Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths
This audiobook made it into my list after being featured in one of Audible’s discount sales.
After persuing the personal development section, Algorithms to Live By piqued my interest as it seemed a little different from the usual run-of-the-mill self-help books.
The first thing that you should know about this audiobook is that it is quite long at just under 12 hours!
Although it’s all necessary. I wouldn’t describe any of it as ‘waffle’ and there are no regurgitated parts which you usually find in books of this length.
But it’s safe to say that this book is not a quick listen, nor is it overly dynamic or engaging, so be prepared to concentrate.
However, the narration is clear, simple, and straightforward.
So, what is the book about?
Well, according to the book blurb, “Algorithms to Live By is 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.”
What is an algorithm?
An algorithm is basically a set of rules to follow.
One of the most famous algorithms is that of the Google search engine. When you visit the Google website and you type in a search term, Google follows an algorithm that’s been created by computer scientists to determine the order in which the search engine lists the website pages in your results.
Google’s goal is to help you find the answers to your questions, and it’s algorithmic rules work to provide you with the most relevant sources, organized from most relevant to least relevant.
This book takes the knowledge of algorithms and looks at how you can apply those principles to the human decision-making process. Ultimately to help you make better decisions in less time.
Algorithms = maths
It’s important to note that this book is very mathematical.
Algorithms are trying to solve a problem, and that process can frequently involve numbers, calculations, and algebra.
So, if you don’t particularly enjoy trying to find what ‘x’ is equal to, then you’re probably not going to enjoy this book.
Audiobook vs physical book
Although the narration was clear and the principles were well explained, I had to consciously concentrate.
If you fade out, or if a background noise meant that you missed a sentence or two, you can easily lose the grasp of the entire chapter. So, if you choose to digest this book in the audiobook format, I would suggest that you only listen to it when you have zero distractions and not while multitasking.
Also for the reasons set out above, I, personally, think that I would have gained more value and understanding if I had read the physical book. So, if this is a book you fancy reading, depending on how you learn best, you may be better to opt for the physical book rather than the audio version.
Computer science and human decisions
The whole point of this book is to use computer science to help you make better decisions. However, because I know nothing about computer science or algorithms, by the time I had finished the book, I felt that I had learned more about computer science than I did about human decision-making, rather than the other way around.
My overall thoughts
Overall, the book is off the scale when it comes to the quality of the information provided. However, it’s not the most entertaining or engaging listen. There’s nothing that really keeps you “in the book.” You must want to learn, and you must consciously pay attention.
In saying that, I still like this book because it is different! It was very refreshing to listen to a personal development book from another perspective and angle.
Have you listened to “Algorithms to Live By”?
This book review is my personal opinion and experience of “Algorithms to Live By.”
If you’ve listened to this audiobook, share your thoughts in the comments section below. And don’t forget to give the book your own score out of 10 by using the Reader Rating Bar in the box above.