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almossawi384 karma

Hi :) There's the algorithms part, a familiar term that we hear a lot. Though if we were to define it for clarity, we'd say it's a process with unambiguous steps that has a beginning and end, and does something useful. Unambiguous is important since we need predictability in computing, not only in how an app or website functions but also in how it performs

And then there's the thinking part, which to me is taking a step back and saying, if it is the case that these algorithms are so useful in computing to achieve predictability, might they also be useful in everyday life, when it comes to say, deciding between alternative ways of solving a problem or completing a task.

And so to answer your second question, I think the value is in the fact that when we frame everyday decisions as algorithms, we can then use the tools available to computer scientists to evaluate algorithms (like thinking in terms of rates of growth for instance) and use them to evaluate our decisions. To borrow a term from Dan Dennett, we have new tool for thinking that's useful, generally.

That's how I came to the topic. Not by mapping everyday life decisions to algorithms and making any claim about it in that direction, but by taking the fundamental algorithms in computer science and considering how to make them more familiar.

almossawi109 karma

With respect to the book, its title is slightly provocative (book titles often are) and so goodness and badness are meant to describe one quality in particular--efficiency. And there's a connect to computer science in the sense that in some of the literature, more efficient algorithms are referred to as good algorithms and less efficient ones are called bad ones.

As an aside, yes, I do think luck plays a role in life and in the choices we make. We seldom have all the information, so we make decisions based on how we think others, and by extension the world, will behave and react. Other times, one's circumstances and one's accidents of births are crosses that one has to bear, and that can lead to ill choices. I think never looking back and staying optimistic is the only way around that. That's certainly helped me.

almossawi67 karma

  1. On the battlefield or by contributing to the civilization they want to bring down. I'm doing the latter.

  2. Can't think of a funny answer. Sorry to have let you down. :/

almossawi42 karma

It changes with time and circumstance no doubt. It can be extremely valuable in the sense that it gives you more than outlet to explore your interests, and so there's no time to be bitter or to think of the past or of disappointments. That, to me, is liberating, and gives me the peace of mind to keep moving forward and to not get stuck up too much on the quirks of life and of fellow humans.

I ought to mention that I had no plans of writing professionally in the summer of 2012 when I first started BAD ARGUMENTS. It was just another side project. But because it looked like a book, readers started reviewing it on Goodreads and I in turn became an "author". And then the project turned into a physical book a few months later.

almossawi30 karma

Thanks. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

This one's about algorithms, and is meant for anyone who has heard the terms and wants to know why they ought to care about it. The book has 12 chapter-vignettes, and in each one a character tries to achieve some task in the most efficient way. By the end of the chapter, the character celebrates his or her success and the reader hopefully learns one or more new concepts.

In addition to showing why algorithms are important, the book also tries to show why thinking in terms of orders of magnitude and rates of growth is useful. Which is to say, why is it that when you see an illustration of a giraffe and dinosaur drawn to scale, you can immediately get a sense of how big the dinosaur is without having to read anything.

You can check out the first chapter here: https://github.com/almossawi/badchoices