feedback and regulation-- you can get disasters that way.

Move along folks. Left foot, right foot, left ... (2)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195854)

See what I did there?

Anyway, seriously, the article conflates automation with algorithm. Sure, when we have computers, we can create more automated schemes. But we've been doing algorithms from long before we had computers.

MTCicero is wrong (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 3 years ago | (#37195864)

The article is not against technology, but it is showing that we are losing capabilities and culture and freedom when everything is controlled by machines. Every time a computer or machine eases our life we also lose a skill to do this very task. In the end this can make us so dependent on all those tools. While to some degree this might be a good choice and bring more comfort in other cases this will make us lazy. And when you do not use your body it will degenerate and if you do not use your brain it will degenerate too. In the end you buy what Amazon tells you without the ability to reflect your actions. In the stock markets we already reached this level. Broker talk about the market as if it were a being. Even though it is just a large number of automatic stock broker systems which create that erratic behavior.

Re:MTCicero is wrong (1)

vladisglad (1214592) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196268)

You still can't claim it's a bad thing. We're outsourcing a ton of our humanly actions and decision making to machines, but it's leaving us with more time to be human. #singularity

Re:MTCicero is wrong (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196694)

Sorry .. ain't buying it. No machine controls me. My GPS suggests a route, I decide if I want to take it. My trading software gives me the ability to set rules for trading, but I set the rules, it doesn't. And I can turn them off if I want to. My phone uses a remote system to set it's own time, but I decide to set the alarm for 5:30am, and then even decide if I want to hit the snooze, turn it off, or sometimes I just wake up 15 minutes early and decide to just stay up.

NetFlix doesn't tell me what to watch, it presents options. Sometimes I'll just go search for a movie on my own. Often, I'll browse through what they offer and add it to my queue, but I rarely find something I have to watch right now. Amazon isn't even close in their suggestions most of the time, so for the most part I ignore them. I don't recall ever buying anything on Amazon because of a suggestion.

I do agree that SOME people tend to loose skills because they get lazy and let machines do the work. I discovered that when I used a GPS to go everywhere, my ability to come up with effective routes degraded quickly. I watched someone trying to teach a young girl how to make change, and she was clueless. That isn't the fault of the calculator, it's the fault of her lazy parents.

The wall street algorithm comment is just plain stupid. The algorithms attempt to predict human behavior so that trades can be made in advance of change. But the decision to trade using an algorithm then changes the conditions the original algorithm was based on, so it's assumptions are no longer valid and requires a new algorithm. Trading algorithms rarely last very long as they are unable to accurately and quickly quantify and utilize external information, such as news stories.

It is true that some people turn over their decision making ability to machines sometimes. I know a woman who won't drive without her GPS. Yet she is in her 40s, and I know she had to drive for years without one. That's not the fault of the GPS.

That's just someone who is too lazy. On a recent 5 day motorcycle trip, I programmed my GPS, but also studied a map. I was fairly confident I knew most of the turns. My GPS served me well, but if it broke at any point along the way, I could have found my way home.

Eventually....

Re:MTCicero is wrong (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197216)

It is good when you stay in control. However, many people are more controlled and overwhelmed by the technology they have. So I guess we can agree on that: You, me, everybody has to know how technology works and has to stay in control of it.

The example: Automatic trading software shows, that we can create systems we, as humans, cannot understand and predict their behavior. This is why we talk about the market as it were an entity with its own will.

Algorithms already rule the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195872)

Hello HFT, how are you today?

FriSt ps0t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37195932)

For suucessful [goat.cx]

Re:FriSt ps0t (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37197382)

For suucessful [goat.cx]

Pathetic, just pathetic. I've seen +5 posts that were better trolls than this.

Oh wait, is this some sort of elaborate double-bluff meta-troll? My God! They're mutating!

Little Known Fact (4, Informative)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Little Known Fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37196590)

Modded Informative? Come on slashdot, you know better!

Re:Little Known Fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37196696)

That would explain his non-stop running of the mouth on global warming.

Re:Little Known Fact (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197704)

you've changed my life.

