Daily Archives: September 9, 2016

Algorithms for life

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[Today’s run: 3.5 miles]

I’ve been reading a book recently called Algorithms to Live By.

It is about applying lessons from the study of algorithms in the area of computer software to various decision-making situations in life.  I am about half way through.  It has been very interesting so far.  I think it helps that I generally understand things from the computer science side, but the book is written for general consumption.

One of the first class of decisions they talk about has to do with sampling:  given a length of time and a number of samples, how can you make some assumptions about the whole situation.  For example, how many apartments do you have to look at to find a good one?

A general rule is that you’ve seen the full gamut after visiting 37% of the offerings available.  If there are 100 available apartments, if you’ve seen 37 you’ve seen them all.  There could be an outlier, either terrible or fantastic, but you have enough information to make a decision.

The author makes a jump from that to life decisions:  if you’ve lived about 37% of your lifespan, you’ve probably spent enough time gathering information about your work, your manner of living, etc.

I found that interesting because the younger generations seem to be waiting a bit longer before settling on such things, longer than my generation and much longer than a few generations ago.  Maybe I need to adjust my thinking:  the lifespan has increased.  Someone who would have needed to settle in by age 22 (roughly 37% of 60) can now search until age 33 (37% of 90).  Or at least that is what I gathered from the presentation.



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Sep 9, 2016
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