A great in-depth read in the NYT on Donald Ervin Knuth, “the Yoda of Silicon Valley”, as he celebrates his 80th birthday.
His bible of tech, “the Art of Computer Programming”, also known as TAOCP, as in Tao, for now consists of four volumes, each ranging from 750 to 1000 pages. Bill Gates famously wrote to send him a resume if you get through it.
Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Research, is quoted as saying that “like an actual bible, it’s long and comprehensive.”
Some nuggets from the article as we consider the AI in 2018 and looking into 2019:
– American Scientist says TAOCP helped shaped the last century of science.
– If you hit CMD+F to look for a word in a text or document, you are using the Knuth-Morris-Pratt string-searching algorithm.
– Knuth offers a monetary reward if anyone can find a mistake in his 3,500-4,000 pages of work, amongst scientists knows as a computer science’s Nobel Prize.
– Knuth published his first technical paper in Mad magazine, at age 19 and became a computer scientist before the discipline existed.
– He wrote about algorithms passionately, including its origins form a 9th century Persian textbook author Abu Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, latinized as Algorithmi.
The article finished with a clever quote from Kevin Slavin from the MIT Media Lab: “it’s a bright future, if you’re an algorithm”, based on his famous TEDTalk How Algorithms Shape Our World.