Solving problems by computer just got a lot faster

illustration of computer code
SPEED DEMON This new computer program’s clever number-crunching strategy could route ride shares, discover new drugs and analyze genetic data far faster than other algorithms.

A new computer program works smarter, not harder, to solve problems faster than its predecessors.

The algorithm is designed to find the best solution to a given problem among all possible options. Whereas other computer programs winnow down the possibilities one at a time, the new program — presented July 12 at the International Conference on Machine Learning in Stockholm — rules out many choices at once.

For instance, imagine a computer is assigned to compile movie recommendations based on a particular film. The ideal recommendation list would include suggestions that are both similar to the original flick — say, in the…

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