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The Advent of the Algorithm: The Idea that Rules the World (2000)

por David Berlinski

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"Here is the story of the search for and eventual discovery of the algorithm, the set of instructions that drives computers. An idea as simple as the first recipe and as elusive as the quark or the gluon, the algorithm was discovered by a succession of logicians and mathematicians working alone and in obscurity during the first half of the twentieth century."--Jacket.… (mais)
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A good book, but requires an extensive math background in order to really get something out of it. ( )
  SteveCarl | Jun 24, 2024 |
156013916
  archivomorero | Jun 25, 2022 |
David Berlinksi is a polymath. Like a proud peacock, he is not afraid to put his erudition on full display. I suspect, however, that he has (innocently, I'm sure) somehow missed Somerset Maugham, who aphorized: "to write simply is as difficult as to be good."

Berlinsksi valorizes the journey over the destination. I first stumbled across his writing years ago in A Tour of the Calculus--a book I enjoyed despite its rambling (some may say pretentious, verbose, off-topic, unedited) storyline. Tour, indeed.

Advent is not dry intellectual history: au contraire, mes amis (a Berlinskian interjection if ever there was one). The proof in the pudding is the closing Epilogue: Wallace Stevens' "The Idea of Order at Key West." Order, algorithms--you get the idea. Like Dover sole garnished with crisp, skinned Granny Smith apple flesh (because both are vaguely white). And I love Wallace Stevens.

Berlinski can be enjoyable if you know this going in. Like grandparents with spoiled, smarter grandkids, readers can leave--or love. ( )
  RAD66 | Nov 12, 2020 |
Horrible prose. Long digressions and vignettes where the author tries to get some point about algorithms or meta-algorithmic thinking across through truly unfortunate unrequited-love stories. Yes, as bizarre as it sounds. There's some interesting history of Leibniz, Frege, Turing, Church, etc., buried in here, but eventually the book turns into an Paley-ian argument from design for the complexity of the universe. ( )
  encephalical | Jul 8, 2017 |
Berlinksi's premise with this book seems to be to explain the idea of what an algorithm is and the history of the discovery and application of algorithms. At least I think it is. The author's prose style is at times so impenetrable that I find it difficult to work out what his intention is at times. There's an air of breathless enthusiasm and continued climaxes which demand to be followed by even greater ones:

'Now! at last! the breakthrough is finally here! Until the next even better one!'

It's putting me off a subject with which I am fascinated and about which I would consider myself a reasonably well-educated amateur. There are parts which are wrong and there are other parts which are just misleading. Consider the discussion, towards the end of the book, of the P/NP problem. Consider also that you either recognise what I mean by the P/NP problem or you don't. Either way, you're potentially amongst the audience for this book. If you don't already know what a polynomial problem is and how it differs from a non-polynomial problem you aren't going to be enlightened by the explanation here; you might even end up with completely the wrong idea. If you *do* already know about these concepts you'll just be frustrated at the appalling explanation.

You'll be annoyed that we have 4 pages of whimsy to describe a form of the travelling salesman problem which is followed by a cursory description of an 'algorithm' to solve it which is anything but. What's more, this is towards the end of a book in which the concept of an algorithm should by now be firmly implanted in the mind of every reader, whether or not it was something they understood before. Yet Berlinski still writes as if we don't expect an algorithmic solution and as if we need explained to us yet again in the most basic terms why one might be desirable.

It's not all this bad. The description of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem is accessible and relatively compact and the same can almost be said of the material on Church's work on the lambda calculus. But overall I find the tone and the lack of direction infuriating.

Yet there's obviously an audience for Berlinski's work as he appears to be a well-selling writer of popular science. You may be amongst that audience, but based on this example I shan't be seeking out any of his other work in the future. ( )
2 vote kevinashley | Dec 4, 2011 |
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David Berlinskiautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Guerguerian, ClaudineDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Informação do Conhecimento Comum em inglês. Edite para a localizar na sua língua.
A friend visited Dr. Johnson as he lay dying, and seeing that he lacked for support, placed a pillow beneath his head. "That will do," Dr. Johnson said, "all that a pillow can do."
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More than sixty years ago, mathematical logicians, by defining precisely the concept of an algorithm, gave content to the ancient human idea of an effective calculation.
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"Here is the story of the search for and eventual discovery of the algorithm, the set of instructions that drives computers. An idea as simple as the first recipe and as elusive as the quark or the gluon, the algorithm was discovered by a succession of logicians and mathematicians working alone and in obscurity during the first half of the twentieth century."--Jacket.

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