#517 “Algorithm”

<- It's “Arguably the Single Most Important Concept in Our World”

Continuing our tour through Professor Harari’s big brain and its vision of our future, let’s talk about what he considers “arguably the single most important concept in our world.”

What would you guess?

Given what we’ve discussed about the past and the future, what would you think this world-class historian and intellectual would say is, arguably, the SINGLE most important concept in our world?

Take a moment and give us a guess…

So… What’d you guess?!

Was it “algorithm”?

Yep. Algorithm.

The dictionary defines algorithm as “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.”

In Homo Deus, Professor Harari puts it this way: “‘Algorithm’ is arguably the single most important concept in our world. If we want to understand our life and our future, we should make every effort to understand what an algorithm is, and how algorithms are connected with emotions.

An algorithm is a methodical set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems and reach decisions. An algorithm isn’t a particular calculation, but the method followed when making the calculation. For example, if you want to calculate the average between two numbers, you can use a simple algorithm. The algorithm says: ‘First step: add the two numbers together. Second step: divide the sum by two.’ When you enter the numbers 4 and 8, you get 6. When you enter 117 and 231, you get 174.”

Then he gives an example of a cooking recipe for soup. Here’s an imprecise but approximate algorithm for making a salad: “Get organic, fresh leafy greens. Wash. Cut. Throw in bowl. Add extra veggies like radishes, celery, onions, carrots, etc. Put some salad dressing on it (extra virgin olive oil is great; but no soybean oil or canola oil or other veggie oils) and perhaps add a little protein.” Voila. That’s your (overly simplified) salad algorithm.

A TON of things can be distilled into an algorithm. Understanding this fact is REALLY important. Why? Well, a lot of reasons.

For example, how does a Tesla drive itself? Algorithms. Millions of them.

And, here’s another fascinating thing to consider: Any job that can be distilled into a set of algorithms will almost certainly be performed by a “robot” with artificial intelligence in the not-too-distant future.

Get this: Researchers predict that by the year 2033, there’s an 89% chance that, for example, bus drivers will be out of work. Insurance underwriters have a 98% chance of being replaced while cashiers have a 97% chance of being out of work.

That shift leads to HUGE economic and public policy challenges that are outside the scope of our discussion but very much worthy of your attention as you look to be an Optimized citizen of the world let alone an Optimized parent, colleague and community member architecting and participating in an ideal future.

For our purposes today, let’s bring it back down to our day-to-day Optimizing lives.

Remember our +1 on How to 100,000x Your Performance (via Two AI’s) inspired by Ray Dalio’s wisdom? Well… Billionaire hedge-fund guru Ray Dalio is also ALL about algorithms. In fact, leveraging them wisely is precisely how he created billions of dollars of wealth for himself and his investors.

All of which leads us to Today’s +1.

Take a moment to see some of the algorithms that run your life.

You’ll notice that some are helping you Optimize. Some are not. (But only if you’re human.)

If you feel so inspired, make an inventory of the ones that are working for you and the ones that need work.

For example, that “If I wake up in the morning, then I meditate” algorithm? Let’s keep it along with this great algorithm: “If I’m hanging out with people, then I put my phone out of sight and out of touch so I can connect deeply.”

And then we have the “If I’m in bed about ready to fall asleep, then I check my phone one more time” algorithm. We might want to get rid of that one and install a better algorithm like “If I want to go x hours of sleep and get up by x:00 then research says I should limit digital stimulation at least an hour before that time, therefore I will set an alarm for x:00 and turn all electronics off so I can get a good night of sleep.”

Of course, the “If I wake up, then I roll over and check my phone again” algorithm could also be upgraded to “If I wake up, then I do Deep (Creative) Work before I do Shallow (Reactive) Work.”

Etc. Etc. Etc.

The humble algorithm. It’s arguably the most single important concept in our world.

So… To wrap up our time together today: What’s the #1 algorithm you’ll Optimize today?

Let’s use our finite willpower wisely to install habits that run on autopilot—one algorithm at a time.

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