In 1958, John H. Fox, Jr. of the Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company and L Gerald Marnie of MIT invented “The Game of Googol,” which revealed a seminal concept in the art of optimal stopping theory. The premise was simple: when given a series of choices, when do we finally decide to commit? When do we stop exploring alternatives and actually choose so that we maximize our payoff? How do we do that without just guessing?
The solution to knowing when to stop involves harnessing the power of Euler’s number, and it shows up in our lives every day. It’s how we decide when to choose a parking spot so we don’t have to drive all the way back around again. It’s how we decide who to commit to for life after having a series of relationships.
And we won’t always win. In fact, most of the time we won’t get it perfectly right. But employing optimal stopping in The Game of Googol is just like employing it in real life. We’ll win as much as possible, and when we miss by a little bit, we’ll still be pretty happy with the result.
*** SOURCES ***
For a great in-depth look at Euler’s Number, check out Numberphile: https://youtu.be/AuA2EAgAegE
Frontal-parietal and limbic-striatal activity underlies information sampling in the best choice problem: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24142842
A Solution to the Game of Googol, Alexander V. Gnedin: https://projecteuclid.org/download/pdf_1/euclid.aop/1176988613
*** LINKS ***
Hosted and Produced by Kevin Lieber
Research And Writing by Matthew Tabor
Editing by Aspect Science
Huge Thanks To Paula Lieber
Get Vsauce’s favorite science and math toys delivered to your door!
Select Music By Jake Chudnow: http://www.youtube.com/user/JakeChudnow