Musing on maths

A detail from Self-portrait as an artist, by Vincent van Gogh. Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA What is the ultimate algorithm? According to Pedro Domingos (author of The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World) the ultimate algorithm is one where machine learning can derive all knowledge from data. Domingos sees only the positive in a world where machine learning totally controls human life. I find this scary. Ursula Nixon, Bodalla, NSW, Australia • An algorithm is a mathematical multistep procedure that can transform input data representing a question into a solution. I spent a large part of my working life analysing town water supply pipe networks using computer algorithms that I had written myself, and the ultimate algorithm for me would be one that completely…

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