A Crack at Algorithms: Bridging the Gap Between Humans and Computers

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Permutated connections and influence for the Viterbi algorithm. Diagram automatically shaped by omnigraffle. (flickr)

In a world where our lives are run on computers, algorithms have become the mathematical calculations at the center of how we find what movies to go see, what flights to take and what stocks to buy.

These algorithms live in the background - we don’t see them or ever have to understand them.

A group at the MIT Media Lab called “Playful Systems” is trying to change that. They embrace algorithms' complexity and bring them to the foreground through games, stories, visualizations and narratives.

Kevin Slavin, assistant professor at MIT and founder of the Playful Systems group at the MIT Media Lab, joins The Takeaway.


Kevin Slavin

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


Gianna Palmer

Comments [2]

Jerrold Richards from Lyle, Washington

Let me highly recommend the "Culture" series of science fiction novels by Iain Banks, certainly among the best of science fiction. The series addresses this matter from all sorts of directions.

The underlying theme is that there is a positive correlation between, on one hand, the evolution of consciousness, and, on the other hand, what we humans would identify as decency or kindness. Therefore, the "Terminator Scenario" would be possible, but more or less an anomaly, perhaps laying waste to parts of the galaxy for a time.

The higher levels of evolved artificial intelligence, for example interstellar ships 50 kilometers long, with perhaps millions of people living aboard, value their association with humans, and see it as a responsibility to insure the genuine autonomy of humans as necessary for humans and human civilization to develop and live. Obviously encouraging this true autonomy is a challenge, as compared to a fake sort of autonomy one might find in a zoo or goldfish bowl. It might be something like parents giving their kid the car keys, and hoping the kid doesn't screw up too badly.

Fine series!

Nov. 05 2013 12:41 PM
Angel from Miami FL

This is non-science. You can't use math for non-mechanical or organic systems. I remember when engineers used formulas and everything work fine. Algorithms are the snake oil remedies for modern life.

Nov. 05 2013 10:20 AM

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