Past eventPast eventMembersPrimers

Chatham House Primer: Algorithms

Chatham House, London


Martin Erwig, Professor of Computer Science, Oregon State University; Author, Once Upon an Algorithm


Algorithms are the building blocks of computer programs and, in a world where computer programs have come to dominate the functioning of most societies, it might be argued that algorithms are therefore the building blocks of modern society.

But what is an algorithm? And what are their uses and limitations? Using analogies drawn from both daily life and familiar stories such as Hansel and Gretel, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones, Professor Martin Erwig will explain a series of key concepts in computing.

The talk will cover:

  • What is an algorithm?
  • Do algorithms now run the world? 
  • How can algorithms solve problems?
  • How can the layperson understand key concepts in computing?
    • Representation
    • Correctness
    • Efficiency
    • Recursion
  • What are the limits of computing?

About Chatham House Primers
The Chatham House Primer Series is a unique programme of talks designed to bridge the gap between introductory level subject knowledge and a more advanced understanding geared towards practical application, higher-level discussion and policy debate.

With each talk hosted by a leading expert, the Primer series aims to provide the audience with a solid grounding in topics of academic curiosity, key international affairs concepts and the issues behind the news.

This event will be followed by a reception open to all attendees.