Monday, August 16, 2010

On Algorithmic Thinking

As the 20th century closed and the human race entered the third millenium, Dr David Berlinski (2000) wrote about two great ideas that have most shaped the technological progress of Western civilization:
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.... 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. (pp. xv-xvi)
The advent of the algorithm is fundamental to any understanding of how (and why) the post-modern economy produces and allocates value. Said another way, the algorithm is what differentiates the post-modern economy from the industrial period, which is all but over.

Dr David Berlinski (1942- )

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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