Algorithm = mysterious, why? (1)

pseudocode (2445502) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196122)

Much the same as I said on my blog at http://www.pseudocode.eu/archives/2011/08/algorithm-bashing.html [pseudocode.eu] . Call it an algorithm and it sounds mysterious, whereas call it a calculation or process and it's boring and fine. The human brain still has more storage and computing power than Google (I'm guessing here), so I probably use more complicated algorithms choosing my shirt than they do with PageRank or Netflix do with their recommendations.

Re:Algorithm = mysterious, why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37197516)

The human brain still has more storage and computing power than Google (I'm guessing here), so I probably use more complicated algorithms choosing my shirt than they do with PageRank or Netflix do with their recommendations.

Processing power? Maybe, depending on how you define it; I couldn't work out the cube root of 181929.7 in my head. Storage space? I doubt it.

programming ourselves (1)

vladisglad (1214592) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196234)

Ultimately the algorithms we are writing are turning right around and programming us. When you try to find something out by googling it the answers we get back are reduced via algorithm, that's all we get because it's the best we can do.

This was Foreseen! (1)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196390)

Re:This was Foreseen! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37197774)

Link to the movie [youtube.com] - have to love the Control Data equipment.

Despite aloof reaction, actually a problem (1)

Ragun (1885816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196404)

This is Slashdot, yes we know what algorithms are, and we don't fear them by their nature.

That being said, a good deal in our life is more automated than it was before, and while most of it isn't a big deal, as the case of Netflix guessing what movie you would like to watch tonight, or the perfect way to clean your living room, many of them are a big deal. The stock market is the most obvious example, where algorithms based on pattern matching are driving growing portions of the economy. The more algorithms in play, the more the underlying assumptions those algorithms are based on deteriorate, and without any common sense or supervision, that puts our society in a dangerous position.

Not funny (1)

Pf0tzenpfritz (1402005) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196408)

Algoholism is a sad and serious problem!

Suggestion from epSos.de (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37196632)

Any real life financial algorithm should have an exit function for stop loss and stop gain as well.

It is the people who play with the settings.

Beware the maths! (1)

MakinBacon (1476701) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196690)

...he warned that the "maths that computers use to decide stuff" was infiltrating every aspect of our lives.

Maths? In my life?

son of a bitch!

It's all just software (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | more than 3 years ago | (#37196810)

What are the laws, rules, traditions and the other stuff that define a country, society, tribe or corporation?

That's right, its all software.

Not rigorous or precise. Not written in a programming language. Not always executed by a computer. Certainly not bug-free, but still, a form of software.

TED Talks (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197376)

There's nothing worse than a TED talk.

At BEST, they're mildly interesting, factually inaccurate, thinly-veiled agenda pushers presented by self-acclaimed experts who want money/attention/a line on a resume. 5 minutes after it's over you realize it's bullshit, wrong, or technically correct but inconsequential, and then you've got to think of some reply to give your friend who sent you the link, without straight out saying "This is dumb and a waste of my time. Stop sending me this shit - I don't consider you smarter because you're "into" this kind of shit.".

Giving a TED talk is about as significant as saying "I'm a Phoenix.".

Control the chef, control the world... (2)

jaitropmange (1444507) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197810)

World changing algorithms:
  chocolate chip cookie by Toll House
  potato salad by Betty Crocker
  Quicksort

Since no one else did... (1)

NotSanguine (1917456) | more than 3 years ago | (#37197844)

I, for one, welcome our new electronic overlords!

I've often wondered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37198040)

Google's algorithms are their life blood, and I can see how they can glean useful information for marketing from your online habits. But I wonder if they look at everything, and I wonder how they interpret much of the data. For instance, if I enter a set of addresses into Google Maps or even drop a set of markers on a map without addresses attached to them, and I don't enter any data into the description (because the people I'm sending the map to know exactly what they are looking at), how can google get good information from that? They can't read my mind, and I kind of don't like the idea of them even trying to interpret what data they have. Do google's algorithm's simply treat that as noise, and ignore it?

so... algos are the new communists now? (1)

g00mbasv (2424710) | more than 3 years ago | (#37198182)

algorithms taking over our lives? really? is that a problem? funny thing considering "algorithm" is just a fancy word for "a series of organized steps in order to deal with a particular situation" not much like a threat to us but... they put "cyber" into anything and its now a doomsday device.

BBC...sells more ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37198436)

"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.

Err..the BBC doesn't do adds (does this invalidate the original poster's opinion?)

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