Tom makes a guest appearance on Hannah Fry’s Secrets and Lies: The Hidden Power of Maths, talking about YouTube and algorithms. The episode is now on BBC iPlayer.
The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, hosted by Hannah Fry, cover a range of exciting maths-related topics, including luck, probability and artificial intelligence.
The second lecture, featuring Tom Scott, focuses on algorithms, which can sort and manage information quicker and more accurately than we ever could. The episode demonstrates how different algorithms can produce different ‘like’ rates for the same online video.
Speaking to TenEighty about the lecture and the choice to focus on the YouTube algorithm as its subject, Tom says:
“It’s an algorithm that pervades lots of (young) people’s lives without them noticing it, so we thought it was a good way to introduce the idea that algorithms are all around you even when you don’t notice them.
“We’re living in a world where really important decisions about everyone’s lives are being made by computers– and ultimately, that’s just maths.”
For Tom, discussing topics that are important but that can sometimes be seen as boring is very important. “Maths is often seen as either a dry academic subject, or just a source of weird puzzles — but when you’re talking about credit scores, or recommendation algorithms, that all starts with a computer adding up numbers.
“I’m confident that pretty much everyone will get to learn something!”
Participating in the series was an exciting occasion for Tom, saying “I remember watching the Christmas Lectures as a kid! So actually being in front of the camera, and being even a small part of the team that are helping to inspire the next generation — that really does mean a lot to me.”
All three episodes are now available on BBC iPlayer.