Natalie Haynes.

Natalie Haynes's Brave New Algo-World

Natalie Haynes's Brave New Algo-World

Comic and critic Natalie Haynes attempts to find the algorithm to determine the perfect joke

BBC Radio 4
Natalie Haynes, Timandra Harkness, Simon Colton, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Matt Parker, Richard Wiseman, Graham Ritchie and David Matthews
Paul Smith

Data structures exercise a tight grip on financial trading, but algorithms are now breaking out into virtually all spheres of human activity - from politics to household cleaning. Both university students and schoolchildren are being encouraged to learn computer programming to stand a chance in the brave new algo-world.

Natalie Haynes traces the Western World's increasing reliance on big data and ponders how its analysis could transform comedy, including a University of Edinburgh research project on unsupervised computer joke generation.

Along her mathematical journey, Natalie charts some of the chaotic muddles that algorithms have led us into, from security scares to retail problems, such as the offensive computer generated T-Shirts available recently on Amazon.

Natalie explores how these complex computer programmes are being used to determine not just stock prices but espionage tactics, film scripts, architecture and online dating. She glimpses the future of algorithms and the effect they may have on the things we buy, the partners we choose and the politicians we elect.

Production Details

Production company
Laugh track

Broadcast details

First broadcast
Wednesday 8th January 2014 on BBC Radio 4 at 11am
Episode length
30 minutes