简而言之，算法正在接管我们的生活。所谓算法，只是一套软件代码而已，运作方式类似于决策树，即考虑多种变量，然后产生结论或推荐。“机器人程序”（bot）通常是一系列算法的集合。如果不像克里斯多弗•斯坦纳那样退一步看，人们很难意识到算法近几年来的发展多么迅猛、影响多么深远，也无法认识到它对现代文明的影响。斯坦纳的著作《自动化：算法统治世界》（Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World）阐明了这些问题。
In the morning you wake up and check your Gmail, which is sorted for you courtesy of a proprietary Google (GOOG) bot. At lunchtime you read sports gossip on Deadspin, which deploys another set of proprietary algorithms to promote the most prolific commenters. After dinner you pick a movie from a menu of choices that a friendly Netflix (NFLX) algorithm queued up for you based on its record of your cinematic taste. Other algorithms help determine which streets we drive, the music we hear, and which way stocks move.
In short, algorithms are taking over our lives. An algorithm is simply a piece of software code that operates like a decision tree, considering multiple variables and then spitting out a decision or recommendation. (A bot is typically a collection of algorithms.) Without taking a step back, as Christopher Steiner does in Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World, it's hard to appreciate how fast and far algorithms have come in recent years, and what the consequences are for modern culture.
Steiner, a former Forbes writer, set out three years ago to explain how trading algorithms (which, in their simplest form, make buy/sell decisions based on various data inputs) had overtaken Wall Street. By that time, wildly complex trading bots had transformed financial markets. Steiner then decided to expand his reporting outside finance. The result is an encompassing tale of how industries as diverse as dating services, music and medicine all came to be ruled by machines.