“Algorithms to Live By” Summary

Quick Fix Summary: “Algorithms to Live By” is a book that applies computer science algorithms to everyday decision-making and problem-solving, demonstrating how these strategies can help optimize our time, organization, and choices.

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Brief Summary

“Algorithms to Live By” is an extraordinary book penned by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths. At the heart of this captivating read lies a unique premise – the idea that computer science principles can guide our everyday decision-making processes.

In the world of computer science, algorithms are king. They help machines tackle tasks with incredible speed and efficiency. But can these rules and procedures be equally valuable to humans, far removed from the binary realms of ones and zeroes?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the key takeaways from the book that bring the world of algorithms from the server room into your living room, helping you navigate life’s dilemmas with a programmer’s precision. The authors don’t just theorize these concepts, they make them tangible and relatable.

Let’s dig into these life-altering concepts without revealing too much of the book’s treasures.

Key Takeaway #1: Optimal Stopping

“Algorithms to Live By” delivers powerful insights into everyday decision-making, one of which is the concept of Optimal Stopping. This term might sound technical, but it’s surprisingly applicable to various aspects of our lives.

Here are a few key points:

  • Optimal Stopping is a decision-making principle. It’s about knowing when to stop looking for better options and make a choice.
  • This principle has wide-ranging applications:
    • In the dating scene, it helps determine when it’s best to stop dating and commit to a relationship.
    • In house hunting, it guides how many properties to view before deciding to buy.
  • The authors of “Algorithms to Live By” provide a clear and engaging explanation of Optimal Stopping, making it a practical tool for anyone.
  • Using Optimal Stopping can not only make you a hit at social events but also guide you to make better decisions in both your personal and professional life.

This is just one of the exciting ways that “Algorithms to Live By” connects the world of computer science with daily decision-making. Stay tuned for more.

Key Takeaway #2: Explore/Exploit Trade-Off

Another riveting concept presented in “Algorithms to Live By” is the Explore/Exploit Trade-Off. Although it originates from the realm of computer science, this principle is surprisingly relevant to our day-to-day lives.

Here’s a breakdown of this idea:

  • The Explore/Exploit Trade-Off is a decision-making strategy.
  • It helps answer a question we often face: when should we try new experiences (explore) and when should we stick to what we know is good (exploit)?
    • This could apply to choosing restaurants: when to try a new place (explore) and when to dine at a favorite spot (exploit).
    • It might also be relevant to choosing vacation destinations: when to visit new countries (explore) and when to return to beloved locations (exploit).
  • The authors shed light on this principle with lucidity, making it an accessible tool for the everyday individual.
  • Applying the Explore/Exploit Trade-Off can enhance your decision-making skills, leading to more satisfying choices in various aspects of life.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the myriad ways that “Algorithms to Live By” intertwines the technicalities of computer science with practical decision-making.

There’s more to come, so stay with us.

Key Takeaway #3: Sorting and Searching

One of the most practical insights from “Algorithms to Live By” comes in the form of Sorting and Searching algorithms. These principles, initially meant for computer science, have astonishingly useful applications in our daily lives.

Let’s delve into these ideas:

  • Sorting and Searching algorithms are methods used to organize and find data.
    • The concept of sorting can be applied to organizing our workspaces, homes, and even our schedules.
    • Searching principles can help us find information quickly, whether in a physical environment like a cluttered room, or a digital one like a crowded inbox.
  • The authors elucidate these concepts with real-world examples, making them easy to understand and apply.
  • By using Sorting and Searching algorithms, we can become more efficient in our day-to-day tasks and manage our time more effectively.

The journey into the fascinating blend of computer science principles and everyday decision-making continues. Stick around as we delve into more key takeaways from “Algorithms to Live By”.

Key Takeaway #4: Scheduling and Game Theory

The book “Algorithms to Live By” further expands its practical insights with the principles of Scheduling and Game Theory. These concepts, initially intended for the complex domain of computer science, can help us navigate our daily lives more effectively.

Here’s a brief on these ideas:

  • Scheduling and Game Theory are methods used to manage tasks and interactions effectively.
    • Scheduling algorithms can assist us in planning our day-to-day tasks and long-term goals, making our lives more organized and productive.
    • Game Theory principles can help us understand how our actions might influence others’ decisions and vice versa, leading to better interpersonal interactions.
  • The authors decode these theories with relatable examples and applications, making them comprehensible for everyone.
  • Incorporating Scheduling and Game Theory into our routines can lead to more efficient task management and smoother social interactions.

Our exploration into the remarkable crossroads of computer science principles and practical decision-making is nearing its end, but stay tuned for our concluding thoughts on “Algorithms to Live By”.

Who Would Enjoy This Book

“Algorithms to Live By” is a must-read for anyone curious about the intersection of technology and human decision-making. Whether you’re a computer science enthusiast keen to see your field from a new perspective, a professional looking to enhance your decision-making skills, or simply a curious mind willing to explore novel ways of thinking, this book offers a unique blend of computer science theory and practical life advice.

Its accessible language and relatable examples make it an engaging read, even for those without a technical background. If you’re eager to discover how algorithms can streamline your life, this book is definitely for you.


As we wrap up this exploration of “Algorithms to Live By”, it’s evident that this book brings the world of computer science into our living rooms in a refreshingly practical manner. The concepts it introduces may be rooted in complex algorithms, but their applicability in our daily lives is surprisingly extensive.

Here’s a recap of the key takeaways:

  • Optimal Stopping teaches us when to stop seeking better options and make a choice.
  • The Explore/Exploit Trade-Off helps us balance new experiences with known good ones.
  • Sorting and Searching algorithms can improve our efficiency in organizing and finding information.
  • Scheduling and Game Theory can guide our task management and social interactions.

These insights are just a small sample of the book’s treasure trove of wisdom. We encourage you to delve into “Algorithms to Live By” and discover the profound impact that computer science principles can have on your everyday decision-making.

It’s a journey that promises to be as enlightening as it is practical.

rj adams books

R.J. Adams

My first job was at Barnes & Noble, so books and reading have been a big part of my life for as long as I could remember. My Kindle is jam-packed with books I likely will never get around to reading and my To Be Read pile is even longer!

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