Monday, March 1, 2010

Algorithms vs. Heuristics = future of the internet?

This might be a reach, but it feels to me that the contrast between Google and Facebook that relates to the Algorithm/Heuristic stuff we get to talk about in the Thinking and Language (or Cognition) chapter.

In this article, WIRED magazine writer Fred Vogelstein writes about what he sees as the on-going battle between Facebook and Google for "the future of the internet". Briefly, the Facebook idea is that we would search for answers from increasingly sophisticated networks of "friends" instead of doing a google search. I think students could recognize this as a Heuristic - asking your friends for an answer is similar to a rule of thumb problem solving strategy - it doesn't guarantee the right answer, but it sure can be fast!

In this article. another WIRED writer (
Steven Levy) writes about his inside look at Google's famous search algorithm, listing many of the complex variables they include in their search engine.

Students might be interested in looking at this example in order to do some analysis about when different kinds of problem solving strategies are effective/successful? And it might be an opportunity for them to examine their own on-line serearch behaviors: in what situations do they use algorithms? heurisitcs? why?

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