The First Auction for Algorithms Is Attracting $1,000 Bids | WIRED
Back in 1986 Hal Abelson, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at MIT, stood in front of room of students and welcomed them to their first coding class. As he scrawled “COMPUTER SCIENCE” across the chalkboard, he offered a correction: “Actually, that’s a terrible way to start. First of all, it’s not a science,” he said, crossing out the word. “It might be engineering or it might be art; or we’ll actually see that computer ‘so-called’ science actually has a lot in common with magic.”
Technologists have long known this, and they’ve taken to describing algorithms in the way critics might describe art, employing adjectives like ornate, inspired and graceful (See: Greg Wilson and Andy Oram’s book Beautiful Code). But for the average person, the algorithm is a workhorse, an invisible force that might enable beautiful things to happen, but is not itself beautiful.
“Code can be judged on its aesthetic merits, not just practical merits,” says Fernando Cwilich Gil, an artist and one half of Ruse Laboratories. Gil, along with his partner Benjamin Gleitzman, are the organizers of the Algorithm Auction
For example, up for auction is a handwritten and signed copy of Brian Kernighan’s “Hello World” algorithm, the legendary greeting presented to entry-level coders to teach them the basic syntax of code. Kernighan developed the two lines of code in the late ‘70s as a way to introduce students to the C programming language. In his 1978 book The C Programming Language he wrote: “This is the basic hurdle; to leap over it you have to be able to create the program text somewhere, compile it successfully, load it, run it, and find out where your output went. With these mechanical details mastered, everything else is comparatively easy.” Today, “Hello World,” has extended far beyond just C, becoming the introductory program for almost all coding languages. Current bid: $3,000.