Adaptive algorithm: what is it?

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Adaptive algorithms adjust their activities to achieve the best result in changing circumstances. They can learn from user behavior and be programmed to do anything from air traffic control to returning search results. They require special considerations and can override normal instructions in urgent situations.

An adaptive algorithm is a set of instructions to perform a function that can adapt as the environment or circumstances change. Adaptive algorithms are able to intelligently adjust their activities in light of changing circumstances to achieve the best possible result. They can be programmed in a number of computer languages ​​to do anything from automating air traffic control to returning search results that will be accurate and useful to an internet user.

The adaptive algorithm can change its behavior if it detects the need to do so. In the example of a search engine, the engine may crawl the entire Internet and return results from a variety of locations, but it may consider parameters known about the user first. If the user’s IP address originates in France, for example, the adaptive algorithm would return results in French, or the search engine could redirect the user to its French site.

Algorithms can also learn from user behavior. Users of the same search engine in the same country may notice that they get different results. These are based on past search behavior and click-through links. The algorithm can customize its results according to the user’s needs. For example, a person who searches for “football” and clicks on links about American football, not soccer, teaches the algorithm the types of results she wants to see.

Such algorithms can be useful when instructions need to be set to execute a command, but the system must be able to override the algorithm in case of an urgent situation. With partially automated air traffic control, for example, the algorithm can respond when an aircraft receives a radio distress call. It will advise air traffic controllers on how to redirect existing traffic, instead of insisting on landing those planes first and putting the troubled plane in a holding queue. The algorithm can adapt to circumstances and can override the normal instructions to queue aircraft in order of arrival when it detects an emergency situation.

Coding an adaptive algorithm takes longer than developing a regular one and may require some special considerations. Before a programmer creates an algorithm, he will usually develop a list of parameters to describe what he should do and how. With an adaptive version, he will think about situations that might arise and set up the code so that the adaptive algorithm can learn from his experiences.

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