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“Someone at Michigan” was almost certainly someone named Merrill Flood

Though he is largely unheard of
outside mathematics, Flood’s influence on computer
science is almost impossible to avoid. He’s credited with
popularizing the traveling salesman problem (which we
discuss in more detail in chapter 8), devising the prisoner’s
dilemma (which we discuss in chapter 11), and even with
possibly coining the term “software.” lt’s Flood who made
the first known discovery of the 37% Rule, in 1958, and he
claims to have been considering the problem since 1949-
but he himself points back to several other
mathematicians.
Suffice it to say that wherever it came from, the
secretary problem proved to be a near-perfect
mathematical puzzle: simple to explain, devilish to solve,
succinct in its answer, and intriguing in its implications.

As a result, it moved like Wildfire through the
mathematical circles of the 1950s, spreading by word of
mouth, and thanks to Gardner’s column in 1960 came to
grip the imagination of the public at large. By the 1980s
the problem and its variations had produced so much
analysis that it had come to be discussed in papers as a
subfield unto itself.
As for secretaries—it’s charming to watch each culture
put its own anthropological spin on formal systems. We
think of chess, for instance, as medieval European in its
imagery, but in fact its origins are in eighth-century India;
it was heavy—handedly “Europeanized” in the fifteenth
century, as its shahs became kings, its viziers turned to
queens, and its elephants became bishops. Likewise,
optimal stopping problems have had a number of
incarnations, each reflecting the predominating concerns
of its time. In the nineteenth century such problems were
typified by baroque lotteries and by women choosing male
suitors; in the early twentieth century by holidaying
motorists searching for hotels and by male suitors
choosing women; and in the paper—pushing, male-
dominated mid-twentieth century, by male bosses
choosing female assistants. The first explicit mention of it
by name as the “secretary problem” appears to be in a 1964
paper, and somewhere along the way the name stuck.
Whence 37%?
In your search for a secretary, there are two ways you can
fail: stopping early and stopping late. V\7hen you stop too
early, you leave the best applicant undiscovered. V\7hen
you stop too late, you hold out for a better applicant who
doesn’t exist. The optimal strategy will clearly require
finding the right balance between the two, walking the
tightrope between looking too much and not enough.
If your aim is finding the veiy best applicant, settling for
nothing less, it’s clear that as you go through the inteiyiew
process you shouldn’t even consider hiring somebody who
isn’t the best you’ve seen so far. However, simply being the
best yet isn’t enough for an offer; the very first applicant,
for example, will of course be the best yet by definition.
More generally, it stands to reason that the rate at which
we encounter “best yet” applicants will go down as we
proceed in our interviews.





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ZAKARIA AL BAZZAR, 19 yo, university student. love everything about new tech, and I'm sharing it with you :)
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