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What Algorithms Want : Imagination in the Age of Computing - Ed Finn

What Algorithms Want

Imagination in the Age of Computing

By: Ed Finn

Paperback Published: 28th September 2018
ISBN: 9780262536042
Number Of Pages: 272
For Ages: 18+ years old

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The gap between theoretical ideas and messy reality, as seen in Neal Stephenson, Adam Smith, and  Star Trek. We depend on - we believe in - algorithms to help us get a ride, choose which book to buy, execute a mathematical proof. It's as if we think of code as a magic spell, an incantation to reveal what we need to know and even what we want. Humans have always believed that certain invocations -- the marriage vow, the shaman's curse - do not merely describe the world but make it. Computation casts a cultural shadow that is shaped by this long tradition of magical thinking. In this book, Ed Finn considers how the algorithm - in practical terms, "a method for solving a problem" -- has its roots not only in mathematical logic but also in cybernetics, philosophy, and magical thinking. Finn argues that the algorithm deploys concepts from the idealized space of computation in a messy reality, with unpredictable and sometimes fascinating results. Drawing on sources that range from Neal Stephenson's  Snow Crash to Diderot's  Encyclop+¬¨die, from Adam Smith to the  Star Trek computer, Finn explores the gap between theoretical ideas and pragmatic instructions. He examines the development of intelligent assistants like Siri, the rise of algorithmic aesthetics at Netflix, Ian Bogost's satiric Facebook game  Cow Clicker, and the revolutionary economics of Bitcoin. He describes Google's goal of anticipating our questions, Uber's cartoon maps and black box accounting, and what Facebook tells us about programmable value, among other things. If we want to understand the gap between abstraction and messy reality, Finn argues, we need to build a model of "algorithmic reading" and scholarship that attends to process, spearheading a new experimental humanities. 

Industry Reviews

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Ed Finn's What Algorithms Want shows us just how powerful computer programs and their helpers actually are, and the book needs no recourse to science fiction.

-Los Angeles Review of Books

ISBN: 9780262536042
ISBN-10: 0262536048
Series: The MIT Press
Audience: General
For Ages: 18+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 272
Published: 28th September 2018
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.9 x 15.2  x 1.7
Weight (kg): 0.38
Edition Number: 1

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