How Algorithms Will Shape Our World

We live in a world run by algorithms, computer programs that make decisions or solve problems for us. In his riveting, funny talk, Kevin Slavin will show us how modern algorithms determine stock prices, espionage tactics, even the movies we watch. But, he asks—if we depend on complex algorithms to manage our daily decisions—when do we start to lose control? Computers aren’t the objects that sit on our desks; they are the nervous system for a networked world. Their effects are broad, deep, and often quite difficult to discern, extending far off the desktop into our everyday lives. Inside, they are simply algorithms that are trying to make the kinds of decisions that humans find difficult. The algorithms themselves might not be new. But their domain most certainly is: everything from the way that elevators arrive to the way that movies are made, and then, of course, there’s Google, and the stock market. More and more of our everyday experiences have algorithms folded deep inside them. And fewer and fewer of those algorithms have human supervision integrated into their operations. This is a tour, investigation, and interrogation of what these algorithms are, how they function, where they live, and raises questions about this new form of physics. Not just the physics of information, or of finance, but of culture at large. A review of the last few years, and a glimpse of what’s to come.  

Keynote Video


Kevin Slavin
Chief Science and Technology Officer
The Shed
Kevin Slavin is Chief Science and Technology Officer for The Shed, New York City’s new center for artistic invention. Slavin fosters artists working with emerging developments in science and technology, including augmented and virtual reality, AI, synthetic biology, materials science, and locative media, to express the ideas and imagery of our time. The Shed, New York’s first multi-arts center, will open in spring of 2019. As a Research Affiliate at the MIT Media Lab and serial entrepreneur, Kevin has built renowned projects and companies at the intersections of entertainment, games, big data, next-generation technologies, and design. As Co-founder of Area/Code in 2005, Kevin has been a consistent pioneer in rethinking game design and development around new technologies (like GPS and DNA testing) and new platforms (like Facebook and iOS). Working with MTV, Disney, Nokia, Nike, CBS, and many others, Area/Code was acquired by Zynga in 2011 to become Zynga New York. Prior to acquisition, their work served several billion pages, and more than 50 million users. Kevin spent 10 years as a creative director and planner at some of the largest agencies in the US, and has been named to most of the industry awards, including Creativity Magazine.” As a professor and teacher, he’s taught at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, Fabrica, MIT, and Cooper Union, where he is Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. His work has been exhibited in museums including MoMA, the New Museum, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and the Frankfurt Museum für Moderne Kunst.