MIT makes pyramid schemes work

The winner of the DARPA balloon network challenge was (to apparently nobody’s surprise) a group from MIT. Their algorithm essentially employed a pyramid scheme. They found all ten balloons in about 9 hours.

$40k/10 balloons=$4k to be divied up for each.

  • The person finding the balloon gets $2k.
  • The person who recruited him/her gets $1k.
  • The person who recruited the recruiter gets $500.

Of course, this series converges with an infinite number of steps. However, since there are finite links in the chain, in reality there was a bit of money left over. That was given to charity.

Incidentally, astute observers will note that the balloons seem to have been disproportionately placed near the coasts:

Before people in the middle of the country get in a huff about how East and West coast elitism prevented them from getting some of that mad DARPA money (and start grumbling about how we refer to them as “flyover states”), it’s probably worth comparing the above map to a population map of the US.

In retrospect, this placement seems kind of obvious. Since the whole point of the exercise was to exploit crowdsourcing, of course DARPA is going to match the balloon map to the population map.

At any rate, congratulations, MIT.


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