Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monopoly Pieces; and Sharing

The ten balloons are not unlike McDonald's monopoly pieces; except it hasn't been published what the relative values of the balloons are. As with the Netflix competition; it seems conceivable that at a late stage; various groups may share information or even merge in order to get access to a greater number of monopoly pieces. However, since $40,000 is unlikely to amount to much given the number of contestants; it seems like the real prize is the associated fame with leading the team that wins.  As a result, I believe it's more likely that people will merge (versus share) because it decreases their probability of not losing.

In a simple analysis, it would appear that the winning competitor should actively prevent others from winning as much as they should try to win themselves. For instance, by having 40 people hang out with a big red balloon and a large DARPA poster, scattered across the US, they massively increase the complexity of others in winning (particularly in the final "brute force" phase of the contest where people iterate through combination of potential hits in order to find the actual ten); particularly because; given the time frames involved; people will not necessarily be able to revisit the balloon site to confirm that it was actually a DARPA representative and not just somebody with a DARPA poster. Presumably DARPA could handle this issue by having the agent provide people with a cryptographic signature that can be validated on the DARPA site. However, doing so makes the problem a lot less interesting.


  1. Of course, if several people do this, then will it make it impossible for everybody? This makes it essential to have some kind of "reporting" protocol that balloon finders must use to allow assuredness of the reported locations.

  2. Actually, from the rules; it looks like people submit things one at a time. However, there is still the interesting question of whether DARPA will confirm that a given site is a balloon site or not.