What if everything in life could be reduced to a simple formula? What if numbers were able to tell us which partners we were best matched with – not just in terms of attractiveness, but for a long-term committed marriage? Or if they could say which films would be the biggest hits at the box office, and what changes could be made to those films to make them even more successful? Or even who out of us is likely to commit certain crimes, and when? This may sound like the world of science-fiction, but in fact it is just the tip of the iceberg in a world that is increasingly ruled by complex algorithms and neural networks.
In The Formula, Luke Dormehl takes you inside the world of numbers, asking how we came to believe in the all-conquering power of algorithms; introducing the mathematicians, artificial intelligence experts and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are shaping this brave new world, and ultimately asking how we survive in an era where numbers can sometimes seem to create as many problems as they solve.
Dormehl (The Apple Revolution), a journalist and technology writer for Fast Company, provides relevant insight into the algorithms that shape our world, how they benefit us, and what they might mean for the future. The author focuses on four main areas generally thought of as being very human personal data, love and romance, society, and art. The use of anecdotes, history, and examples of existing algorithms makes this information-rich narrative fascinating for experts and laymen alike. The author even broaches deeper questions about whether everything can be described by algorithms, whether we should even try, and what problems and ethical issues might arise from the increasingly widespread use of algorithms. Unsettling consequences of increased data collection and reliance on computers are discussed, such as the close monitoring of employee efficiency, the "filter bubble" that determines which search results an individual will see, and use of algorithms to profile people likely to commit crimes or children likely to misbehave in school. This book thoroughly explores the idea that "technology is neither good nor bad nor is it neutral" and makes a great resource for anyone seeking to understand the intersection of technology and humanity in the 21st century.