Hello World (Penguin), by Hannah Fry
“Algorithm: a procedure or formula for solving a problem, based on conducting a sequence of specified actions.” Dr Hannah Fry is an associate professor in mathematics at University College London. She works alongside physicists, computer scientists, architects and geographers to study patterns in human behaviour. She is also a media darling, having appeared in BBC documentaries including Climate Change by Numbers and Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing. In this book, Fry takes readers inside the algorithms that shape the institutions of our everyday lives to reveal how they work, their benefits, limitations and potential. If you were, for example, accused of a crime, who would you prefer to determine your future – an algorithm or a fellow human being? The algorithm will be more consistent, less prone to error, but a human will be able to look you in the eye before determining your fate. According to Fry, this is just one dilemma of many we may face in the age where algorithms rule over important decisions in healthcare, crime, transport and money. According to Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist, computers used to be tools, then they were toys, and now they’re all around us. You couldn’t ask for a better guide to this bewildering new world than Hannah Fry.