To explore or to exploit
A foodie's take on algorithms IRL
Restauranteur David Chong was on the mission of a lifetime.
Famous for his weird food creations, David has been seeking a new way for the world to eat sushi. And fried chicken.
But David KNOWS there is a fatal flaw in his plan... when he finds something new he likes, he obsesses over it...for months 😱
Luckily, his sous chef, Christine Tushi, recently introduced him to the concept of Exploration versus Exploitation...
Trying many different restaurants
Using information for a known positive result
Trying all the things at one restaurant
"Disaster strikes" on day two when he ends up at a neighborhood chicken joint, serving up twice-fried chicken sushirritos. He's instantly transfixed and everything else around him fades away. He's hit the jackpot, and orders not one, but three sushirritos. He thinks, "I've cracked it! This is the answer I've been looking for."
David begins his quest as expected, trying to cover as much ground as possible. Keeping his ear to the ground and tongue on the fork, he tries just one new dish at every new restaurant.
He eats sushirritos, dreams about sushirritos, lives for the sushirrito.
SUSHIRRITOS ARE LIFE.
He instantly regrets eating 12 sushirritos in week one. He barely scratched the surface of the world's best sushi and fried chicken restaurants.
The value of his continued "research" has diminishing returns in helping him perfect his "Kentucky Fried Sushi". He's already developed a detailed understanding of roll tightness, rice to roll ratio... all the key factors of a world-class sushirito. But is the sushirrito truly the best?
Until he sees Christine and she asks him if he tried the new Korean Fried Chicken food truck down the street. He realizes his fatal mistake. He cashed in on his exploration knowledge too early by deep-diving into the sushirrito. What other great things has he missed?
With 24 days left, the value of exploration is high. There are so many more opportunities to stumble onto the next big thing. He shifts his focus to exploring new places.
He's afraid he'll fall back into the addictive trap of the sushirrito. Knowing his weakness, he decides every 5 days, he will double back to his beloved sushirrito, but with a purpose - to compare his new discoveries to his trusted favorite.
David is now balancing EXPLORATION and EXPLOITATION.
Meanwhile, the value of exploitation has increased as he hones in on 5 restaurants that are truly changing the sushi and fried chicken game 🍣 🐓
As David nears the end of his journey, the value of exploration decreases as his knowledge of the top restaurants increases. There is not an infinite amount of top restaurants to continue exploring.
The trick for David was finding the right balance of exploration versus exploitation based on his own natural tendencies and the amount of time he had.
Explore when you will have time to use the resulting knowledge, exploit when you’re ready to cash in.
- Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths
- Explore vs. Exploit is a valuable framework to use when tackling a decision that requires some research.
- Exploration, or gathering information, is most valuable at the start of the time period.
- Exploitation, or using the information, becomes more valuable at the end of the time period.
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