Esko Ukkonen: What is an algorithm and what can be done with it?

On 24 April at 16.15 the lecture “The Era of Algorithms” will be delivered in the series of Granö lectures by the professor of computer science of the University of Helsinki Esko Ukkonen, who explores the limits and possibilities of algorithms.

When talking about IT, people mostly do not focus on the details of how things work. Actually, computers and processors perform predetermined algorithms. “Algorithms are basically rules that say what can be taught to the computer and how to “phrase” that,” said UT professor of bioinformatics Jaak Vilo. According to Vilo, algorithmic thinking is the basis of the entire IT, because computers just perform orders given to them. “On the one hand it is certainly necessary to understand what an algorithm is, what the limits of algorithms are – both temporal and formal ones. Everything cannot be computed quickly,” said Vilo, who believes that also in future, the main qualities of algorithms will remain the same. “What is going to change is that there will be algorithms with which computers can learn to look for new associations and create new algorithms and thereby make themselves “smarter”, in the area of artificial intelligence, for example,” Vilo explained the future of algorithms.

Professor of the University of Helsinki Esko Ukkonen is a very important figure in the Finnish computer science. His academic descendants in Finland include nearly twenty professors. Ukkonen’s own best known work has been related with text indexing and search. These have contributed to the analysis and also initial sequencing of the human genome.

Ukkonen believes that the word “algorithm” can be heard more and more often in everyday media. “It is true that algorithms and programming is everywhere around us. It is a topic with which elementary school children and people get in touch in their daily activities. But what exactly is an algorithm? What can be done with the help of algorithms and where are their limits?” asks Esko Ukkonen in his lecture. 

Esko Ukkonen was elected a foreign member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences in 2016. Three Estonians have defended their doctoral degree under his supervision. Esko’s scope in computer science extends from theory to several areas of application.

The lecture will be held in UT Institute of Computer Science, Liivi 2-111.

The lecture series was named after the Finnish geography professor Johannes Gabriel Granö, who was a professor at Tartu University from 1919–1923. The aim of the Granö lectures is to create new ties between Estonian and Finnish scientists. Lectures and seminars are organized by the Finnish Institute in cooperation with the University of Tartu, the University of Turku and the Granö Center.

Recordings of previous lectures are available at

Additional information:
Jaak Vilo, UT professor of bioinformatics, 737 5483,
Kadri Kaljurand, Finnish Institute,, 742 7319

Viivika Eljand-Kärp
Press Officer of the UT
Phone: +372 737 5683
Mobile: +372 5354 0689