After hearing about the problems with the supply chain, I began my holiday shopping about a month ago. The first items I hunted for were sweaters for some of my friends. I sifted through my pile of …
After hearing about the problems with the supply chain, I began my holiday shopping about a month ago. The first items I hunted for were sweaters for some of my friends. I sifted through my pile of catalogs from sites like “B.B. Lean” and “Wool World.” In my copy of “Vermont Man” I found a cardigan that looked good even though the male model wearing it looked too much like Bernie Sanders. I also saw a pair of insulated hiking boots that could be useful during a Sullivan County winter. As I began to fill in the order form, I decided that instead I would go to their website to expedite my purchase online.
Shopping online was another reckoning with the algorithm nightmare. An algorithm is a set of programed rules to be followed by computers in problem solving calculations. Despite the name and pronunciation, an algorithm has little if anything to do with the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. Ignore the rumors, Al Gore did not invent the internet. He did however push through legislation that contributed to other people developing the internet.
The origins of the word algorithm date back to the ninth century to a wizard mathematician named Muhammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi. Somehow when his last name was translated eventually into English, the word algorithm was born. Anyway, algorithm is easier to pronounce than al-Khwarizmi so it stuck around.
I mention algorithm because if you have ever searched for something on the internet you soon see many unwanted results on sites like Google and Facebook. Whatever you search for, the algorithm generates advertisements that pop up from sites somehow related to your initial inquiry.
Let us pretend that during this holiday season you decide to forego the traditional ham or turkey. For some bizarre reason, you decide that it is time to introduce your kids to something more exotic…snails. Cranking up your trusty Commodore 64 computer and after deleting the game of Space Invaders you started in 1978, you go on a social media site for recipes and type in “snails.” Within minutes you are reading pop-up articles about slime, shells and escargot.
Realizing that most civilized people do not include snails as part of their diet, years ago the head chef in France, le chef cuisinier, declared that snails would be only known as escargot. Here is an example of one result. Anson Brown, from Nebraska, took his family to a fancy meal in Paris. The waiter suggested they try the escargot. When their meal arrived, Mr. Brown stared at the plate and uttered, “Hey, somebody cleaned out the fish tank. Let’s get outta here.” The Browns hastily left the restaurant and dined at McDonald’s and KFC for the rest of their vacation.
As a warning to my readers who are planning a trip to Paris, besides escargot, stay away from cuisses de grenouille, especially if you have children. You do not want to explain to your kids that those frog legs are not Kermit’s.
As you look for recipes, an algorithm is sending your search to any site that is somehow related to snails. You get pop-up ads from UPS, Fed Ex and the U.S. Postal Service talking about snail mail. Eventually, you even are directed to a website about the actor Ted Knight. How did the algorithm get to Ted Knight? Well, if you ever saw the movie “Caddyshack,” he played Judge “how’d you like to mow my lawn” Smails. Snails, snail mail, Smails…put them together and what have you got? Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. You have the unwanted result of an algorithm, with a tip of my hat to the movie, Cinderella.
Following another algorithm, I imagine that searching the internet for escargot, instead of snails, would trigger pop-ups about many things including the Shelby race car. Why did the computer algorithm produce that? Well, as portrayed by Matt Damon in the movie “Ford vs. Ferrari,” Shelby designed a really fast car. He made that “S” car go!
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