The Secret Rules of Modern Living- Algorithms is a beautiful Netflix documentary, directed by David Briggs starring Marcus du Sautoy, a British mathematician, author, and popularizer of science and mathematics.

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Without us noticing, modern life has been taken over. Algorithms run everything from search engines on the internet to Satnav and credit card data security-they even help us travel the world, find love and save lives. The lead demystifies the hidden world of algorithms and reveals where these 2,000-year-old problem solvers came from, how they work, what they have achieved and how they are now so advanced that they can programme themselves. How dependent we are on these deceptively simple yet mind-bogglingly sophisticated computer formulae. Not only that: algorithms – which now control everything from search engines and internet dating to air traffic control and organ donation – are now beginning to learn for themselves, and learn how we think. One area where algorithms have excelled and surpassed the human mind is in the world of streamlining and organizing complex systems with vast amounts of data in the blink of an eye.

As the documentary draws closer, Professor Marcus briefs us with Algorithms, giving practical examples and making it easy for us to understand. Such as QuickSort, PageRank, and Simplex enhance our capabilities because they make life easier and faster, they do the dirty, tedious work for us. Our lives are touched by Algorithms every day. They are universal- yet most of us are unaware of their extraordinary impact on our everyday lives. Algorithms control what we read, the products we buy, and with whom we socialize. They know when to stock supermarket shelves, can predict the weather, and create connections around the planet at the speed of light. Algorithms can guide a surgeons hand, build works of art, and even ignite the spark of love. The rea,l expansion in the use of algorithms has coincided with the computer age and the collation of big data. It’s the modern application of algorithms to solve problems that make up the majority of the programme. We focus in on the most exciting and surprising examples which represent different categories of algorithms. For example, the ground movement of airplanes at Heathrow airport (London’s must provide the busiest airport) is coordinated using a Scheduling algorithm. A kidney donor exchange scheme uses a Matching algorithm. The Travelling Salesman Problem was vividly explained using an example of bees who collect nectar from the space provided and then come back to deposit it. Every big delivery company and sales team have their solution to maximize efficiency – but which is the best?

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In a nutshell Marcus with us explored how maths is being used to solve these real-world problems and, in the case of the kidney donors, even making life and death decisions. It is a unique educative documentary with such vivid information, making even the insipid of the algorithms or formulae exciting and easy to understand. It may seem like a dry thing for the “off-interests” ones but yeah an excellent piece for those who are ready to embrace some new stuff. On the whole, it was an excellent work to be enjoyed.

 

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