Algorithm

Algorithm

An algorithm is an emergent phenomenon. The word is a Latinised version of Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi’s name, who, in 830 AD, authored The Book of Calculation by Completion and Balancing. Contrary to widespread belief, The Book of Calculation is not a mathematical textbook but a summary of practices as diverse as geometric approximation techniques and trade regulations.
Millennia before mathematics arose as a discipline, ancient civilisations marked territories – rocks, soil, human bodies – through techniques of spatial and temporal abstraction: encircling, incising, carving and scarifying. Algorithms were here codified rituals. In the Middle Ages, they were heterogeneous methods used for predictive operations. Today, they are automated computerised procedures. Given this history, it would be wrong to think of algorithms as of abstract mathematical ideas imposed on concrete data. Algorithms are emergent diagrams contingent on repetition and the processual organisation of time, space, objects, and actions.