Algorithms For Life

For the past few years I have posted to this blog under the title of Algorithms.

Flowchart Sample

My main premise for writing is that everything we do begins with a small nugget, expands to some mighty large jewel, and then is condensed back to a small nugget.  Everything I think about and then write about helps me to condense my varied writings to a small nugget.

I refreshed my mind this morning about algorithms to see if I am still on the same page with the original intention of this blog…

Algorithm is synonymous with, “Procedures, Processes, Systems or Set of Rules.”  A dictionary may describe it like this:

Algorithm:  a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation;broadly :  a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer (

The origin of the word in modern times actually goes back to 1926 as a combination of old French and Latin, and some of those words are simply derivatives from Arabic words over 1100 years ago.

The concept of having an algorithm to deal with decisions has been around for a really long time!

Essentially, algorithms are procedures developed to produce an answer to a question, or the solution to a problem, in a finite number of steps. Some might liken it to a decision tree, or flowchart, that allows you to work through problems or questions with answers to a question. “IF a>b, then go left, else go right”.

Procedure that produces the answer to a question or the solution to a problem in a finite number of steps. An algorithm that produces a yes or no answer is called a decision procedure; one that leads to a solution is a computation procedure. Often we think of algorithms as something done with a computing device, and properly programmed they are quicker to do the calculations needed to arrive at an answer. But before a computer can work out the problem, a flowchart is often used to lay out the plan for attacking the problem – much like the Flowchart in the image.

Every cookbook, repair manual, or map is essentially an algorithm process to get to a desired result. You have to pick the right manual! You cannot use a repair manual for an outboard boat engine to work on your diesel truck… Wrong process.

Still, our brains work through algorithms all the time. I know I do it while I am driving.

In a multiple lane environment, and conscious of the flow of traffic, looking  at the cars in front of me, and looking in the mirror at oncoming traffic, I glance at the walk signal by the stop light to determine how close the light is to changing, then, is it better to be in this lane or the next lane?

Of course, many techniques and experiences come into play and sometimes the answer is not apparently clear, so you go with one or the other and file away the results to modify the algorithm for the next time you need to use it.

It bugs me when someone gets in a lane and says, this is where I started, this is where I’ll stay, and you cannot make me change. Okay.. Okay.. I get it.  Is it working out for you? Then this next phrase doesn’t work for you.

If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.

This is my thought today… Sometimes our algorithms need to be updated!

It’s like the called routines we used in the past that accessed a holiday table – if it was not updated then the results would not be correct. Or using the same calendar every year without taking into account what year the calendar is referencing. Or looking at a Speed sign on the highway and not catching whether it’s telling you that the speed in in KMH or MPH.

Sometimes, just sometimes, we chose the wrong lane, or holiday table, or even the wrong calendar to respond to. Our actions are frowned upon by some because they do not grasp the error of our ways, and others just smirk realizing our mistake.

What to do?

The most important thing is making sure you use the correct algorithm for the correct issue.

It’s like changing the tools you need to use from “Standard” to “Metric”. Steadily, the nuts and bolts on all of our automobiles are changing to Metric. You cannot use Standard tools because they just don’t work. Sure, sure, you can maybe get by with one of similar size, but the measurement of Metric are totally different than Standard.  Use the wrong tool (from either Standard or Metric) on the bolt you are needing to loosen or tighten, then you will get poor results.

Sometimes we take the wrong algorithm, apply it to the current situation, and follow the inerrant answer. That’s wrong!

When you keep doing the wrong thing expecting different results, well, that’s the definition of insanity!

Take this thought into our spiritual lives for a moment. What are your algorithms to living that spiritual life the way you are meant to do? Where do they come from? Are they tried and true? Do they apply, or do you need an upgrade?

This is a dangerous process. I could spend a lot of time on this thought… But let me address it with a simple first step.

Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33) should make us turn our eyes to the algorithm book that responds to the things of spiritual choices. When you turn to a different set of algorithms then your result most probably be unlike the answer you might find if you use the correct template.

It’s like prayer, or praise, or worship – along with everything else we do in the spiritual realm, there is a right time for each one. Applying the wrong template to the situation will not produce desired works.

My blog, prayerfully, is leading somewhere. Someday soon I will share with you my thought about direction. Until then, keep using algorithms!

Hope this gives you something to think about!