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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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What Is an Algorithm?

What Is an Algorithm?

(p.15) 1 What Is an Algorithm?
What Algorithms Want

Ed Finn

The MIT Press

This chapter defines the algorithm as a critical concept across four intellectual strands, beginning with its foundations in computer science and the notion of “effective computability.” The second strand considers cybernetics and ongoing debates about embodiment, abstraction, cognition, and information theory. The third explores magic and its overlap with symbolism, engaging with notions of software, “sourcery,” and the power of metaphors to represent reality. The fourth draws in the long history of technicity and humanity’s coevolution with our cultural tools. Synthesizing these threads, the chapter offers a definition of the algorithm as culture machine in the context of process and implementation, and closes with a summary of the essential facets of algorithmic reading and a brief glimpse of algorithmic imagination.

Keywords:   Abstraction, Cognition, Implementation, Computation, Algorithm, Imagination, information theory, technicity, cybernetics, software

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