Algorithm

Definition

An algorithm is a set of instructions that is designed to accomplish a task. Algorithms usually take one or more inputs, run them systematically through a series of steps, and provide one or more outputs. Algorithms are typically associated with computing and are an essential element of computer programming. Algorithms can be used to accomplish a variety of computational tasks, such as performing calculations or finding information in databases.

Algorithms can be created and used outside of computer programming as well. They can be executed manually by people or executed automatically by machines: consider performing long division manually on paper versus using a calculator to do the same operation. Users do not need to understand the inner workings of algorithms in order to use them. In fact, many algorithms used by companies are closely guarded secrets, blocking users from seeing exactly how they work.    

Examples

This article provides examples and descriptions of algorithms many people use every day, including recipes and social media platforms: https://www.invisibly.com/learn-blog/algorithm-examples-everyday-life

Further Resources

Khan Academy provides a great overview to defining algorithms with robust, real-world examples:

https://www.khanacademy.org/computing/computer-science/algorithms/intro-to-algorithms/v/what-are-algorithms

The Pew Research Center provides information on the pros and cons of corporate and governmental use of algorithms:

https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/02/08/code-dependent-pros-and-cons-of-the-algorithm-age/

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