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The most powerful optimization technique in any programmer's toolbox is to do nothing.

This very Zen advice is true for several reasons. One is the
exponential effect of Moore's Law — the smartest, cheapest, and
often *fastest* way to collect performance gains is
to wait a few months for your target hardware to become more capable.
Given the cost ratio between hardware and programmer time, there are
almost always better things to do with your time than to optimize a
working system.

We can get mathematically specific about this. It is almost
never worth doing optimizations that reduce resource use by merely a
constant factor; it's smarter to concentrate effort on cases in which
you can reduce average-case running time or space use from
O(*n*^{2}) to
O(*n*) or O(*n* log
*n*),^{[112]} or similarly reduce from a higher
order. Linear performance gains tend to be rapidly swamped by Moore's
Law.^{[113]}

Another very constructive form of doing nothing is to not write
code. The program can't be slowed down by code that isn't there. It
can be slowed down by code that *is* there but
less efficient than it could be — but that's a different
matter.

^{[112] }For readers unfamiliar with O
notation, it is a way of indicating how the average running time of an
algorithm changes with the size of its inputs. An O(1) algorithm runs
in constant time. An O(*n*) algorithm runs in a
time that is predicted by `A`

, where *n*
+ C`A`

is some unknown
constant of proportionality and `C`

is an
unknown constant representing setup time. Linear search of a list for
a specified value is O(*n*). An
O(*n*^{2}) algorithm runs
in time `A`

plus
lower-order terms (which might be linear, or logarithmic, of any other
function lower than a quadratic). Checking a list for duplicate values
(by the naОve method, not sorting it) is
O(*n*^{2}*n*^{2}). Similarly,
O(*n*^{3}) algorithms have
an average run time predicted by the cube of problem size; these tend
to be too slow for practical use. O(log
*n*) is typical of tree searches. Intelligent
choice of algorithm can often reduce running time from
O(*n*^{2}) to
O(log *n*). Sometimes when
we are interested in predicting an algorithm's memory utilization, we
may notice that it varies as O(1) or O(*n*) or
O(*n*^{2}); in general,
algorithms with O(*n*^{2})
or higher memory utilization are not practical
either.

^{[113] }The eighteen-month doubling time usually quoted for
Moore's Law implies that you can collect a 26% performance gain just
by buying new hardware in six months.

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