Ask Lewis: Dynamic Programming & Decision Science

Q. What is Dynamic Programming and Decision Science?


Foundational Principle for this Conversation: To explore how the advanced analytical method known as Dynamic Programming can help one to strategize more effectively in the game of life, solve complex and extreme problems and make more effective decisions.

Definition: Decision Science (DS): An interdisciplinary mathematical science that deals with the application of advanced  analytical  methods  through  the  use  of  technology to  help    organizations  make  better  decisions.
Dynamic Programming: A  method  within  the  discipline  of  Decision Science  for solving complex problems by

breaking them down into simpler sub-problems.

STUDENT: Can all problems be broken down into simpler sub-problems?
LEWIS: There is a point where enough information is available to solve a problem without breaking it down any  further. Thus, with these problems dynamic programming would be overkill. Dynamic programming is specifically applicable to problems  exhibiting  the  properties  of  overlapping  sub-problems which  are  only  slightly  smaller  and  of  optimal substructure. When  dynamic  programming  is  applicable,  the  method  takes far  less time than other less specific methods often called “naive methods” by mathematicians.

STUDENT: Please explore dynamic programming in greater depth.
LEWIS: The core idea behind dynamic programming is quite basic and simple. In general, to solve a given problem, one needs to solve  different  parts of the problem (sub-problems), then combine the solutions of these sub-problems and by doing so come to an overall solution.

STUDENT: What are some of the benefits of taking this approach to solving problems in this way?
LEWIS: Often as we break down a problem into sub-problems, we find that many of these sub-problems are identical. Dynamic programming  allows  one  to solve each sub-problem only once, thus reducing the number of computations, reducing the risk of error, and maximizing potential at the lowest cost.

STUDENT: What is the importance of this in solving complex and extreme problems?
LEWIS: Complex and extreme problems often contain a number of recurring sub-problems which are exponentially large. Dynamic programming can be useful with these types of problems.

STUDENT: Are there sub-categories within dynamic programming as well?
LEWIS: Yes. There is Top-down dynamic programming which describes the storing of the results of certain calculations, which  are  later used again  since  the  completed  calculation  is  a  sub-problem of a larger calculation. Then there is Bottom-up dynamic programming which involves formulating a complex  calculation  as  a  recursive  series  of  simpler calculations.

STUDENT: Let’s go even deeper and apply all that we have discussed here to economics and classical game theory.
LEWIS:  This brings us back to the concept of reinforced learning. Reinforcement learning is often used to explain how equilibrium  may  arise  under  what  is  called  bounded  rationality. Bounded rationality enables one to make the best decision and to create the most effective and efficient strategy even when the decision-maker has neither the time and space nor the ability to arrive at an optimal solution.

STUDENT: How would  a person interested in living a simple life, “in the moment”, and not seeking to constantly optimize at all, benefit from any of what we have discussed concerning Decision science?
LEWIS:  None  of  us  live in isolation. It is not possible. So along with our inner wisdom, our intuition and our sense of tacit knowing we will still in  daily life be presented with situations that will require a logical or at least rational decision just to survive. So even if one was not seeking  to optimize at  all, one  would still need to make choices. The idea of bounded rationality is that individuals strive to be rational, having first greatly simplified  the  choices  available. Thus, instead of choosing from  every  time or  place,  the  decision-maker chooses between a small number of times and/or places. The result may be that decision-makers become what mathematicians call satisfiers; they accept a satisfactory solution which is good enough for their purposes rather than finding the optimum answer.

STUDENT: Where can I learn more about the origins of the theory of bounded rationality?
LEWIS: Explore the writing in the 1950s of  H. A.  Simon. On the web you can read more at:

STUDENT: Where can I learn more about Decision Making and strategizing more effectively?
LEWIS: See the Conversations in LHAGT on:
The Basics of Decision Science
Understanding Complex Problems
Understanding Extreme Problems
STUDENT: Do you have any concluding thought on this subject as it relates to LHAGT?
LEWIS: The importance of LHAGT is that it is concerned with developing latent human potentialities — regarded as our natural endowment as human beings, but rarely brought to fruition. With advanced technologies and tools and with higher levels of consciousness, inner growth and development, we have the opportunity to explore real possibilities for effective strategies to prosper in the game of life and by doing so serve others on a greater level.


Lewis Harrison is a futurist, speaker, NPR affiliated Talk Show Host and a professional  copywriter. He can be reached at

He is the administrator of a FB group on game theory and business solutions.


Lewis is an Internet marketing expert and copywriter and the author of the book “Gamification for Business”


Ask Lewis: What is Time Management?

This is a transcript of a class I recently offered on time management. Within the class, much of which comes from my book “Gamification for Business” we discussed  Personal time management tips,  time game theory, gamification, project management,  … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: Who is Ivan Illich?

Ask Lewis: Who is one of your favorite and most influential visionaries?   Lewis Answers:  One of my great influences is Ivan Illich  (4 September 1926 – Bremen, 2 December 2002). He was a visionary and highly influential Austrian … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: Q. What is Hypnosis and Influence?

Ask Lewis. What is hypnosis and influence and can a person be hypnotized when they are awake? Lewis Answers:  Hypnosis is any artificially induced condition in which they can respond to questions and are very susceptible to suggestions from the … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: Gamification, Competition and Hierarchies

This blog is the transcript from part of  a master class I taught in my seminar “Make Choices, Not Excuses.”   Ask Lewis: Is there any way to transcend the need to compete? Lewis Answers: Why would you want to transcend the need to … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: What is happiness?

Q. Speak about happiness? Lewis Answers: I teach people how to live a simple life. This includes the study of Zen Koans, meditation, receiving regular massage, doing what needs to be done ( Chop wood, carry water) and where appropriate teaching … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: Tips for becoming a Person of Influence

  Q. I have heard it said ""It s not what you know that is important, but who you know. What are your thoughts on this? Lewis Answers: In the realm of politics and finance influence is what makes the world go round. Many people know this … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: What is Clarity of Intention

Lewis Answers: Clarity of intention is what gives meaning to life. With clarity of intention you have the key through the door in time and space where you may define your vision or life mission and bring it to fruition. Clarity of intention is core … [Continue reading]