The development of computing has reawakened interest in algorithms. Often neglected by historians and modern scientists, algorithmic procedures have been instrumental in the development of fundamental ideas: practice led to theory just as much as the other way round. The purpose of this book is to offer a historical background to contemporary algorithmic practice.
This book explains exactly what human knowledge is. The key concepts in this book are structures and algorithms, i.e., what the readers “see” and how they make use of what they see. Thus in comparison with some other books on the philosophy (or methodology) of science, which employ a syntactic approach, the author’s approach is model theoretic or structural. Properly understood, it extends the current art and science of mathematical modeling to all fields of knowledge. The link between structure and algorithms is mathematics. But viewing “mathematics” as such a link is not exactly what readers most likely learned in school; thus, the task of this book is to explain what “mathematics” should actually mean. Chapter 1, an introductory essay, presents a general analysis of structures, algorithms and how they are to be linked. Several examples from the natural and social sciences, and from the history of knowledge, are provided in Chapters 2–6. In turn, Chapters 7 and 8 extend the analysis to include language and the mind. Structures are what the readers see. And, as abstract cultural objects, they can almost always be seen in many different ways. But certain structures, such as natural numbers and the basic theory of grammar, seem to have an absolute character. Any theory of knowledge grounded in human culture must explain how this is possible. The author’s analysis of this cultural invariance, combining insights from evolutionary theory and neuroscience, is presented in the book’s closing chapter. The book will be of interest to researchers, students and those outside academia who seek a deeper understanding of knowledge in our present-day society.
How Algorithms Took Over Our Markets, Our Jobs, and the World
Author: Christopher Steiner
The rousing story of the last gasp of human agency and how today’s best and brightest minds are endeavoring to put an end to it. It used to be that to diagnose an illness, interpret legal documents, analyze foreign policy, or write a newspaper article you needed a human being with specific skills—and maybe an advanced degree or two. These days, high-level tasks are increasingly being handled by algorithms that can do precise work not only with speed but also with nuance. These “bots” started with human programming and logic, but now their reach extends beyond what their creators ever expected. In this fascinating, frightening book, Christopher Steiner tells the story of how algorithms took over—and shows why the “bot revolution” is about to spill into every aspect of our lives, often silently, without our knowledge. The May 2010 “Flash Crash” exposed Wall Street’s reliance on trading bots to the tune of a 998-point market drop and $1 trillion in vanished market value. But that was just the beginning. In Automate This, we meet bots that are driving cars, penning haiku, and writing music mistaken for Bach’s. They listen in on our customer service calls and figure out what Iran would do in the event of a nuclear standoff. There are algorithms that can pick out the most cohesive crew of astronauts for a space mission or identify the next Jeremy Lin. Some can even ingest statistics from baseball games and spit out pitch-perfect sports journalism indistinguishable from that produced by humans. The interaction of man and machine can make our lives easier. But what will the world look like when algorithms control our hospitals, our roads, our culture, and our national security? What happens to businesses when we automate judgment and eliminate human instinct? And what role will be left for doctors, lawyers, writers, truck drivers, and many others? Who knows—maybe there’s a bot learning to do your job this minute.
To examine, analyze, and manipulate a problem to the point of designing an algorithm for solving it is an exercise of fundamental value in many fields. With so many everyday activities governed by algorithmic principles, the power, precision, reliability and speed of execution demanded by users have transformed the design and construction of algorithms from a creative, artisanal activity into a full-fledged science in its own right. This book is aimed at all those who exploit the results of this new science, as designers and as consumers. The first chapter is an overview of the related history, demonstrating the long development of ideas such as recursion and more recent formalizations such as computability. The second chapter shows how the design of algorithms requires appropriate techniques and sophisticated organization of data. In the subsequent chapters the contributing authors present examples from diverse areas – such as routing and networking problems, Web search, information security, auctions and games, complexity and randomness, and the life sciences – that show how algorithmic thinking offers practical solutions and also deepens domain knowledge. The contributing authors are top-class researchers with considerable academic and industrial experience; they are also excellent educators and communicators and they draw on this experience with enthusiasm and humor. This book is an excellent introduction to an intriguing domain and it will be enjoyed by undergraduate and postgraduate students in computer science, engineering, and mathematics, and more broadly by all those engaged with algorithmic thinking.
Provides in-depth coverage of traditional and current topics in sequential algorithms, and also gives a solid introduction to the theory of parallel and distributed algorithms reflecting the emergence of modern computing environments such as parallel computers, the Internet, cluster and grid computing.