Algorithms to Live By – a review

Algorithms to Live By

The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Authors: Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

This book fascinated me, as at the time I was writing about online dating and not seeing anything I liked about the process.  He book begins with an example: what if you are looking for an apartment in San Francisco, a city well known for its impossible rents and difficult to find living accommodations.  The minute a listing goes up in San Francisco, it goes down – taken in an instant.  People have no time to make a reasoned choice or to compare listings when listings are fought over the minute they come onto the market.

So say you want to maximize your opportunity to get the best apartment available on the market.  How do you know the best apartment without anything to compare it to?  And how do you find comparisons without checking out and losing lots of other apartments?  This is about getting information to make the best choice possible.  According to Algorithms to Live By, “if you want the best odds of getting the best apartment, spend 37% of your apartment hunt noncommittally exploring options (11 days out of one month).  … The 37% rule defines a simple series of steps-what computer scientists call an algorithm for solving these problems”.

And algorithms are a solution to all the problems of life.  Say you are looking for a mate.  The therapists says find a balance between impulsive acts and overthinking.  The answer is the balance is 37%. We ALL seek the optimal choices, the strategy that offers maximum success and as the authors explain the magic of algorithms as applied to life, we read on – and on.  Fascinating!

As this book expounds on the mathematical sciences intervening and assisting in human day problems and offering mathematical solutions, we find ourselves reading out of compulsion, and total interest.  I for one could not put this book down.  Great juxtaposition for us over thinkers and under thinkers to read about.

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