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Friday, July 22, 2011

Algorithms in Our World - Good News for Computer Scientists

In the Age of the Internet and fast electronics and computers, computer programming is the life-blood of it all. None of the modern electronic landscape exists without computer software, giving the commands to the electronics so the electronics know what to do in the first place.

This is true for many, if not most, aspects of modern life. Software, meaning the computer programs computer scientists and engineers write in a variety of languages (Java and C++ are probably the most familiar to high school students), is now used for keeping people alive, controlling the power grid, taking humans in and out of space, telecommunications of all kinds, everything financial, entertainment of all kinds, finding information, and so on. Here is something that is also a factor in modern life - algorithms that run behind the scenes and drive the stock market. So if you are into computers, good for you! If you are simply interested in something in science or engineering or math, then at least learn to program so you know at least the principles behind the algorithms that control more and more of your life.

Now a short commentary...this also means that it is equally important to put huge resources into the notion of computer and cyber security. With life being controlled by computer algorithms, that opens the door to hacking and cyber-terrorism. If you want to see mass panic, what happens if a computer virus enters the power grid computer network, and shuts down the power on a national scale? Or steals all of your, and everyone's, personal financial information, and therefore turns the national economy upside-down? This is something we do not hear much about, but we need an large number of bright programmers working on this aspect of life in the computer age.

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