Indeed, it may be that the question, “what is an algorithm?” is the wrong one to ask — or, at least, the wrong one to ask, first. Through what historical twists and turns did we arrive at today’s preferred senses of the word algorithm? That seems to me a more pressing and pertinent question, because it compels us to look into the cultural gymnastics by which a word with virtually no cachet has grown into one whose referents increasingly play a decisive role in our lives