In the age of Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, algorithms have become ubiquitous in our lives. But really, what is an algorithm? Discover the definition of the term, its use cases and some examples of the most famous and massively used algoes.
The term algorithm was invented by the mathematician Mohammed Ibn Musa-Al Khwarizmi, in the course of the ninth century BC. With the rise of artificial intelligence, the term is increasingly used and has become a buzzword.
Today, algorithms are used to find love, to invest in the best stocks, to predict crime, to organize search results on the web, and for millions of other applications. Algorithms are ubiquitous and drive our economy, our society and perhaps even the way we think. But really, what is an algorithm?
What is an algorithm?
In the field of mathematics, from which the term originates, an algorithm can be considered as an ordered and finite set of operations that must be followed in order to solve a problem. As a very simple example, let’s take a recipe. In each recipe, a specific procedure must be followed in order. The individual steps in the recipe represent the operations that make up the algorithm.
Where things get a bit complicated is that an algorithm is designed to solve a problem and thus produce a result. If one wants to create an algorithm that can work in the real world, it is therefore necessary to include instructions that allow it to adapt to the different situations it may encounter. This is why the algorithms are like gigantic instruction “trees”..
What are the algorithms for?
Algorithms have countless uses. In the field of technology and computing, when a developer creates a program, he is actually creating a set of algorithms. Indeed, a computer program is a set of commands given to the machineThis is the process of writing a text, written in a specific language, to perform a series of specific operations to obtain a result.
Knowing that a computer is (still) unable to understand human language, the programmer uses a programming language. This language serves as a bridge between human language and the language that the machine can understand. With this tool, the programmer can create a series of instructions that the computer can “understand”.
Algorithm: some well-known examples
In order to help you better understand what an algorithm is, let’s see now some very famous examples and commonly used by much of humanity.
First of all, we can quote “Google’s PageRank. It is a set of algorithms used by Google to determine the importance of documents indexed by its web search engine. So when you do a search on Google, it’s one of the elements that determine the order in which results are displayed. PageRank is undoubtedly the most widely used algorithm in the world.
Another example is the Facebook Timeline. The content that Facebook displays on your News Feed is chosen by a set of algorithms. These algorithms decide what content to display based on a variety of parameters, such as your personal tastes, your reactions to previously posted content, and more.
Also noteworthy are the high-frequency trading algorithms. These are algorithms used by the world’s largest financial institutions to allow them to place orders in the market based on the profit they hope to make and the market conditions at a particular time. These algorithms now have more influence on the global economy than human traders, and are responsible for the circulation of billions of dollars every day.
A final example is the Round Robin algorithm. It is an algorithm widely used in the field of computing, since it allows computers to determine which tasks they should perform first. Typically, this algo determines how much time the processor will spend on each task in progress.
What future for algorithms?
It is difficult to predict the future of the algorithms. On the other hand, it seems certain that the future belongs to algorithms.
Indeed, the algorithm is at the heart of revolutionary emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, autonomous vehicles or virtual assistants. In the years to come, we can expect that new technologies based on algorithms are emerging…