Computational kindness

From Algorithms to Live By:

One of the implicit principles of computer science, as odd as it may sound, is that computation is bad: the underlying directive of any good algorithm is to minimize the labor of thought. When we interact with other people, we present them with computational problems—not just explicit requests and demands, but implicit challenges such as interpreting our intentions, our beliefs, and our preferences. It stands to reason, therefore, that a computational understanding of such problems casts light on the nature of human interaction. We can be “computationally kind” to others by framing issues in terms that make the underlying computational problem easier.

A key example of this is scheduling. Telling someone that “I’m flexible” defers all responsibility to them to infer your possible availability and search for a time they think may work, suggest this back to you, then loop through this process until resolved. If you instead give two or three discrete options, they can choose one immediately.