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Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Written by Tom Griffiths


Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Written by Tom Griffiths

ratings:
4.5/5 (330 ratings)
Length:
11 hours
Released:
Apr 19, 2016
ISBN:
9781480560352
Format:
Audiobook

Description

A fascinating exploration of how 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 problems 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 simple, precise 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 human memory, Algorithms to Live By transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.

Released:
Apr 19, 2016
ISBN:
9781480560352
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Tom Griffiths is a professor of psychology and cognitive science at UC Berkeley, where he directs the Computational Cognitive Science Lab. He has received widespread recognition for his scientific work, including awards from the American Psychological Association and the Sloan Foundation.


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Reviews

What people think about Algorithms to Live By

4.5
330 ratings / 40 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    A very interesting primer on the sort of "real-life problems" that have parallels with computer science problems, explained elegantly without numbers and formulae, opting for the better approach of explaining the rationale behind the problems, their assumptions and how they lead to a desired output. Highly recommended for everyone looking to improve in practical matters, this book throws in a good number of questions to ponder about in our lives, expectations and how we go about reaching them
  • (4/5)
    Thought provoking on multiple levels.Decisions, while part and parcel of the human condition, are increasingly being foisted onto computers. In order to accomplish this, the complexity of the decision must be manipulated to allow the machine to come to a "good' decision however "good" has been defined. Turns out that deconstructing decision making for computers can teach humans a thing or two about decision best practices. Authors Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths apply the problems and solutions of algorithm construction to humans and provide us with a manual of how to streamline some of the messy conundrums we can find ourselves in. It's a good book and I learned a great deal about computers processes. And I did learn a number of interesting insights into human decision making. What I did not appreciate with the book was a subtle implied superiority of computers versus humans. I supposed I shouldn't be surprised as both authors are heavily involved in the artifical intelligence community but I am of the mind that the loss of data required in reversion to the mean/median can often entail the loss of the most interesting data. Plus the restricting of inputs/options which the authors labeled as a computational 'kindness' can be anything but (why does the US presidental election come to mind here?). So while I can most definitely recommend this book to just about anyone it is a recomendation that comes with reservations.
  • (4/5)
    First off, I'm a computer scientist, so a lot of these principles were old hat. However, in many cases I hadn't made the connection to human behavior.The books takes you through a variety of basic computer science theory, then explains how it relates to real life (your own decisions or tasks, sports, games, or life in general). I appreciated having these connections pointed out, but often the chapters got bogged down in example after example. After several pages covering one example, the last thing I needed was yet another example.The book was not a light, enjoyable read. It required effort, concentration and a good deal of willpower to continue. I would have preferred a lighter handling of each section with more takeaways. If you're looking for an entertaining yet helpful trip through the overlap between computer science and your behavior, look elsewhere.
  • (4/5)
    Best consumed in short bursts. I was conflicted with this book. I either loved it or I hated it. Sometimes both in the same reading session.The authors attempt to take the highly specialized world of algorithms, explain them in common terms the college educated should track with, then relate them to modern life, and then make the jump to explaining social behaviors. I would grade those three as A+, C-, and F.In the end I found I really enjoyed reading this book when I took a single chapter at a time, and just focused on the front half of the chapter explaining common algorithms in depth. I fast forwarded through some bits to keep from getting frustrated. so in summary: Best consumed in short bursts.
  • (5/5)
    This book is not what I expected, but it was better! I hadn't thought about many of the concepts in this, or analyzed my logic when it came to making decisions in these types of situations. Many of the theories were described in new ways, and I recommend taking your time reading this to really consider the points made. This is not a single-sitting type of read, but it raised interesting questions and insights into my own thinking. Definitely a worthy read...!
  • (5/5)
    Great summary of computers and algorithms that are used in everyday life
  • (1/5)
    I love the text version of a book, but I'm sorry to report that a text that appeared so witty on paper was read in a very dull way by this narrator. Good for those who fell asleep at lectures I suppose...
  • (5/5)
    Mind = blown. Going to re-read this bad boy a couple of times in order to implement it.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent! Puts your mind to work outside and find solutions
  • (5/5)
    Best book for CS , good way for learning how algorithms work and the origin problems they were trying to solve.
  • (5/5)
    The book starts with simple entered auction to some of Famous computer algorithms and how computer scientists have solved complexity usimg these algorithms. One chapter usually covers one algorithm like Optimal Stopping problem in chapter 1. It then makes a shift to human behavior showing how we can leverage this algorithm to solve our daily life problems. A very readable and a fun book.
  • (5/5)
    It presents a lots of decicion makeing problems and dilemmas, that people are confronting in real life sitations. Almost every dilemma I already faced it and this made me thinking a lot about it.

