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 (who holds degrees in computer science, philosophy, and poetry, and works at the intersection of all three) and Tom Griffiths (a UC Berkeley professor of cognitive science and psychology) 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.
Brian Christian is the author of The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive, which was a Wall Street Journal bestseller and a New Yorker favorite book of the year. Alongside Steven Pinker and Daniel Kahneman, he was shortlisted for the Best Book of Ideas prize in the UK.
Tom Griffiths is a professor of psychology and cognitive science at UC Berkeley, where he directs the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences.
We've all been there: faced with a major decision, yet overwhelmed by the very data that is supposed to help us. It’s an all-too-common struggle in the digital age, when Google searches produce a million results in a split second and software programs provide analysis faster than we could ever hope to read it.
Adapting the geopolitical and historical lessons gleaned from over two decades in government intelligence, Philip Mudd—an ex–National Security Council staff member and former senior executive at the FBI and the CIA—finally gives us the definitive guidebook for how to approach complex decisions today. Filled with logical yet counterintuitive answers to ordinary and extraordinary problems—whether it be buying a new home or pivoting a failing business model—Mudd’s "HEAD" (High Efficiency Analytic Decision-making) methodology provides readers with a battle-tested set of guiding principles that promise to bring order to even the most chaotic problems, all in five practical steps:
• What's the question? Analysts often believe that questions are self-evident, but focusing on better questions up front always yields better answers later.
• What are your "drivers?" The human mind has a hard time juggling information, so analysts need a system to break down complex questions into different characteristics or “drivers.”
• How will you measure performance? Once the question has been solidified and the "drivers" determined, an analyst must decide what metrics they will use to understand how a problem—and their solution to it—is evolving over time.
• What about the data? Rather than looking at each bit of information on its own and up front, an analyst can only overcome data overload by plugging data into their "driver" categories and excising anything that doesn't fit.
• What are we missing? Complex analysis isn't easy, so it is imperative to assume that the process is flawed, while also knowing how to check for possible gaps and errors, such as availability bias, halo effects, and intuitive versus analytic methodologies.
Drawing deeply from his own harrowing experiences—and mistakes—in the line of duty, Mudd has spent years refining and teaching his methodology to Fortune 500 companies and government organizations. Now, in the best-selling tradition of Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit and Oren Klaff's Pitch Anything, Philip Mudd's The HEAD Game can change the way you both live and work.