Review: Algorithms to live by.

Rating: Re-read

I loved this book. It takes computer algorithms and applies them to everyday life. Sometimes the result is amusing as applying the secretary problem to matchmaking. And sometimes it is helpful, for example the storage method of last recently used on top – I’ve been using this system for a while, but now I have validation of that. Lots of other interesting algorithms. And one thing I like about this book, is that its advice is clear and not contradictory with disclosure of its limitations. Of course this is not really a self-help book, more of a book about algorithms ‘computer science’. Perhaps people who don’t find math interesting won’t like this – but he keeps the math general, on a verbal level with a few exceptions.
Very interesting is the humble aspect of it – there are massive limits on what exactly can be reasonably computed especially with connection n! problems. Often times the most you can do is approach a problem in a way that gives you the best chance, (but still small) of getting the best solution. This made me think of God. As LDS, of course, we think God has limits. All powerful for actually possible powers. He cannot lie and be holy or give men free will and also ensure that they be good. Or create matter ex nihilo. Some very basic problems seem to defy finding a best solution. Does God have these limits? If so, some of my assumptions – and prayers are ridiculously laughably off. I won’t change these more fundamental life outlook and experience for some math stuff that I don’t fully understand – but it is food for thought..
Finally, I’d like to close with quantum computing. It seems that quantum computing may offer a way to evaluate numberless solutions simultaneously. This may be relevant to the question above. I kind of wish the author had addressed this, as it would have serious implications for the book – and I don’t know enough about QC to draw those implications myself. QC is mentioned as a successor to current type but I wonder if it won’t have specific applications it is suited for.

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