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Francis Sullivan of the Institute for Defense Analysis said "Great algorithms are the poetry of computation"; David Berlinski calls the algorithm "the idea that rules the world." The Advent of the Algorithm is not so much a history of algorithms as a historical fantasia. Berlinski spins freely between semifictional accounts of historical figures, personal reminiscence, and mathematical proofs--without ever really defining an algorithm in so many words.
This is not the book for those who were maddened by Berlinski's A Tour of the Calculus; his style remains quirky, digressive, self-referential, and dense:
And then, by some inscrutable incandescent insight, Leibniz came to see that what is crucial in what he had written is the alternation between God and Nothingness. And for this, the numbers 0 and 1 suffice.
Twinkies and Diet Coke in hand, computer programmers can now be observed pausing thoughtfully at their consoles.
Berlinski's argument seems to be that algorithms--step-by-step procedures for getting answers--superceded logic, and will be superceded in turn by more biological, empirical, fuzzy methods. The structure of the book reflects this argument--sketches of people like Leibniz, Hilbert, Gödel, and Turing are interwoven with proofs and with characters of Berlinski's own invention. Berlinski's voice, closer to Hofstadter than to Knuth, remains unique. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Berlinski's successful A Tour of the Calculus displayed his spectacular talent for explaining math and its various real-world consequences. This hefty follow-up explores what Berlinski considers "the second great scientific idea of the West. There is no third." Calculus gave us modern physics, but the algorithm gave us--is still giving us--the computer (or, more precisely, the computer program). In short, densely intertwined, lyrically constructed chapters, Berlinski describes the discoveries of major algorithmic thinkers. We hear of Gottfried von Leibniz, one of the founders of formal logic; of Gottlob Frege, David Hilbert and Bertrand Russell, who set out to draw up formal, mathematical criteria for truth; of Kurt G?del, who proved that it couldn't be done; of computer pioneer, code breaker and gay martyr Alan Turing; of programs, undecidability, DNA and entropy. We see equations and graphs, but we also hear tales from Isaac Bashevis Singer and bizarre anecdotes of Berlinski's own travels. A novelist (The Body Shop) as well as a mathematician, Berlinski has composed energetic, intertwined tales that make it nearly impossible for readers, once drawn in, to lose interest or to get lost among flying abstractions. (He may well attract the same readers who gravitated, 20 years ago, to Douglas Hofstadter's G?del, Escher, Bach, though the books' personalities and prose styles have little in common.) Although not perfect--the book can be hyperbolic or too aphoristic and digressive for those who just want to learn about math (or the philosophy of computing)--this captivating volume is nevertheless an uncommon achievement of both style and substance. Agent, Susan Ginsburg; author tour. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
ALGORITHM is a concept Berlinski relates well. Book arrived just as described.Published 7 months ago by Rob W.
Berlinski's title suggests that this book will be mainly a piece of intellectual history, charting the development of computer programs from the advances in mathematics made in... Read morePublished on July 15, 2013 by Andrew Begrady
Most boring, confusing and appalling book with all those dramatic and romantic story sections. May be if it was an audio book, I would have given some half star extra. Read morePublished on May 4, 2010 by N. Ramanathan
David Berlinski, like God, is under-appreciated. He is too subtle, too wonderful, and mostly beyond us.Published on April 18, 2010 by Marianne Bacon
I think I have had a normal relationship with this book. The first time I had a copy in my hands, I quit reading it. That was around 2000.
Tonight, it is brillant. Read more
I admire an author's clever use of words as much as anyone, but there is undoubtedly a point where the clever use of words becomes "mannerism:" the author calls attention to... Read morePublished on November 23, 2009 by Geoff Puterbaugh
(I wrote this review of Berlinski's The Advent of the Algorithm, A Tour of the Calculus, and Newton's Gift in 2001 but could find no one to publish it; so I am posting it here. Read morePublished on November 7, 2009 by Raymond C. Togtman
Berlinski is trying to make us feel the conceptual twist that percipitated the algoritm out of the failed project to produce a secure foundation for mathematics. Read morePublished on July 21, 2009 by S. G. Harris
"The Advent of the Algorithm" tries much too hard to be "Gödel, Escher, Bach", without any understanding whatsoever of the whimsical appeal of the latter, and wastes all its... Read morePublished on May 30, 2008 by C. Russell