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Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  3,572 ratings  ·  424 reviews
When it comes to artificial intelligence, we either hear of a paradise on earth or of our imminent extinction. It’s time we stand face-to-digital-face with the true powers and limitations of the algorithms that already automate important decisions in healthcare, transportation, crime, and commerce. Hello World is indispensable preparation for the moral quandaries of a ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 24th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company (first published September 2018)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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G L
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves
How pop science should be written; concise, engaging, illuminating, and compelling.
Riegs
Thoroughly researched and more balanced that expected, but still problematic. As a librarian/Information Science professional, I have serious qualms with the argument that we should learn to "live" with algorithms/machines controlling functions of society. Yes, I see the benefits and potential. Yes, I agree that better developed algorithms can improve quality of life. But, I think the folks who develop tech often forget that an algorithm (a machine) should never be depended upon to make humane ...more
Paul
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

We rely on the computers and the internet for almost everything these days, it is the backbone of our infrastructure, our first point of social contact for friends and associates all around the world, supplies our film and music choices and is a substantial part of the economy now. As the digital world permeates our life further computers are being used as part of, or in some cases the entire part of the
...more
Imi
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Imi by: Chips With Everything podcast (05/10/18)
Among all of the staggeringly impressive, mindboggling things that data and statistics can tell me, how it feels to be human isn't one of them.
This is the book I've been searching for, the book I had been hoping for when I read Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy a couple of months ago. Both books cover similar concepts and even examples, but while I found Weapons overly negative and pessimistic, Fry wonderfully covers both the problems and
...more
John Devlin
Not much of a look inside algorithms. I was hoping for more math but I might be in the minority with that.

She’s a personable writer but most of what is collected is just that. A compilation of contemporary observations gleaned from many open sources.
Charlotte Dann
Too shallow for anyone who already knows a fair bit about algorithms. I felt (strongly in the Art section) that she wasn't advocating for the programmers and had the perspective of someone who hasn't thought very holistically about human computer interaction. 'Computers can't make art' is a sentiment that really bugs me, it shrouds technology in this cold deific cloak when THE COMPUTER IS THE ART. I so strongly believe that making a computer make art is an extremely artistic endeavour. Go read ...more
Emily
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction
Great read! This caught my eye as it was passing through the library on its way to fill a patron’s hold. I think I had algorithms (view spoiler) (view spoiler)on my mind because of the class I’m taking this semester. I can’t say the cover or title is anything that would fill me with excitement—although once she explained the title, it made me smile and say, “Ohhh”—but for whatever reason, I placed a hold for myself.
From start to
...more
Vish Wam
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
Rivetting. Engaging. Funny.

Hannah Fry takes on the tyrannical influence of algorithms. But doesn't cast a future of doom, sounding like a luddite. The book is a refreshing take on how we could have a framework where we understand and accept AI for its flaws, and make decisions aided by it while questioning its power at each stage.
Ben Babcock
Algorithms are increasingly an important part of our lives, yet even as more of us become aware of this, how much do we actually stop to consider what that means? How much do we stop to consider who is designing these algorithms and how they actually work? And why are we willing to give up so much control to them in the first place? Hello World is a short tour through the various ways in which algorithms intersect with human decision-making. It is neither comprehensive nor particularly in-depth. ...more
ashley c
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hannah Fry introduces us to algorithms and to thinking about algorithms in her crisp, lighthearted, accessible book. This is definitely something for the uninitiated and may benefit you the most if this is one of your first books about data science. There are no in-depth arguments of any sort, she didn't zero in on any sub-topic; it's a light skim off the frothing issue condensed into something you can read on your commute or before bed.

"It's about asking if an algorithm is having a net
...more
Myles Cowper-Coles
Hannah Fry writes in a very human and relatable way about how algorithms have come to play a role into our lives in a variety of different ways. The book is full of interesting anecdotes about how computers play a role in medicine, law, transport and art which are then used to pose interesting ethical and philosophical questions.

It's a quick read and definitely one worth picking up even if you have a passing interest in technology and computer science.
Jenifer Jacobs
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I inhaled this book. So well written (I don’t really think it is fair, actually, for a mathematician to be such an engaging writer - but that’s life for you). Many interesting ideas and tidbits to discuss. Look out book club friends, this one is headed your way!
Laura
From BBC radio 4 - Book of the Week:
ociety has slowly handed over significant control to computers but how much should we rely on them over our own instincts? Mathematician Hannah Fry uncovers the hidden algorithms which can be found behind almost every aspect of our modern lives. She lifts the lid on their inner workings, demonstrating their power and exposing their limitations.

Written and read by Hannah Fry
Abridged by Robin Brooks
Producer: Eilidh McCreadie.


