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Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science…

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions (original 2017; edition 2017)

by Brian Christian (Author)

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3842040,465 (4.02)10
Title:Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions
Authors:Brian Christian (Author)
Info:Picador (2017), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2018, Read - total
Tags:social science, psychology

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Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian (2017)


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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I just loved this book. It gives an easy, non-technical overview of various topics in computer science and ties it to human psychology, with real world applications. I very much enjoyed especially the approaches to relaxation - how seeking perfect solutions might take up enormous resources, but a solution that's good enough might be easily attainable, if we relax some conditions. Definitely applicable in real life! ( )
  Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
Going into this I expected the book to be practical advice for non-computer scientists based on computer-science "solved" problems. I expected this because of the summary and various other descriptions of the book. I found this was more like mediocre advice for amateur computer scientists.

The computer science is covered in only a very basic way. On one hand this is good because a whole text with details (especially detailed math) would be too much for non-computer scientists to read. On the other hand, the book largely makes no effort to establish its own credentials and thus the algorithmic explanations, for those who don't know already, are vague, at best. For those who do know, already, they're trivial explanations that basically waste a bunch of time.

For the first few chapters, the advice/conclusions given are also optimizing for only a single dimension (for instance, time spent organizing clothes versus time spent looking for them) and pay no attention to say, the stress and aggravation of living with a variety of clothing stores strategically placed throughout the house. This trait does get somewhat better with some of the later advice given, but largely, I think the book misses the mark on offering useful wisdom to real people.

The best advice the book gives is really not for most people and comes largely at the end, where it talks about what things city planners can do to make cities / parking easier to use. ( )
  ChuckMChuck | Oct 8, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is a very good introduction to several mathematical concepts that many people have heard of, but don't know much about. Brian Christian also does something very clever: he makes these concepts eminently relatable.

It may sound like hyperbole, but the chapters on optimal stopping and explore/exploit changed my life. I save a lot more time not trying to figure out which parking spot to choose or where to eat.

The most impactful concepts are clustered in the front of the book, which is again optimal for those readers with short attention spans. The stuff later in the book is also very enlightening, just not as universally applicable as optimal stopping or explore/exploit.

This is not a book designed for people with an advanced understanding of math or computer science. It's designed as a gateway to bring in people like me who are interested in these fields, but are perhaps a little intimidated.

Read it now, people. ( )
  reenum | Feb 23, 2018 |
Lots of interesting stuff in this engaging look at how we might apply computer algorithms to daily life. Unfortunately, many of the algorithms are for solving problems that are much simplified compared to their human equivalents. And unsimplifying them sometimes leads to problems that are basically unsolvable. This is where some of the book's most interesting sections occur, however, such as the revelation that sometimes less data can produce a better forecast than more data, or that in some cases a high probability can substitute for mathematical certainty. Sometimes, the authors don't do justice to an algorithm, however. The Vickrey Auction (where the winning bidder pays the amount bid by the second highest bidder), for instance, is presented as being almost infallible, but a quick Google search seems to show that it results in overbidding. Whereas in most cases throughout the book, a reader will say, "Wait a minute, it doesn't work like that" and a few pages later the authors address that concern or a similar one, in this case it appears the authors were rushing through the last chapter on Game Theory and just wanted to be done with it. Nevertheless, I recommend this to anyone who has an interest in decision making, how humans think, and how computers think. It is an eye-opening and mind-opening read. ( )
  datrappert | Aug 8, 2017 |
The computer science of human decisions
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brian Christianprimary authorall editionscalculated
Griffiths, Tommain authorall editionsconfirmed
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A fascinating exploration of how insights from computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives, helping to solve common decision-making problems and illuminate the workings of the human mind. All our lives are constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of new activities and familiar favorites is the most fulfilling? These may seem like uniquely human quandaries, but they are not: computers, too, face the same constraints, so computer scientists have been grappling with their version of such issues for decades. And the solutions they've found have much to teach us. In a dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, acclaimed author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths show how the algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. They explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal with overwhelming choices and how best to connect with others. From finding a spouse to finding a parking spot, from organizing one's inbox to understanding the workings of memory, Algorithms to Live By transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.--From dust jacket.… (more)

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