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MIT Team Wins DARPA $40K Social Networking Challenge

 7:38 pm on Dec 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Has anyone else been following this?

DARPA put up 10 balloons around the US at low altitude and offered a $40K prize for the first person to correctly report the locations of all 10. The MIT team finished the task in 10 hours using a strategy that awarded reporters on a sliding scale that cut the reward in half for each step of removal. So...

$2K to the spotter
$1 to the person who recruited the spotter
$500 to the person who recruited the person who recruited the spotter.

An interesting modern variation on the Six Degrees of Separation experiments.

I'm still trying to decide whether I'm surprised it took so long a time or so short a time to solve.




 11:33 pm on Dec 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Interesting stuff, ergo, thanks for sharing it. I wonder if the DARPA folks were surprised by the result.

Robert Charlton

 12:33 am on Dec 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'd followed to the degree that I'd seen an earlier story and considered posting it, but it was too late at night (or too early in the morning... I forget which). Here's another article that goes into some of the strategic considerations involved, and suggests why DARPA did this....

MIT team wins social networking balloon hunt [sfgate.com]
sfGate via Monica Hesse, Washington Post
Monday, December 7, 2009

The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency set out this weekend to learn how quickly people could use online social networks to solve a problem of national scope....

..."It's a huge game theory simulation," said Norman Whitaker of DARPA's Transformational Convergence Technology Office. The only way to win the hunt was to find the location of every balloon, but a savvy participant would withhold his sighting until he'd amassed the other nine locations, or disseminate false information to throw others off the trail....

One can imagine many situations where the DARPA people might want to apply these results.

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