The Explore VS Exploit Problem

In English, the words “explore” and “exploit” come loaded with completely opposite connotations. But to a computer scientist, these words have much more specific and neutral meanings. Simply put, exploration is gathering information, and exploitation is using the information you have to get a known good result.



A sobering property of trying new things is that the value of exploration, of finding a new favorite, can only go down over time, as the remaining opportunities to savor it dwindle. Discovering an enchanting café on your last night in town doesn’t give you the opportunity to return.

The flip side is that the value of exploitation can only go up over time. The loveliest café that you know about today is, by definition, at least as lovely as the loveliest café you knew about last month. (And if you’ve found another favorite since then, it might just be more so.) So explore when you will have time to use the resulting knowledge, exploit when you’re ready to cash in. The interval makes the strategy.


...if you visit a town for a tenday vacation, then you should be making your restaurant decisions with a fixed interval in mind; but if you live in the town, this doesn’t make as much sense. Instead, you might imagine the value of payoffs decreasing the further into the future they are: you care more about the meal you’re going to eat tonight than the meal you’re going to eat tomorrow, and more about tomorrow’s meal than one a year from now, with the specifics of how much more depending on your particular “discount function.” Gittins, for his part, made the assumption that the value assigned to payoffs decreases geometrically: that is, each restaurant visit you make is worth a constant fraction of the last one. If, let’s say, you believe there is a 1% chance you’ll get hit by a bus on any given day, then you should value tomorrow’s dinner at 99% of the value of tonight’s, if only because you might never get to eat it.


Folksonomies: computational thinking life hacks

 Algorithms to Live By
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Christian, Brian (April 19th 2016), Algorithms to Live By, Henry Holt and Co., Retrieved on 2021-09-27
Folksonomies: computer science algorithms optimization optimal living