Why we need an Algorithm Hall of Fame

In addition to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame we might also witness the launch of a Hall of Fame especially for Algorithms.

Researchers from leading knowledge institutions like CERN, Princeton and the University of Amsterdam have started working on what some have called “the most important list of our time”.

The word algorithm can be traced back to the famous Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi who was head of the library of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. In the 12th century one of his books was translated into Latin, where his name was rendered in Latin as “Algorithmi”. But this was not the beginning of algorithms. Already around 300 BC the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid came up with a step-by-step procedure for performing a calculation according to well-defined rules. This is one of the oldest algorithms in common use. It can be used to reduce fractions to their simplest form, and is a part of many other number-theoretic and cryptographic calculations.

Throughout history, algorithms have been used for calculating traffic light timings, predicting stock prices, deciding which airplanes get permission to land and so on. Nowadays in our digital society, algorithms are in fact everywhere. From the voice assistant in your phone to the autopilot in your car, more and more aspects of our lives are powered by algorithms. And although algorithms rule the world, we seem to know very little about them. How do they work? And by whom were they created? How can we hold them accountable?

Interactive installations

The Algorithm Hall of Fame is a celebration of scientific progress while fueling the debate around responsible data science. The organization wants to raise awareness among the general public. People talk about data all the time. But they forget that without algorithms their data would be just ones and zeros. The Award Winning Agency WeArePi from Amsterdam is working on the creative campaign that will launch the Hall of Fame.

“It’s more than just a list of important inventions”, says curator Jim Stolze. “We have invited artists and philosophers to bring these algorithms to life. They are creating a traveling circus of interactive installations to stimulate lively debate around the use of algorithms.”

Categories

The initiative was launched at the O’Reilly AI Conference in New York. The organization has started accepting nominations in three categories:

1. Fundamental algorithms: breakthrough inventions, mostly from the academic world;

2. Models: combinations of different algorithms and approaches, like Yolo Real-Time Image Detection or Deep Learning;

3. Applications: A list of algorithms that have had the biggest impact, like Google Pagerank, Bitcoin Hashing algorithms etc.

Process
From May until September people from the academia, the business world and the general public are invited to add algorithms to the “shortlist”. In October, an expert jury will decide which algorithms will actually be induced into the Hall of Fame during an official ceremony.

The jury consists of Avi Wigderson (Professor of mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton), Jos Baeten (Director of the Netherlands research institute for mathematics and computer science), Steven Goldfarb (particle physicist working on the ATLAS Experiment at CERN) and Ben Lorica (founding Department Chair for Statistics and Mathematics at C.S.U. Monterey Bay).

Let us know which algorithms you would like to see in the hall of fame!