HAVE YOU EVER wondered about the millions of financial transactions that take place each day, and how computers manage to process them infallibly?
Or what black magic Google uses to find the precise LOLcat picture that you were looking for?
The answer is computer algorithms: precise recipes that computers can follow to achieve a specific goal. MacCormick identifies and explains the algorithms that people encounter on a daily basis: from search engine indexing and PageRank, through public-key cryptography and digital signatures, and even touching on some more exotic things like pattern recognition and neural networks.
9 Algorithms explains what makes these algorithms such crucial elements of today’s society, and most impressively, it explains the algorithms themselves in a fashion that a computer-naive reader can understand: the book even largely eschews maths in its explanations. This is a double-edged sword: if you have more than a passing familiarity with computer science or computer programming, you will probably find 9 Algorithms’ explanations tedious and overwrought.
But for a reader unskilled with computers, there’s likely no better account of the software that underpins everything from Amazon to Facebook.