    It’s a great book, I will read it at least twice again.
  • (5/5)
    Really enjoyable. I got a few heuristics from this that I don't think I would have otherwise and validated some of my own experiences against compsci literature. Neat listen.
  • (5/5)
    Excelente libro... no solo para las personas del mundo de la computación, sino para cualqueira que tenga interés en la complejidad de los problemas de la vida diaria
  • (5/5)
    Though at times hard to follow, the book is well written and informative. Love the real life cases to get their main idea across.
  • (5/5)
    Good book for people getting into computer science, and simple enough to understand
  • (4/5)
    This is a great book. However, audio isn't the best way to put it, especially since it can be 20 minutes of story to illustrate 1 generalized algorithm for advice. Since it is audio, it can be harder to find the algorithms again. Therefore, you need to take notes
  • (5/5)
    Concise, sharp and entertaining with many practical suggestions for your peace of mind.
  • (4/5)
    The idea of this book is awesome. But this could be written in around 150 pages. I think this book is too long for the knowledge it provides.
  • (5/5)
    As an Engineer/programmer I found this title extraodinary. It portrays the reasoning behind analytical thinking without complicating you with the math.
  • (4/5)
    Ingenious book about how many human decision problems are in fact algorithmic, i.e. the kind of problems researched in computer science. The authors structure the book around classes of algorithms (eg. sorting, optimal stop, regularization, network flow, bayesian stats or game theory) and find interesting anecdotes or every day life examples of each algorithm.
    You won't learn any math, programming or even pseudo-coding from "Algorithms to live by", but it will give most readers a broad range of examples of how computer science is not just about computers, but the study of complexity and how to do decision making using rules (which may be automated).

  • (2/5)
    I did not find the information of this book useful.
  • (4/5)
    Good book, but not so good audio quality, probably due to conversion at some point.
  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Some chapters are interesting enough, but not all. Now I only have to figure out an algorithm to have the best chance of reading the good chapters while not having to read all of them...

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)
    Subtitle "The computer science of hard decisions"It seems at the face of it very simplistic, and my thesis from a quick read is that it suffers from a fundamental fallacy. Computers are immortal, and don't suffer existential problems where if they make a bad decision they don't get to make decisions any more. Humans are mortal and have to somehow decide in the presence of decisions that may be catastrophic.
  • (3/5)
    A good introduction in some of the main algorithms and design principles discovered in software development, which can be applied in general to many situations. However, the book oversimplifies real life scenarios, only to then further point out that these algorithms can actually not be applied because of the many variables in real life (while listening you already think about scenarios, where it does not apply). These situations happen to often and so there is no real aha-moment throughout the book and the take away at the end is that there is no optimal algorithm after all to live by as human intuition and common sense mostly covers all the bases for efficient living already. What remains is a long breathed general intro into algorithms with little to no effect on real life.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    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.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)
    This book provides deceptively simple insights into the day-to-day chores that we do. I don't think I'll every sort my bookshelf, as scanning it is lot more easier. The book provides some examples on how to implement some of these algorithms in our daily routine.I knew some of the concepts that the book mentions, but algorithms like Optimal Stopping Theory and Bayes' Theorem were definitely eye-catching and thought-provoking. The chapter on Networking discloses complex TCP concepts in relatively easy language.I believe this book is mostly for Science and Mathematics enthusiasts. A casual reader might get lost in the deep computer- and statistics-theories provided throughout the book. Being one such person, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
  • (5/5)
    The highest praise I can give a book is to say it changed my life. This book changed my life before I had even finished reading it.At the same time, I hesitate to recommend the book broadly because it was such a perfect book for me that I have to assume it would be less perfect for almost anyone else.Briefly, "Algorithms to Live By" presents a series of well-known computer algorithms and explains how they are used to solve common problems in computer science. Then it takes each algorithm and applies it to real-world problems, discussing whether or not we, as human beings, approximate the algorithm's behavior with our own actions.This may make the book sound incredibly dry, like the authors are trying to turn people into computers and squelch out all humanity. Instead, the authors are taking an algorithmic look the human condition. (E.g., how does the explore/exploit trade-off explain why there are certain times in our lives when it's easier or harder for us to make new friends? Can the concept of intractability free us from worrying about making perfect choices?)If you have a strong background in computer science, you probably won't learn anything new from the algorithms presented in this book, although you may still be interested in some of the real-world applications of those algorithms. However, if you have little background in computer science, but an interest in algorithms and a patience for technical prose—seriously, this is the kind of book where you have to stop and think for a minute between each paragraph—this is the book for you.You may even find that this book significantly changes the way you approach some aspects of your life, or at least helps you better understand why you behave the way you do.
  • (5/5)
    I thought Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions, was highly readable, pleasantly challenging, and super rewarding. I was somewhat familiar with the logic and computer science concepts, as well as the behavioral science concepts, but it was quite fascinating to explore the application of one to another. The author provided a number of excellent examples which were both interesting and helpful. My favorite parts included the author’s discussion of randomness, scheduling, and game theory. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is intellectually curious.