Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

A greedy algorithm is a mathematical process that looks for simple, easy-to-implement solutions to complex, multi-step problems by deciding which next step will provide the most obvious benefit.

Such algorithms are called greedy because while the optimal solution to each smaller instance will provide an immediate output, the algorithm doesn’t consider the larger problem as a whole. Once a decision has been made, it is never reconsidered.

Greedy algorithms work by recursively constructing a set of objects from the smallest possible constituent parts. Recursion is an approach to problem solving in which the solution to a particular problem depends on solutions to smaller instances of the same problem. The advantage to using a greedy algorithm is that solutions to smaller instances of the problem can be straightforward and easy to understand. The disadvantage is that it is entirely possible that the most optimal short-term solutions may lead to the worst possible long-term outcome.

Greedy algorithms are often used in ad hoc mobile networking to efficiently route packets with the fewest number of hops and the shortest delay possible. They are also used in machine learning, business intelligence (BI), artificial intelligence (AI) and programming.

See also: KISS principle, Ockham's razor

 

This was last updated in April 2014
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • flash storage

    - Flash storage, based on flash memory, is used for data repositories, storage systems and consumer devices, such as USB drives, smartphones and solid-state drives. Flash-based storage is faster than... (WhatIs.com)

  • six degrees of separation

    - Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. (WhatIs.com)

  • search operator

    - A search operator (sometimes referred to as a search parameter) is a character or string of characters used in a search engine query to narrow the focus of the search. Search operators are usually ... (WhatIs.com)

Glossaries

  • Computing fundamentals

    - Terms related to computer fundamentals, including computer hardware definitions and words and phrases about software, operating systems, peripherals and troubleshooting.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question. Find an Answer.Powered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Ask An IT Question

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Ask Question

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.