Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Living in the Algorithmic Age

Serge Abiteboul, Gilles Dowek

Algorithms are sometimes compared to cathedrals, in that they share the same ambition, and the same folly. Some algorithms, such as telephone operating systems, data management systems, or search engines, are huge objects involving the contributions of thousands of people. With algorithms, Homo sapiens has finally created a tool equal to its aspirations.

Why do we blame algorithms for our woes? Because they push us out of our comfort zone? No doubt. But also because we often agree to use them, not understanding what they really are and how they work. Our dreams and our fears are the consequences of this ignorance. We fear algorithms because we see them as mysterious beings, endowed with supernatural powers, perhaps evil intentions.

We often agree to use them, not understanding what they really are and how they work.

In the book, we clarify the opaque vocabulary often used in this context explaining the basics of this science for a general public. To free yourselves from any magical thinking, to separate legitimate hopes from childish fantasies, justified fears from unfounded anxieties, we invite you on a journey through the world of algorithms. We discuss the digital society and the new human in becoming, enlightening societal and philosophical issues such as the transformation of work, property, privacy… that are often explained confusingly in the media.

We explain how scientific knowledge is impacted by computer science across all fields with big data, machine learning… It is essential for you to get familiar with these notions to understand better the transformations of the world and acquire a more modern viewpoint.

The goal of The Age of Algorithms is to make you more aware of the environments you live in, to empower you with your own viewpoint and understanding instead of being frightened by the new technology. This, we believe, will help you improve your life in the digital world.

Algorithms can lead to the best or the worst outcome, but we must never forget that they do not, in themselves, have intention. Human beings have designed them. They are what we want them to be. That is also the message of the book.



‘The Age of Algorithms’ by Serge Abiteboul and Gilles Dowek


About The Authors

Serge Abiteboul

Serge Abiteboul is a member of the Board of Arcep and a computer scientist at Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA), Rocquencourt. He has been vi...

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Gilles Dowek

Gilles Dowek is a researcher in computer science. He has published several popular science books, as well as books on epistemology of computer science and ethics in the digital wor...

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