Shortlisted for the 2018 Royal Society Investment Science Book Prize
A look inside the algorithms that are shaping our lives and the dilemmas they bring with them.
If you were accused of a crime, who would you rather decide your sentence—a mathematically consistent algorithm incapable of empathy or a compassionate human judge prone to bias and error? What if you want to buy a driverless car and must choose between one programmed to save as many lives as possible and another that prioritizes the lives of its own passengers? And would you agree to share your family’s full medical history if you were told that it would help researchers find a cure for cancer?
These are just some of the dilemmas that we are beginning to face as we approach the age of the algorithm, when it feels as if the machines reign supreme. Already, these lines of code are telling us what to watch, where to go, whom to date, and even whom to send to jail. But as we rely on algorithms to automate big, important decisions—in crime, justice, healthcare, transportation, and money—they raise questions about what we want our world to look like. What matters most: Helping doctors with diagnosis or preserving privacy? Protecting victims of crime or preventing innocent people being falsely accused?
Hello World takes us on a tour through the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of the algorithms that surround us on a daily basis. Mathematician Hannah Fry reveals their inner workings, showing us how algorithms are written and implemented, and demonstrates the ways in which human bias can literally be written into the code. By weaving in relatable, real world stories with accessible explanations of the underlying mathematics that power algorithms, Hello World helps us to determine their power, expose their limitations, and examine whether they really are improvement on the human systems they replace.
About the Author
Hannah Fry is the author of Hello World. With Adam Rutherford, she co-hosts the BBC Radio 4 show The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry. She lives in London.
Hello World is an action-packed read during which you will be outraged, provoked, and challenged. The numerous, meticulously researched examples reveal the astonishing new world we’re living in, one where secret decisions with ambiguous goals are deciding our individual and collective fates.
— Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction
Expertly told, wise and with a lightness of touch, Hannah Fry’s brilliant exploration of how we live our lives in the age of AI will prompt arguments in pubs and over dinner tables for years to come.
— Adam Rutherford, author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived
Computers used to be tools, then they were toys, and now they’re all around us. You couldn’t ask for a better guide to this bewildering new world than Hannah Fry, who fills Hello World with wit, storytelling, and superbly clear insight. Bravo!
— Tim Harford, author of Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy
Hannah Fry is one of the best explainers on the planet. In Hello World, she takes a serious subject and leavens it delightfully with her clear writing and captivating stories, and her trademark sense of humor and fun.
— Steven Strogatz, professor of mathematics, Cornell University, and author of The Joy of x
Hello World is a brisk and friendly guidebook to the algorithms all around us.
— Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong
Hello World is a gem of accessible science writing. With eloquence and charm, Hannah Fry outlines the math of computer algorithms and explains how they are transforming fields such as health, justice, transport, and the arts. She is a wise guide to the benefits—and horrors—of our increasingly data-driven world.
— Alex Bellos, author of Here's Looking at Euclid
Fascinating and funny. I learned something on every page.
— Tom Chivers - Buzzfeed
A well-constructed tour of technology and its discontents—timely, too, given the increasing prominence of AI in our daily lives.
— Kirkus Reviews
A lucid and timely analysis.
— Booklist (starred)
For a reader unfamiliar with the technical aspects of AI, this book offers among the best lay explanations of how algorithms work.
Fry incites readers to consider both the strengths and weaknesses of human and machine, science and the scientist before we render full control to algorithms to run our daily lives.
— Library Journal (starred)
Hello World is engaged with the bigger choices that algorithms are poised to make... Mixing mathematics and storytelling, this book asks the big questions about algorithms and humans—and their future together.
— Literary Hub