Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Best Place to Stop is Here

Peter Gibbons: So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life.
Dr. Swanson: What about today? Is today the worst day of your life?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
Dr. Swanson: Wow, that's messed up.

Encountering this interesting Reddit thread of advice from a former tech exec, I immediately sorted by "best," or the highest rated comments. Assuming that the ratings are a decent proxy for how interesting any given comment will be to me, then each new comment I read should be the least interesting one I've read so far, and the next comment should be even less interesting. So if I evaluate whether or not to stop reading after each comment, stopping at each evaluation will be the best possible time for me to stop. Whenever I stop, I will have made the best possible decision by stopping then.

This generalizes to any ordered list. It's sort of like the classic scene from Office Space above. If Peter chose to quit his job, quitting on any given day would be the best possible time to do so.