Genetic algorithms: Gaming our life goals

This is the second of my 2-part post on Genetic Algorithms (GA). While the previous post introduced the concept and highlighted the salient features of why I find GA fascinating, this post is an attempt at applying this technique to improve our personal lives.

To summarize the basics, following are the defining aspects of Genetic algorithms, when you apply this to solve an optimization problem:

  1. Population: Begin with multiple solutions (random & inefficient, to start with)
  2. Evaluation: Set a measurable criteria to evaluate effectiveness of the solution against a target
  3. Selection: Select the (relatively) top-ranked solutions, and kill the rest
  4. Recombination: Combine these top solutions (say 10%) in some manner to create the next generation of multiple solutions
  5. Mutation: Once in a while, instead of the usual Recombination (step #4), create new solutions with some unusual (maybe illogical) logic
  6. Evolution: Iterate with these new solutions and loop through steps #1 through #5 to keep improving solutions, generation after generation until target is achieved

Now, for the parallel to our personal lives and how Genetic Algorithms could possibly come to our rescue. Read each of the below in conjunction to the concepts numbered in the same order 1-thru-6, above:

  1. Cultivate multiple habits or choose several activities (say 10 to 15) to pursue at work/home.
  • For instance, joining a gym, waking at 5 AM, setting 1 hr of no-gadgets time every day.
  1. Set some end-goals that can be used to measure against. Now periodically (say once a month) evaluate whether each of the habits/activities are taking you any closer to the stated goals.
  • Examples for goals include, learning a new skill, achieving something at work, reducing 15 kg weight, spending more time with loved ones.
  1. Continue with those few habits (say top 5) that propel you towards the goals and discontinue all other activities.
  2. Alter the habits slightly by learning from things that worked out. Create variants of new activities (totally the earlier 10 to 15) that are directionally towards your goals.
  • For instance, you might try zumba instead of the gym, or wake up at 5.30 AM.
  1. Once in a while, break your routine and add some completely random habits, preferably things that make you uncomfortable.
  • You may decide to spend one day of your weekend walking around the city on foot, or maybe spend few days every month in the most remote & unconnected part of your state.
  1. Continue with this process and iterate with new & improved habits, say every month, until you reach the goal.

One might wonder that parts of the above process look intuitive and some of these could be things one already does. In my opinion, this becomes immensely powerful on account of four things: Choosing a larger set of habits, measuring them against a set goal periodically, continuously tailoring the habits or totally killing them. Finally the most powerful one is in consciously breaking routine and adopting some bizarre habits.

Let me know what you think.

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