Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Algorithms and the New Millennium

Dr David Berlinski (2000) makes the historical observation that two great ideas have most influenced the technological progress of the Western world:
The first is the calculus, the second the algorithm. The calculus and the rich body of mathematical analysis to which it gave rise made modern science possible; but it has been the algorithm that has made possible the modern world. (Berlinski, p. xv)
Dr Berlinski concludes that:
The great era of mathematical physics is now over. The three-hundred-year effort to represent the material world in mathematical terms has exhausted itself. The understanding that it was to provide is infinitely closer than it was when Isaac Newton wrote in the late seventeenth century, but it is still infinitely far away…. The algorithm has come to occupy a central place in our imagination. It is the second great scientific idea of the West. There is no third. (Berlinski, pp. xv-xvi)
Source: Berlinski, D (2000). The Advent of the Algorithm: The 300-Year Journey from an Idea to the Computer. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.

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