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Before Google There was Mesopotamia?

February 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

By Phin Upham

Most people are familiar with Google’s algorithm, or at least use Google enough to understand how it works. Google uses a number of variables present on a Web page, and others outside of that page, to determine whether the pages you see listed on its results page are relevant to what you are looking for. Someone doesn’t perform a search and serve results for you, this is all done in an automated fashion.

Google’s algorithm completely changed the game of search. Other algorithms, such as Bing, have become advanced and can provide better information in some cases. Yet Google endears as the household name because of its coveted algorithm.

An algorithm is basically a procedure for solving any problem. Most of you might have used algorithms to solve for X, or even to perform basic division. You can think of them as rules you use to achieve a desired result.

With that in mind, it might surprise you to learn that the world’s first algorithms were likely used by people in Mesopotamia more than 8,000 years ago. Babylonian mathematics was likely based on Egyptian ideas, but seem to reflect more advanced ways of thought. For example, Babylonians were solving quadratic equations and dealing with circular measurement long before Pythagoras was ever born.

We know all this thanks to the robust tablets that Babylonians were able to create from hardened clay. They etched their numerical system into tablets, which survived for thousands of years, and passed their knowledge through trade dealings.

Next time you use Google, consider its ancient roots.


About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.

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