What are the goals to write algorithm

What is an algorithm - definition and examples

We encounter algorithms every day both at work and in our free time and have become an integral part of our modern life. Mostly helpful but not always harmless, algorithms are becoming more and more important. What an algorithm is and how they shape our lives is explained in the following article.

Term "algorithm"

Generally speaking, an algorithm provides a procedure for solving a problem. Using this solution plan, input data are converted into output data in individual steps.

Algorithms play a particularly important role in computer science. They represent a basis for programming and are independent of a specific programming language. Nevertheless, algorithms are not only found in computer science or mathematics. Because algorithms are not only executed automatically by a computer but can also be formulated and processed by humans in "natural" language.

Example: body mass index

An algorithm can easily be explained using the calculation of the body mass index (BMI). To calculate this, the following is required:

  • Inputs (initial state): weight and height

 

 

  • Output (final status): calculated BMI

In this simple example, the problem “assessment of body weight” was calculated using a mathematical formula (algorithm). This can be calculated using a tool, on paper or in your head.

Further examples of an algorithm would be instructions for use, rules of the game, building or handicraft instructions or hash functions.

Properties of algorithms

Algorithms have the following characteristic properties:

  1. Uniqueness: an algorithm cannot have a contradicting description. This must be unique.
  2. Feasibility: every single step must be executable.
  3. Finiteness (= finiteness): the description of the algorithm must be finite.
  4. Termination: after a finite number of steps the algorithm has to end and deliver a result.
  5. Determination: the algorithm must always deliver the same result under the same conditions.
  6. Determinism: at any point in time, there is at most one possibility of continuation. The next step is clearly determined.

Areas of application

Our modern life is dependent on algorithms without us always being aware of it. The areas of application of algorithms are very diverse: They show us the shortest route in the navigation system, beat us as computer opponents in chess, check our sentence structure in Office Word or recommend us a suitable partner for online dating. There is an algorithm in many technical devices and behind our electronic communication.

Algorithms are nothing new. The Arabic mathematician Al-Chwarismi (who gave the algorithm its name) already explained the use of Indian numerals in his book "About Indian Numerals" from the 9th century.

However, the algorithm experiences a new dimension of application in the area of ​​big data and data mining. Thanks to the increased amount of collected data and the increased computing power of computers, large amounts of data can be searched and evaluated using algorithms for patterns and relationships.

Ethics of the Algorithm

There is a lot of discussion about whether algorithm ethics should be introduced or even regulated by politics.

Algorithms not only make our everyday lives easier. You can also analyze our behavior. This does not only happen after the fact, but in anticipation. Algorithms control and influence us, sort out, discriminate and are not transparent.

Google, Facebook and Co. calculate what we do not yet know ourselves and show us the things on the Internet that we should or are allowed to see. For example, two users will get different results if they enter the same term in the search engine. In the end, the search algorithm decides which content is displayed to the user.

But are algorithms actually taking more and more control of us and our attitudes and decisions? Is it possible to influence complex beings consisting of individual experiences, social environment and a system of values ​​in such a way that they direct our thoughts in one direction or the other?

They certainly represent one of many influences. But the individual action remains with us. We decide whether to click on a given text and how we evaluate it. We decide which of our data we disclose and whether we continue to use Google and Facebook as the main information channel.

"Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without the guidance of someone else", is the famous sentence of Kant. Would a conscious handling of one's own data and technical achievements be "... the exit of a person from his self-inflicted immaturity"?

Everyone should decide for themselves, be more aware of disclosing their data and (if possible) pull the plug.

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About the author

Agnieszka CzernikLawyer

Data protection and IT (security) serve to protect privacy and corporate values. Maintaining these interests and working in two diverse and interesting areas at the same time is my passion. more →

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