Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Key takeaways
  • You will learn how "optimal stopping" can help you with everything from parking to romance
  • You’ll discover how the "explore/exploit" tradeoff shapes not only our everyday decisions like what to eat for dinner
  • You’ll learn why computer science offers a wildly different (and much more human) portrayal of what rational decision-making looks like
  • You’ll encounter surprising ways in which laziness is not only easy

What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of the new and familiar is the most fulfilling? These may seem like uniquely human quandaries; they're not. Computers, like us, confront limited space and time, so computer scientists have been grappling with similar problems for decades. And the solutions they’ve found have much to teach us.

In a lively, interdisciplinary talk, Brian Christian shows how algorithms developed for computers 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 peering into the future, exploring algorithms to live by transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.


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