Powerful Reading: Automate This – How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World

Continuing our blog series, “Powerful Reading,” our team of energy consultants will be sharing some of their favorite books. These books have not only influenced them in the excellent work that they do for our clients as energy consultants, but have also helped them gain perspective on a variety of global issues as we continue to strive to build a culture of lifelong learning.

 

Today, we look at a book entitled:

 

Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World – Christopher Steiner (2012)

 

We’ve all been inundated in recent years with news about advancements in technology related to self-driving cars, targeted advertising on social media platforms and online stores. These advancements are largely made possible through the use of algorithms applied to vast collections of data. There are, however, a plethora of algorithmic applications that are impacting our daily lives that most of us could never have imagined possible. We hear about AI and machine learning, but have little grasp as to the extent of their capabilities.

 

In the book Automate This, the author gives the reader a brief, but thorough history behind the math concepts that led to the birth and evolution of computer programming. He then leads us through a plethora of instances where algorithms have been employed in various industries to perform tasks that humans tend to struggle with (diagnosing exotic and rare illnesses); process thousands of transactions almost instantaneously (they’ve practically taken over stock and commodity trading); and analyzing traits indistinguishable to human senses (matching customer service calls to a service representative matching the customer’s personality). In some cases, the algorithms (often competing with other algorithms) resulted in less than desirable results (the flash crash in 2010); however, adept programmers have typically updated their code or applied fail-safe measures to prevent similar occurrences from happening again.

 

Although the book was released almost a decade ago, most of the content is still relevant and not completely vetted yet. The best example of this is in health care. The application of algorithms to assist medical staff in diagnosing patients and determining the best plan of treatment is lagging many other industries and has not progressed as quickly as many had predicted. Other interesting topics discussed in the book are how algorithms have played a role in the music industry, dating apps, journalism and sports. It’s safe to say anyone reading this book will find quite a few relatable instances where one will start to question how they have been manipulated or handled by a bot. There is no slowing down its evolution and we should all take heed to have some understanding of its implications on our daily lives.

 

 

Scott Pederson is a Certified Public Accountant and a Senior Energy Consultant with MidDel Consulting, a System Integrator and Professional Services firm specializing in services supporting the business sytems for Front, Back and Mid-Office. MidDel has been in business for over 16 years, and our consultants, on average, bring over 25 years of senior level energy kndustry knowledge to our projects. We have deep relationships with our clients, often working with them for more than a decade. For more information, email us at info@middelgrp.com or call #952-500-9275.