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Here Is An Easy Way To Understand What An Algorithm Is
Blog Feature

By: Neil Yager, PhD

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January 12th, 2021

Here Is An Easy Way To Understand What An Algorithm Is

As artificial intelligence continues to grow, it’s crucial to understand the basics of how it works. We’ve heard the term “computer algorithms,” but it may be difficult to truly conceptualize it.

Keep reading for an overview of algorithms, or click here to watch the video version.

What Is An Algorithm? 

When trying to comprehend the concept of an algorithm, I like to use a cooking analogy. 

Think of a cooking recipe. With a recipe, you have an input and output. The input is the raw ingredients, then you have a series of steps to prepare your meal as your output. 

This is an example of an algorithm. An algorithm is a precise series of steps to accomplish a goal. 

We work through internal algorithms every day. Let’s dive into some real life examples.

Algorithms in Real Life

Here Is An Easy Way To Understand What An Algorithm Is

I live in Reykjavik, Iceland. This photo was taken close to my home on Google Maps, but I want you to pay attention to something we’ve all seen before: The man in the bottom left corner has a blurred face. His face is blurred for privacy reasons, which means that Google has an algorithm which blurs faces.

This algorithm is called face detection. The input is a region of an arbitrary image and the output detects whether or not there is a face present. 

Let’s take a look at another example.

AI Algorithms Decoded

Here Is An Easy Way To Understand What An Algorithm Is

This is a sink, yet many people can find a face when they see this image. This is called pareidolia, which means that you can find a face in inanimate objects or abstract patterns. It means that our brains have a face detection algorithm, just like a computer.

But the question here is, what is an AI algorithm? Well, an AI algorithm is just a computer algorithm that is trying to mimic one of those algorithms that’s in your head. 

This is an example from computer vision, but there can be language, reasoning, learning, and many others.

Want to Learn More?

Understanding algorithms is an important part of decoding the science of artificial intelligence. But what about taking it a step further? Are there more facets of AI you’d like to learn, and then apply to real business problems in your organization?

AI Academy for Marketers was developed for this purpose. It’s an online education platform that helps you understand, pilot and scale artificial intelligence. To start learning AI from the industry's top authors, marketers and entrepreneurs, click here.

Get the Beginner's Guide to AI in Marketing

About Neil Yager, PhD

Neil Yager is co-founder and Chief Scientist at Phrasee.

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