In the modern world, algorithms do much of the digital heavy lifting.
Algorithms control the inner-workings of everything from particle accelerators to stock markets. They determine the news you see, what search results you get, how computers learn, and what gets recommended to you on Netflix or Amazon.
In short, society couldn’t function as-is without algorithms – and as we lean on them to run more things, it becomes more important for us to learn what they are and what they do.
Today’s infographic from Futurism digs into the origins of algorithms, and how they impact our everyday lives.
What is an Algorithm?
An algorithm is a predetermined set of steps for a computer to accomplish a task. It’s basically an instruction manual. And as in life, instruction manuals can be simple (e.g. building an Ikea side table) or extremely complex (e.g. filing a patent).
Below is “Sorting Out Sorting” (1981), a timeless primer on sorting methods. It clearly demonstrates the way computers approach sorting vast quantities of information by following a set of instructions.
A famous example of an algorithm is Google’s PageRank, which determines the order in which websites appear in Google’s search rankings. PageRank’s methodology is explained succinctly and effectively in the video below.
By building on a stochastic model called the Markov chain, PageRank revolutionized the way the world accesses information. The power of this algorithm is partially responsible for Google’s ability to control 41% of the online ad market, which is where Alphabet still generates the majority of its revenue.
How Algorithms Influence Society
Social platforms play a substantial role in delivering news and information to us. In fact, an estimated 44% of the U.S. population consumes news via Facebook. The more we rely on social networks to supply us with news, the more algorithms will influence what information we’re exposed to. Since social platforms are designed to serve us customized content, there is a growing concern that we are creating online echo chambers that crowd out opposing views.
Algorithms also have a profound influence on our economy. Roughly 50% of the market moves through high frequency trading – the process of using dedicated programs to make automated trading decisions to place orders. Large portions of our economy are now managed with very little human intervention.
In recent years, progress in the field of artificial intelligence has generated an abundance of interest and excitement. Deep learning (a technique for implementing machine learning) is making all kinds of machine-assisted tasks possible. Preventive healthcare, driverless vehicles, drug discovery, bioinformatics, and hyper-customized recommendations on shopping websites are all here today or coming down the pipeline.
The remarkable thing about deep learning is that it goes beyond what any human can program a computer to do. Programmers have instead used a learning algorithm – fueled by terabytes of data – to train it to perform complex tasks. The computer essentially figures out for itself how to recognize the desired objects, text, or actions.
Breakthroughs like this are the reason AI startups are now receiving billions of dollars of funding.
The Algorithmic Economy
The potential upside for technology providers are enormous, particularly if proprietary processes work on a global scale. An era where “things” will communicate autonomously and take actions without human intervention is sure to profoundly impact our society.
The big question is, what will we do once computers and algorithms are taking care of business?
Which Companies Make Up the “Magnificent Seven” Stocks?
FAANG is dead… meet the ‘Magnificent Seven’ stocks that now make up over 25% of the S&P 500.
Which Companies Make Up the “Magnificent Seven” Stocks?
In 2013 CNBC analyst Jim Cramer popularized “FANG,” comprised of Facebook (now Meta), Amazon, Netflix, and Google (now Alphabet), as a shorthand for the best performing technology stocks on the market. Apple, added in 2017, made it FAANG.
However, over the last year a new moniker given by Bank of America analyst Michael Hartnett highlights the most valuable and popularly-owned companies on the American stock market: the “Magnificent Seven” stocks.
We visualize the Magnificent Seven’s market capitalization and 5-year stock performance as of November 2023 using data from Google Finance and CompaniesMarketCap.
The Magnificent Seven Stocks by Market Cap and 5-Year Return
The Magnificent Seven stocks are megacap companies focused and capitalizing on tech growth trends including AI, cloud computing, and cutting-edge hardware and software.
Four of the five FAANG stocks retain their place amongst the Magnificent Seven, with newcomers Nvidia, Tesla, and Microsoft joining the group. Following a poor 2022 performance and having more difficulty capitalizing on tech trends, Netflix is the sole FAANG company not included.
Here’s a look at the companies ranked by their market capitalization on November 6, 2023, alongside their 5-year stock performance:
|Rank||Company||Market Cap||5 Year Performance|
The Magnificent Seven make up more than one-quarter of the S&P 500 and more than half of the Nasdaq 100.
Meanwhile, five of the seven are part of the rare trillion dollar club, with Nvidia being the most recent entry.
A common theme among the Magnificent Seven is their ability to collect vast amounts of customer data, create cutting-edge hardware and software, as well as harness the power of AI.
However, if Netflix gets back on track—recently announcing its new ad-supported membership tier has 15 million subscribers—we could soon see a “Magnificent Eight.”
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