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Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions Hardcover – 21 Apr 2016

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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  • Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions
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  • The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Collins (21 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0008166099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0008166090
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

‘[B]y the end of the book, I was convinced. Not because I endorse the idea of living like some hyper-rational Vulcan, but because computing algorithms could be a surprisingly useful way to embrace the messy compromises of real, non-Vulcan life’ Oliver Burkeman, Guardian

‘I’ve been waiting for a book to come along that merges computational models with human psychology – and Christian and Griffiths have succeeded beyond all expectations. This is a wonderful book, written so that anyone can understand the computer science that runs our world – and more importantly, what it means to our lives’ David Eagleman

‘Compelling and entertaining, ‘Algorithms to Live By’ is packed with practical advice about how to use time, space, and effort more efficiently. And it’s a fascinating exploration of the workings of computer science and the human mind. Whether you want to optimize your to-do list, organize your closet, or understand human memory, this is a great read’ Charles Duhigg

‘A truly beautiful exploration through math, computer science and philosophy of some of the most ordinary, yet most important dilemmas any of us is likely to face. Filled with humour and wisdom, this is a bible with a brain’ Aarathi Prasad

About the Author

Brian Christian is the bestselling author of The Most Human Human, which was named a Wall Street Journal bestseller and a New Yorker favorite book of 2011. His writing has appeared in Wired, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal , and The Paris Review, among others. Brian has been a featured guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Charlie Rose Show, NPR's Radiolab, and the BBC, and has lectured at Google, Microsoft, SETI, the Santa Fe Institute, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and the London School of Economics.

Tom Griffiths s an Associate Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science and Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He has published over 150 scientific papers on a wide range of topics, including machine learning and cultural evolution in addition to cognitive psychology, and he has received numerous early career awards, including those from the National Science Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the American Psychological Association.


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a keen programmer and ex-psychologist this book was right up both of my streets. There's just the right of amount of technical detail for those who are the former, the latter, or neither, although personally I think it's a shame that they bury the maths in the footnotes, which are fiddly to read on Kindle.

A lovely tour of the field and some real practical advice and, crucially, insight, for daily life.

A true pleasure
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book that should be read by anyone that wants a clue about what is happening now in the world of computer science and it could be used to effect changes in your everyday decision making i
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Buy it. Read it. Follow the advice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great way to bring maths into the real world, where maths is real but invisible to most!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wasn't completely sold on this book before I bought it, but took the gamble as it is a little different to what i'm used to. I'm technically proficient, but didn't have any knowledge of computer science before picking up this book - and that doesn't hurt you in the slightest, as its designed with the assumption that you know nothing. From a review on Amazon US, i got the impression before I purchased that this was a scientific self-help book rooted in mathematics - which has definitely coloured my impression.

It totals just over 250 pages, but took me a little longer than I anticipated to finish (between 8-10 hours) because I was making some notes and trying to get as much comprehension out of my first read through. There are 11 chapters in total which you can see if you 'peek' into the book in this listing.

In my honest opinion, I found the first half of this book - up to the end of chapter 6 - much better than the second half. From the first half, I came away with concrete ideas which drew from computer science and could help in daily life in obvious ways. For instance, caching your files using the Last Recently Used (LRU) strategy or accepting messiness in circumstances where the cost of organization outweighs the benefit gained when searching. In turn, this made the first half A LOT more personally relevant and interesting than the second half. The second half is still well-written, but tends to (apart from the 'Relaxation' chapter) go into topics which are, while interesting, not going to obviously help me change my life in any meaningful way. It's still well written, but I couldn't draw any immediate implications of what I was reading and learning in the later chapters, it seemed far more abstract and distant.
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Format: Hardcover
I was captivated by much of this book. It's the perfect antidote to the argument you often hear from young maths students - 'What's the point? I'll never use this in real life!' This often comes up with algebra (which often is useful), but reflects the way that we rarely cover the most applicable bits of maths to everyday life at high school. Although this book is subtitled 'the computer science of human decisions', it's really about the maths of human decision making (which is often supported by computers) - I suspect the 'computer science' label is to make it more sexy than boring old mathematics.

If there is any danger that the 'M' word would turn you off, the book tends to skip over the mathematical workings, concentrating on the outcomes and how they're relevant to the kind of decisions we make in everyday life - and it's that application side that makes it particularly interesting (helped by a good, readable style from the co-authors). So, for instance, one of the earliest areas covered is the kind of decision where you are selecting between a number of options that arrive sequentially and where you have to make a decision on which is best for you part way through the sequence, even though there may be better options in the future. The classic examples for this are some kinds of job interviews, house buying and finding a partner for life.

It might seem there can be no sensible advice, but mathematically it's very clear. You wait until you've got through 37% of the choices, then pick the next one that's better than any you've seen before. It's not that this will necessarily deliver your best of all possible worlds. More often than not it won't. But it will give you a better result than any other mechanism for deciding when to go for a particular option.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
funny application of first year college computer science theory to real life problems. Obviously written by a geek, nice to read. I have no idea if any can be followed by a non-computer science person.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought the audiobook from Audible as it was a deal of the day, and it looked interesting.

I waved the white flag after listening to about four hours of the audiobook (of a total of about 12 hours).

The insights and conclusions were great but, as a lay person, I simply wasn't interested in all the detail....and there's lots of detail.

Some of the content is fascinating but there was just too much Mathematics.

I'd devour an executive summary but you need a strong interest in Mathematics and algorithms to plough through 12 hours.
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