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What Algorithms WantImagination in the Age of Computing$
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Ed Finn

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035927

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035927.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
What Algorithms Want

Ed Finn

The MIT Press

The introduction lays out the central argument of the book: that algorithms are best understood as complex “culture machines” that we engage on the levels of magical thinking, epistemology, social identity, and ideology as well as rationality and computation. Opening with a discussion of Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash and our long-running fascination with the power of language to create the world, the chapter proceeds to describe our current relationship to code in terms of the “cathedral of computation.” This metaphor expresses the intermingling of empiricism and belief that underlies our cultural relationships with algorithms—relationships that are growing more powerful, creative, and intimate every day. In order to understand these systems that tell us where to go, whom to date, and what to think about, we need to develop a method for “algorithmic reading.”

Keywords:   Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, Computation, Language, cathedral of computation, algorithmic reading, culture machines, epistemology

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