Check out some words describing the decade in tech

In computing terms, this means a set of rules or a step-by-step process for performing a task. As a word it’s far older than the decade we’re finishing, but it’s gained notoriety over the past few years as the influence of social media has grown. Companies such as Facebook and Twitter use algorithms to determine which posts they present to you and in what order. Or in YouTube’s case, an algorithm decides which videos are in the “Up Next” box. Most of the time these algorithms work well, but they’re also being blamed for presenting hoax news stories, creating filter bubbles (where you only see information that reinforces your beliefs) and recommending videos with hateful content. In response to the criticism, some services have tweaked their algorithms to give their users more control over what content is shown.

Artificial intelligence
Like CNET’s Jon Skillings, I’m going to defer to John McCarthy, the man who coined the term, to define it. He described artificial intelligence as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs.” By “intelligent machine,” he meant machines that can mimic things the human mind can do, such as solving problems or learning new information and adapting to it. And I’m not just talking about robots. Examples include self-driving cars and voice assistants (see below), but the topic is also controversial (as in, AI could have the power to end humanity). Machine learning is the branch of AI that teaches computers to learn tasks or recognize patterns on their own, while deep learning is an area of machine learning that’s about recognizing relationships in data.

Gosh, this is a hard one. That’s why I’ll rely on my more knowledgeable colleague Stephen Shankland to explain. As he puts it, a blockchain is an ever-growing set of data blocks with each block recording a collection of transactions (such as the date, time and amount of a purchase). But instead of all of those blockchains being stored on a single computer (like a company server), they’re distributed across a group of computers. It could be thousands of them, and each computer has its own copy of the transaction. Most important, blockchain makes cryptocurrencies like bitcoin possible. Because cryptocurrencies are digital, decentralized currencies without a government, bank or other authority to control them, blockchain is used to verify transactions. And because blockchain is an encryption technology, transactions using cryptocurrency are anonymous. That’s why it’s popular on the dark web, which refers to any part of the internet that isn’t discoverable by a search engine.

Internet of Things
This refers to the trend of connecting everyday items to the Internet. A linchpin for the concept of the smart home, IoT devices can include doorbells with cameras that you can view while at work, thermostats you can control remotely and refrigerators that order your groceries for you. The list of possibilities is endless, and it isn’t limited to products that predated the internet. Some IoT devices, like voice assistants (see below) exist only because they have an online connection. While IoT gadgets can bring convenience, there’s a robust debate over whether they’re vulnerable to hacking. Read More

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