Algorithms affect our daily life more than we think and most of the time we don’t even know it. We use algorithms in our daily commute or while you are cooking your favorite Gordon Ramsey Beef Wellington recipe or baking your favorite lime cake. By following the steps of a recipe, including the exact dimensions of each ingredient and even temperature controls, you’ll be able to make the cake the way you want – neither sloppy nor rock-hard.
In his book The Art of Computer Programming, Donald Knuth describes algorithms as a confusing word. If you get familiar with algorithms, you can easily agree with this description. Merriam-Webster defines it as: “a step-by-step guide to solving a problem or achieving a goal ̵
With the Google search engine, we can get search results within milliseconds because an algorithm is used. How? With Google Search, millions of web pages are searched for the keywords you have entered and results are obtained in a split second. Right now there are probably over 200 algorithms that Google uses that we are not familiar with. However, the company used PageRank, which was used to measure the importance of websites for your search term or keyword, to give you the best possible links before the patent expired.
As another example, the suggestions you see while browsing movies or TV shows on Netflix are by no means random. The platform uses an algorithm to not only monitor what you see, but also when you look, where you look, and how long you look.
Your favorite social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also use algorithms. The ads you see follow certain algorithms to show you content that you might like and products that you might want to buy.
Is that all algorithms have to offer?
Absolutely not. Algorithms are the key to the basics of programming. If you’re more interested in coding than baking, learning algorithms should always be your first step.
Note that algorithms do not require a thorough knowledge of computer programming or programming language.
Is there such a thing as a good / bad algorithm?
Algorithms regulate many things that happen in the world today. The GPS device that takes you to your destination uses an algorithm, the website that books the flight to your next destination uses an algorithm, sending emails requires algorithms, video games use algorithms, even video conferencing with your work group use an algorithm.
Algorithms made with good intentions can produce negative results, but everything is very subjective. It’s safe to say that there can be good or bad algorithms depending on the intent and consequences.
Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA-1), a cryptographic hash function used to create hash digests (each 40 hexadecimal characters long), can be considered a good algorithm. It was supported by Secure Shell, which is responsible for encrypted connections in millions of computers.
However, due to growing security concerns, SHA-1 has put millions of websites at risk after an encryption failure, which could be viewed as a negative consequence.
Do algorithms make computers more intelligent?
Algorithms are important when writing code as this tells the computer what to do. Whether you want to open a browser, examine an item, or search for an app, every command goes through an algorithm that allows you to communicate with the computer so that it does exactly what it needs.
Do algorithms contain mathematical equations?
Often, but not always. It is important to note that algorithms cannot be vague, otherwise every desired result cannot be achieved.
Let’s take a look an example: An algorithm developed for the American tax system was reused elsewhere without change. This resulted in up to £ 31 billion in unrecovered tax revenues in the UK. The algorithm is responsible for calculating the taxes, but using the wrong algorithm in the wrong situation can have adverse consequences.
I want to learn more about algorithms. Where should I start?
You can start by building your logic, developing problem-solving skills, and moving on to basic programming (Java, C ++, C, Python, etc.). In programming, algorithms play an invaluable role in solving problems. Hence, it’s important to note that algorithms have a bigger impact on our world than just getting millions of crawl links within milliseconds of doing a search on Google, or baking the best key lime pie.
You cannot learn algorithms by reading a single article in one sitting. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available online that you can use in your search for a better understanding of algorithms.