the beauty of sorting algorithms

I’m not an expect on the fundamentals of computer science, but put simply, sorting algorithms sort large quantities of data, usually in numerical order…and from what I can understand, this is really useful for problem solving in AI.

Although my own interest in sorting algorithms is more for aesthetics rather than functionality…so I’d like to talk about them. I often find myself watching these algorithms on youtube…and not only are they immensely satisfying, they also look like visual artworks to me.

This got me researching a bit, and algorithmic art does indeed exist. Beginning in the early 1960s with Ernest Edmonds; although it has been argued that algorithmic art initially begins with Islamic geometric art which uses mathematical principles to create repeating patterns, as well as European Renaissance paintings which make use of linear perspectives and proportion. These algorithmic artworks, although completely abstract, are also very reminiscent of the natural world.

“Now I like ‘algorithmic’ more than ‘generative’ or ‘code-generated’ [because it] hints at functions, relationships, dynamics, and not just information and rules.” (Dextro, Algorithmic artist) We’re living in a world where AI is making more and more of the decisions that affect our day-to-day lives, from security, to healthcare, to transport – so it makes more sense that AI should be part of our culture and art in addition to this, because it has such a heavy influence.

A Cello, from the series, the Treachery of Imagenet, Tom White. Image courtesy of The Verge

Algorithmic artist, Tom White says his “motivation is primarily to deconstruct what we think of as machine perception. In other words: to explain the algorithmic gaze. Take the example of the cello print in White’s series “The Treachery of ImageNet.” If you know what you’re looking for, you can see shapes that represent the instrument (a cluster of straight parallel lines bracketed by curves). But there’s also a confusing shape looming behind it. White says these shapes are there because the algorithms were trained using pictures of cellos with cellists holding them. Because the algorithm has no prior knowledge of the world — no understanding of what an instrument is or any concept of music or performance — it naturally grouped the two together. After all, that’s what it’s been asked to do: learn what’s in the picture.” (James Vincent, The Verge)


I don’t really have a conclusion here…I just thought these algorithms were interesting and worth writing about. Again, I’m not really particularly knowledgable on computer science, but if you have any thoughts, we’d love to hear from you at Crop Up!

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It’s also trans awareness month at the moment! Look out for some blog posts on trans issues and art in the next few weeks!

Featured image courtesy of zenbullets

Written by Emily Stokes

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