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Optimal Stopping And Your Love Life

In the first chapter of Algorithms To Live By, the author talks about the optimal stopping algorithm. He tries to use it in different sorts of real life situations.

The optimal stopping algorithm applies when you have a list, evaluate items one-by-one and can’t go back on your decision once you reject an item. You obviously want the best possible item. When do you stop evaluating items and pick the current one?

The optimal stopping algorithm dictates that you should stop at the magic number of 37%. Once you have evaluated 37% of the items, pick the next one that beats all the rest. This algorithm applies very well for a job interviewer. Let’s say he has 100 candidates to interview. He should pick the best one once he has interviewed 37 applicants. This is also known as the secretary problem.

The most interesting bit about this chapter to me was when the author applied this algorithm to finding the best possible life partner. If you want to find your soulmate before 40 and start actively looking at 18, it means that you have 40 - 18 = 22 years to find him/her. 37% of 22 is 8.14, therefore, after you reach the age of 18 + 8.14 = 26.14, you should settle for the next best person that comes along.

This assumes that you cannot go back to a previous partner, which is not always the case.

Posted on 2018-02-08

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