Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

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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 (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.

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About the author

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.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Henry Holt and Company
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Published on
Apr 19, 2016
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781627790376
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Decision-Making & Problem Solving
Computers / Computer Science
Science / Cognitive Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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No matter how practised we are at history, it always humbles us. No matter how often we visit the past, it always surprises us. The art of time travel is to maintain critical poise and grace in this dizzy space.

In this landmark book, eminent historian and award-winning author Tom Griffiths explores the craft of discipline and imagination that is history.

Through portraits of fourteen historians, including Inga Clendinnen, Judith Wright, Geoffrey Blainey and Henry Reynolds, he traces how a body of work is formed out of a life-long dialogue between past evidence and present experience. With meticulous research and glowing prose, he shows how our understanding of the past has evolved, and what this changing history reveals about us.

Passionate and elegant, The Art of Time Travel conjures fresh insights into the history of Australia and renews our sense of the historian’s craft.

‘Griffiths' luminous new work underlines the inarguable point that if we are truly to understand our history, we must get to know those who wrote it. A must-read for anyone interested in Australia's past.’ —Tim Flannery

‘If the past is a foreign country, Tom Griffiths makes the perfect travelling companion. Erudite but honest. Generous yet discerning. Warm, perceptive and nothing if not elegant. Let him be your eyes and ears on our shared history. Most of all, follow his heart.’ —Clare Wright, author, historian and winner of the Stella Prize

‘Tom Griffiths has the rare, reconciling capacity to envisage Australian history as a symphony, created by many voices – the discordant as well as the harmonious – that tells an evolving, bracing story of who we are. Essential reading.’ —Morag Fraser AM

‘Greatly enriches our understanding of Australia past and present … the book teems with fresh insights. Griffiths poses searching questions, which yield illuminating and often exhilarating answers.’ —Ken Inglis AO, award-winning author and historian

‘A rare feat of imagination and generosity. No other historian has so eloquently and powerfully conveyed history’s allure. The Art of Time Travel will remain relevant for decades to come.’ —Mark McKenna, award-winning author and historian

‘An historian at the height of his powers. This is book is not only a meditation on the past, but a rallying cry for the future, in which Australia’s history might be a source of both unflinching self-examination and poetic wonder.’ —Brigid Hains, editorial director, Aeon Magazine

‘Events happen, but history doesn’t write itself. By exploring the intellectual and emotional backstories of fourteen people who have crafted Australian history, Tom Griffiths shows how and why it is done. In the process, he has created a beautiful work of history.’ —Julianne Schultz AM FAHA, founding editor of Griffith Review

‘Sharp insights, thoughtful judgment, a generous spirit – Griffiths’ panorama of Australian historians shows why any similar survey conducted in the future will include his own artful work among the honoured.’ —Stephen J. Pyne, Arizona State University

‘An enthralling account of the intellectual rediscovery of Australia by fourteen of its most innovative explorers, vividly brought to life by a gifted interpreter. Tom Griffiths’ lyrical prose is mesmerizing in its mastery of Australia’s conjunctures of land and lineage, history and memory, fact and fable.’ —David Lowenthal, University College London

‘Suitable for lovers of Australian history, biography and culture, The Art of Time Travel is a graceful and lively work animated by Griffiths’ experience and enthusiasm’ —Books+Publishing
Become a High Efficiency Analytic Decision maker.

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.

In this indispensable book, a widely experienced business consultant provides a complete set of analytical tools essential to successful trouble-shooting, effective planning, and making better decisions faster, more confidently, and more often. How can you help your company solve a problem in just a few days that's been plaguing managers for three months? How can you bring a room of executives to a consensus on a critical decision that the CEO and his committee have been wrestling with for years? Of course, this is easier said than done. Indeed, not a week goes by without a major business media story about a company that has fallen on hard times and an executive that has resigned for "personal reasons." The root of the failure is usually ineffective decision-making processes, and ultimately, bad decisions. In The Thinking Manager's Toolbox, veteran consultant and renowned business thinker William J. Altier cogently presents the underpinnings of successful thinking processes and their applications, drawing on practical, real-world experiences. The first section explores the fundamentals of thinking, change, and the critical role that sound thinking processes play in effective problem solving. The second section, your basic toolbox, develops five, in-depth fundamental thinking processes. And a third section, the advanced toolbox, develops more specialized applications for creative problem solving. Here then is a valuable primer for anyone, whether a middle manager or a CEO, seeking to solve problems and make better decisions more efficiently. The Thinking Manager's Toolbox is an invaluable resource for those seeking to develop the fundamental thinking processes necessary to perform with excellence.
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