How Important Algorithms in Our Daily Life

Think like computers do

Have you ever heard about algorithms? How about logarithm? Both things are completely different. A logarithm is a math operation, which is used in mathematics. Algorithms are used widely in general, but more known to be used in programming. Is an algorithm important in our life? Let’s check it out!

What is the Algorithm?

An algorithm is a sequence of steps or instructions that has a purpose, usually to make things, count things, or solve problems/questions. It is ordered step by step until it reaches the last step. In short, an algorithm has the same meaning with steps in a procedure. 

We can find a general example in noodle’s wrap. We can call the steps of how to make noodles as an algorithm. It is a finite sequence starting from heating the water until reserving the noodles on a plate. We can’t jump over a step, or it might ruin your noodles.

The back of the noodle wrap

An algorithm in Our Daily Technology

Algorithms in programming are a basic concept we must understand. For fundamental knowledge, we must know some algorithms, such as sorting and searching algorithms. Because, most of the time, computer systems do sorting and searching for data. For example, Google searches articles and ATMs search account information.

Google Search

You must be familiar with Google Search. In Google Search, we usually search for everything we want, for example, food recipes, song lyrics, news, etc. But, have you ever thought why the result always relates to things that we search? Well, sometimes we get irrelevant results, although most of the time we get what we want. 

There is an algorithm behind the way Google searches articles. The algorithm affects every article that came out. A brief explanation about google algorithm is Google make a ranking of the web, and showing articles that have similar keywords on the top rank web page. 

The first algorithm google used for ranking is the PageRank algorithm. In practice, Google not only used PageRank but also other algorithms. PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine how important the website is.

From the picture below, we assume that a circle is a website. There are a lot of web pages that link to B which has a huge number of links to determine B is an important website. And then C describes websites that have a good quality of a link because B is linked to C and B is an important website based on its link number.

Scheme illustrating the basic principle of PageRank.

Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)

Another example is ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) for more related to daily life things. Like Google Search, an ATM also has an algorithm in it. The first step of the ATM algorithm is to identify the card information. So we won’t get the wrong account. After that ATM check parameters based on the account information to continue using other features.

Scheme illustrating how ATM works

What’s So Important in Algorithms?

Some of you must be thinking that you already know the information or the concept of it, especially on how to make noodles and how ATMs work. Maybe you guys think it is just regular information, but it’s not my point. My point is how if the system (making noodles, Google Search, ATM) is not implementing the right algorithm? Does the system still work? Of course, the result will not be as we want.

The way we arrange the step or strategy in an algorithm will affect the result. The result we always want is a good result. But most people are only concerned with the final result instead of the process. With knowing the process, we approach to get a better result than we don’t. 

For example, every beginner bodybuilder has to follow instructions from the instructor. We can assume that the instruction is like the algorithm. The instruction is ordered to prevent injuries for bodybuilders. If they don’t follow or skip one/any instruction, it can end up with injuries. So, the instruction is made up to avoid injuries and get the optimal result.

Instructor coaching his disciples

Why Is It Important in Our Daily Life?

We live in this world and we can't escape from problems. We have to face it. Naturally, we solve the problem using experience that we’ve got in the past or an instinct. And when we think of a solution, we actually do it like an algorithm in a computer, design a strategy to solve the problem. In fact, the computer is trying to imitate how humans think. Can we solve the problem just based on instinct and experience? Yes, we can. But it depends on the condition and situation around it. The way we solve problems just using experience and instinct is more conventional. Because it depends on the number of our experiences and sharpness of instinct.

In this modern era, the system exists because it is made to solve our problems. It is designed to predict errors that can happen in the future. To follow this sophisticated era, we have to solve our problems like the system does. Modern problems require modern solutions. We need to implement this method and make it our way of thinking. Because there will be advantages when we are used to it.

A long time ago, people traded things with others to get their needs. It is more complex when the thing has a huge size and it’s not movable. People overcome the problem by making a money system. Nowadays, technology has improved so significantly. Everything moves to the digital world so does the money system. We can call it a cashless payment.

Merchants basically sell things to get money. They usually receive real money back then. To expand marketing and growth income, they need to adapt to technology. They need to implement cashless payment in our business.

Picture illustrating cashless payment

From the case above, assume that cashless payment is an algorithm. Both things are sophisticated things that can solve a problem. With implementing cashless payment in our business, we can overcome the problem which is to expand marketing and growth income. So does algorithm, understanding of algorithms will change our way of thinking. The way we face people, do work, solve problems, etc, will affect our daily life.

Understanding Where Algorithms Will Lead Us to?

After we get used to it, think as computers do, this habit will lead us to critical thinking. It is one of the most useful skills nowadays. Most companies hire employees who have this skill. The skill to analyze and evaluate issues (in this article it will be step or strategy) in order to get the best result, in other words, we try to avoid any errors or failures.

And then, when we succeed to avoid any errors, it means that we do it efficiently and effectively. We save more time even though we take more time to think about the step/strategy. But, it is better than we finish it in a hurry, and in the future, the errors will come. 

Other than that, critical thinking will expand our skills, like reasoning, observing, questioning, decision making, planning, open-mindedness, problem-solving, and also enhance curiosity and creativity. With all these incredible skills, maybe critical thinking is not a skill for learning, but a skill for life.