Algorithms Everywhere

I love MATH, LOGIC, PROBLEM SOLVING and COMPUTERS – not just actually using them, but the actual process of coming up with and building rules to make them behave in a certain way and telling them HOW to do it (that’s called an algorithm and that’s what Software/Computer Engineers do!). Did you know that lots of things we do, see and experience everyday involve algorithms? Unless you’re wired to think “computer logic” and “exceptions”, you probably don’t have this at the forefront of your mind. From HowStuffWorks:

To make a computer do anything, you have to write a computer program. To write a computer program, you have to tell the computer, step by step, exactly what you want it to do. The computer then “executes” the program, following each step mechanically, to accomplish the end goal. When you are telling the computer what to do, you also get to choose how it’s going to do it. The algorithm is the basic technique used to get the job done.


codeThink about it this way – how does the computer (or cell phone) know what to do when you click on that mail icon? A set of instructions, or algorithms tell it exactly what to do! Here’s an example using the mail icon on your computer. If a user left clicks on the mouse, open Microsoft Outlook; or, if the user right clicks on the mouse, “show options”. That’s the simplistic version of pseduo-code (instructions in English) a programmer would then translate to computer language (JAVA, C++) for it to do – no a computer does not speak English?!

io9 published 10 algorithms that are common in daily life. I added a few notes of questions one may ask when thinking about the impact of the algorithm in these tasks:

  1. Google Search – Which sites should be return when the user types “recipes”?

  2. Facebook’s News Feed – Which stories to display?

  3. OKCupid Date Matching – How do “match” people?

  4. NSA Data Collection, Interpretation, and Encryption – What makes a conversation a threat?

  5. You May Also Enjoy…” – How does Amazon know which books you’ll like?

  6. Google AdWords – Which ads should be shown to women?

  7. High Frequency Stock Trading – Read this post

  8. MP3 Compression – How do we get that song from your laptop to your iPhone?

  9. IBM’s CRUSH – How do we determine high-potential crime areas?

  10. Auto-Tune – How do we translate human voice to a cool tune?

So there you have it! A world of algorithms! Who knew?! For all the engaged gals (and guys) out there, here’s a little algorithm for determining who should be on your guest list! 😉

For more wedding tips, click here.