...more
Mimozë
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great writing and very well researched. Looks at algorithms, their effects and the extent to which they should be used in some of the most important areas of life, such as healthcare, crime, justice, cars, art etc. I would say the title is a bit deceiving, as a computer scientist it made me think it was biased against algorithms, but it isn't. It just examines their place in our daily life and considers how much we should be using/trusting them, weighing the pros and cons and their level of ...more
Catriona
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though roughly enjoyed every chapter, it was absolutely fascinating! Reminded me of reading Atul Gawande or Jon Ronson, such a brilliant blend of passionate narrator, demonstrable excellence and understanding in their field and page turning enthusiasm.
James Miller
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking and interesting read delving into our evolving use of algorithms to make decisions in place of and in addition to those we make ourselves. Balanced arguments explore the positives and negatives of this increasing dependence across the topics of power, data, justice, medicine, cars, crime and art. The author takes us on a journey from the beginnings of our capabilities to program machines, through to the emergence of self-driving cars and the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal ...more
Clelixedda
In this book, Hannah Fry gives an introduction and overview on algorithms and algorithmic techniques used (or set out for future use) in our modern societies. It starts by explaining basic concepts of machine learning, AI and data-driven algorithms. She then explores different areas of society and life to show that similar techniques can be used in very different contexts, like medicine, cars, the justice system or art. In all of these contexts, she manages to highlight the good, the bad and the ...more
Pete Wung
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The idea of artificial intelligence, particularly the application of artificial intelligence algorithms in the service of human activities that have always been human based both scare and fascinates us, that idea being a fecund field to harvest for popular literature and films. We humans, with some of us relying on overdeveloped imaginations, dreams of AI as the solution for everything that ails us. While for other humans, those with an overdramatic sense of pessimism, have nightmares about how ...more
Isabelle | BookwyrmBites
I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway and received a copy from WWNorton for review purposes. This does not affect my rating or opinions of this book.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this book is that it was understandable for the layperson with minimal technical experience, but not patronizing or reductive which would alienate a more knowledgeable reader. It's written conversationally, with an occasional witty aside/observation/pop culture reference, but always stays on topic: balancing
...more
Mohammed Algarawi
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a good examination of AI and algorithms of machine learning, their history, applications, problems, and whether they’re set to replace us or complement us in different fields such as medicine, law, policing, etc...

It’s straight to the point, but still finds a way to be entertaining. Definitely a favorite.

P.S. I wish I had the chance to take a class with Hannah Fry when I was in UCL.
Dan Connors
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books
Algorithms control our lives. That's a given in this age of unlimited information. They help us find jobs, mates, cars, houses, and most everything else. More and more they are relied upon by doctors, educators employers, insurance companies and all of big business.
This book tackles the important topic of algorithms and compares them to the fragile and imperfect abilities of the humans they are supposed to serve. "Hello World" is a basic command that's given to first time programmers, and Hannah
...more
Irena Papst
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
if you’ve ever been intrigued (but perhaps intimidated) by artificial intelligence, machine learning, or other similar buzzwords, read this book. hannah fry breaks down the technical details brilliantly, all while carefully exploring the grey area that emerges when man meets machine.

one of the main take homes for me is about managing expectations; an algorithm doesn’t have to be perfect, it just had to be on the whole better than the current state or the art (be it another algorithm, a purely
...more
Thom
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The subtitle is key, because this isn't a book about software engineering. It does not examine the code of algorithms or any complex math. What it does do is discuss how humans and algorithms interact, and it does this beautifully. Interesting, and at times humorous - recommended!

In Hello World, author Hannah Fry examines some algorithms, from chess to criminal justice to art, both successes and failures. As she says in the introduction, this is primarily a book about humans - who we are, where
...more
n
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first thing I have to say is that I love Hannah Fry's voice; the way this was written was so easy to follow because the flow and tone made it feel like a simple but informational conversation rather than a book that talks over your head. It definitely felt like it was written for everyone, regardless of their knowledge about algorithms and how they're used in the world.

There were a lot of things I hadn't heard of (most of which being in the medicine and arts chapters), but it was all really
...more
JZ
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoughtful reflection on the human bias and what that does to the machines and systems of the modern world. There are more questions than answers, but it is an approachable delivery information on the complex world of data, algorithms, and stochastic methods. Should be required reading before anyone checks yes to the terms and conditions on their fancy new ______insert_new_app______ account.
Juhi
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book in these times. How data is both the future and our enemy is shown in the book. Will recommend to people who enjoy non- fiction and want to understand the world we live in.
Carlos Martinez
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Rounded up from 3.5. An insightful, thought-provoking and fun book about algorithms: what they are, how they work, the problems they fix, the problems they cause, and how we can build a happy symbiosis between human and machine.

The science was a bit more basic than I was after - it's addressed at someone who knows _nothing_ about algorithms rather than someone who knows _a little bit_. The book in general suffers for being somewhat Eurocentric - for example in spite of China being a world leader
...more
Ed
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, maths
Fry takes us through an engaging overview of data and algorithms, and how they are used in our modern world.
It reads like an entertaining Guardian article, but never really manages to pull itself to a higher level than that.
Some questionable conclusions are drawn, and there may be a lack of depth on any of the individual subjects, but the occasional nuggets of wisdom and the easy tone make up for much of the downsides; it was still a breezy read and may serve as an interesting introduction to
...more
Aysha
Well, many algorithms are based on statistical data and probabilities, using these algorithms or machine learning algorithms in different areas such as justice medicine or crime or even art or cars, etc. so it's inevitably dependant on the nature of such area/topic/medium. It can be of major help to humans, it could judge poorly depending on its efficiency and the everlasting limitation to which extent we can improve such algorithm. But in the end, I agree with the author that the best way is to ...more
Dayla
The world of Artificial Intelligence is already here, and whether one is clear on the ramifications of using popularity (e.g. music, art works) as a sign of "quality"or not, we aren't going backwards.

This book is one of the most eye-opening books I have read in a very long time.
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Dr Hannah Fry is a lecturer in the Mathematics of Cities at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL. She works alongside a unique mix of physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, architects and geographers to study the patterns in human behaviour - particularly in an urban setting. Her research applies to a wide range of social problems and questions, from shopping and transport to ...more
“How good is good enough? Once you’ve built a flawed algorithm that can calculate something, should you let it?” 3 likes
“And in the UK, cameras mounted on vehicles that look like souped-up Google StreetView cars now drive around automatically cross-checking our likenesses with a database of wanted people.” 2 likes
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