How Algorithms Shape Our World

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In this fifteen-minute TED Talk, game designer Kevin Slavin talks about how mathematical algorithms (a set of instructions that a person or machine can follow) no longer just participate with our world -- they shape it. An obvious example is how financial markets are influenced by the thousands of physicists who work on Wall Street. Another is algorithmic product pricing -- among other amusing anecdotes is an out-of-print book on Amazon.com that was priced at over $23 million, due to algorithms bidding against each other. (See also: Black Monday.)

Sample quotes: "[Algorithms] acquire the sensibility of truth, because they repeat over and over again and they kind of ossify and calcify, and they kind of become real." And: "It's not the money that's so interesting, actually. It's what the money motivates -- that we're actually terraforming the Earth itself with this sort of algorithmic efficiency."

Recommended for anyone interested in math (but without a degree in it), those concerned with finance, and those who enjoy video showing flocks of birds.

(Via Waxy, via Flowing Data.)

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August 1, 2011 - 8:49am
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