Archive for August, 2012

is winner-take-all broken?

Olympic athletes use a huge amount of sponsor money — not to mention legal and illegal performance aids — to reach gold. Soon we will have genetically engineered physiology to reach even greater records. Schools compete for an annual #1 ranking. They spend more and more money to bid for the best professors and build the best facilities, driving up tuition. Coding theorists run massive simulations to find the best code to compete for the one spot in standards. But is the second place athlete, school, and code that much worse? No, usually they are nearly as good as #1.

I’ve often wondered whether many problems in the world are not variations of attempting “exact optimization” — this being the only way to guarantee success in a winner-take-all reward system.
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