Digital technology runs on algorithms, sets of instructions that describe how to do something efficiently. Application areas range from search engines to tournament scheduling, DNA sequencing, and machine learning. Arguing that every educated person today needs to have some understanding of algorithms and what they do, in this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Panos Louridas offers an introduction to algorithms that is accessible to the nonspecialist reader. Louridas explains not just what algorithms are but also how they work, offering a wide range of examples and keeping mathematics to a minimum.
After discussing what an algorithm does and how its effectiveness can be measured, Louridas covers three of the most fundamental applications areas: graphs, which describe networks, from eighteenth-century problems to today's social networks; searching, and how to find the fastest way to search; and sorting, and the importance of choosing the best algorithm for particular tasks. He then presents larger-scale applications: PageRank, Google's founding algorithm; and neural networks and deep learning. Finally, Louridas describes how all algorithms are nothing more than simple moves with pen and paper, and how from such a humble foundation rise all their spectacular achievements.