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Solving problems by computer just got a lot faster

A new algorithm shuffles through all possible solutions to find the best answer

7:00am, July 16, 2018
illustration of computer code

SPEED DEMON  This new computer program’s clever number-crunching strategy could route ride shares, discover new drugs and analyze genetic data far faster than other algorithms.

A new computer program works smarter, not harder, to solve problems faster than its predecessors.

The algorithm is designed to find the best solution to a given problem among all possible options. Whereas other computer programs winnow down the possibilities one at a time, the new program — presented July 12 at the International Conference on Machine Learning in Stockholm — rules out many choices at once.

For instance, imagine a computer is assigned to compile movie recommendations based on a particular film. The ideal recommendation list would include suggestions that are both similar to the original flick — say, in the same genre — yet different enough from each other to give the viewer a variety of choice. A traditional recommendation system would pore over an entire movie library to find films that best met those criteria and

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