STOP the algorithms!

March 19, 2018

 

Algorithms! How many times have you heard that word in the past two years? They're everywhere. Because computers are everywhere and algorithms are the DNA and RNA of computer programs. It's not complicated, really. It's just a series of steps to get to a goal. If A, then B. If not A, then C. If B, then B1. You get it even if you never got into higher math with nonlinear functions and vectors and equations, you know algorithms.

 

Every time you scan your customer card at the grocery store? Boom! Algorithms. Click on a political ad online? Boom! Algorithms. Your local Girl Scout probably has a spreadsheet of previous purchases before she comes calling on you again this year. Yup, that kid is thinking "algorithms."

 

The whole notion is ancient. In the mid 800s a man named Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was plying his trade as a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer geographer and a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. It was Al-Khwarizmi who is credited with developing the concept of the algorithm in mathematics. Read his name again. Al-Khwarizmi. Algarizmee. Algarism. Algorithm. There's a direct line from him to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zukerberg. I'm sure there's an algorithm for that "bloodline." 

 

Of course, this is what's driving many of us crazy these days. Social media is obviously built on this notion: if A, then B. We click, we are taken to the next screen, and, oh, that's interesting, so we click again, and so on until we are so far down the rabbit hole that we look up and it's Tuesday. And while we're buzzing in our own hornets' nest of algorithmic cacophony, we can't see or hear anyone or anything else. When you've reached a crescendo, here's another algorithm for you: STOP.

  • S: Stop. Just stop. Stop clicking. Stop listening. Stop reading. Stop looking. Just stop. Stop.

  • T: Take a breath. Really. Do it. Take. A. Breath. You've already stopped. Now, take a breath. Maybe take two. Do that. Take. A. Breath.

  • O: Observe. Look at yourself. Look in yourself. What is getting you so riled up? Whoever or whatever you are engaged with (your partner, your boss, the line you're in, customer service, yourself, that chocolate bar, that ignoramus...), observe what's going on inside. Observe how you are reacting. Observe what you are saying or thinking of saying. Check yourself. You may need to take another breath or two while you are doing this.

  • P: Proceed. You stopped. You breathed. You checked yourself. Now, you can move forward. You decide to engage or to disengage. To eat that chocolate or save it for another time. To hang up and start over or to hang in. Because now, you are actively choosing.  

Look at you! Doing algorithms yourself; following S.T.O.P. and controlling your own life. You stopped. Now, you go! :-)

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