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Here are some of the basic algorithms behind a lot of what your computer does
Source: Nick Routley




In the modern world, algorithms do much of the digital heavylifting.
Algorithms control the inner-workings of everything from particleaccelerators to stock markets. They determine the news you see,what search results you get, how computers learn, and what getsrecommended to you on Netflix or Amazon.
In short, society couldn’t function as-is without algorithms –and as we lean on them to run more things, it becomes moreimportant for us to learn what they are and what they do.
Algorithms 101Today’s infographic from Futurism digs into the origins of algorithms, andhow they impact our everyday lives.
Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist What is an algorithm?An algorithm is a predetermined set of steps for a computer toaccomplish a task. It’s basically an instruction manual. And asin life, instruction manuals can be simple (e.g. building an Ikeaside table) or extremely complex (e.g. filing a patent).
Below is “Sorting Out Sorting” (1981), a timeless primer onsorting methods. It clearly demonstrates the way computersapproach sorting vast quantities of information by following aset of instructions.
A famous example of an algorithm is Google’s PageRank,which determines the order in which websites appear in Google’ssearch rankings. PageRank’s methodology is explained succinctlyand effectively in the video below.
By building on a stochastic model called the Markov chain, PageRank revolutionized the way theworld accesses information. The power of this algorithm ispartially responsible for Google’s ability to control 41% of the online ad market, which iswhere Alphabet still generates the majority of its revenue.
How algorithms influence societySocial platforms play a substantial role in delivering news andinformation to us. In fact, an estimated 44% of the U.S.
population consumes news via Facebook. The more we rely on socialnetworks to supply us with news, the more algorithms willinfluence what information we’re exposed to. Since socialplatforms are designed to serve us customized content, there is agrowing concern that we are creating online echo chambers thatcrowd out opposing views.
Algorithms also have a profound influence on our economy. Roughly50% of the market moves through high frequency trading – the process of usingdedicated programs to make automated trading decisions to placeorders. Large portions of our economy are now managed with verylittle human intervention.
In recent years, progress in the field of artificial intelligencehas generated an abundance of interest and excitement. Deeplearning (a technique for implementing machine learning) ismaking all kinds of machine-assisted tasks possible. Preventivehealthcare, driverless vehicles, drug discovery,bioinformatics, and hyper-customized recommendations on shoppingwebsites are all here today or coming down the pipeline.
Deep learningThe remarkable thing about deep learning is that it goes beyondwhat any human can program a computer to do. Programmers haveinstead used a learning algorithm – fueled by terabytes of data –to train it to perform complex tasks. The computer essentiallyfigures out for itself how to recognize the desired objects,text, or actions.
Breakthroughs like this are the reason AI startups are nowreceiving billions of dollars of funding.



VisualCapitalistThe algorithmic economyThe potential upside for technology providers are enormous,particularly if proprietary processes work on a global scale. Anera where “things” will communicate autonomously and take actionswithout human intervention is sure to profoundly impact our society.
The big question is, what will we do once computers andalgorithms are taking care of business?



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