Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Millionaire Musing

In the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, you have three options when you get stuck: phone a friend, ask the audience or 50-50, where half the answers are removed. Which of these is most likely to give you the correct answer most often?

A. Phone a Friend
B. Ask the Audience
C. 50-50
D. Take a Deep Breath and Guess

If you chose C, you would then be left with:

A. Phone a Friend
B. Ask the Audience

And the answer is B.

Ohio University grad Jeff Howe, in his book Crowdsourcing, explains the logic. If only 4% of the audience knows the answer to a question and the rest guess randomly that means that the correct answer will be chosen by the majority.

Example.
What country is most likely to become the next Tunisia and Egypt?
A. Libya
B. Morocco
C. Yemen
D. Pakistan

If you chose to phone a friend, who would you call? If you choose 50-50, which two would be left after the other two are taken away? No, your best bet again is the audience, because at any given time about 5% are undercover government employees assigned to make sure that anyone who wins will pay their taxes in order to fund counterinsurgencies.

O.K., I'm off topic here, but here's another little known data bit. Monday I heard that since 2004 more people have been killed per year in Mexico's drug trafficking wars than were killed in the Viet Nam war. In trying to verify that stat I see that deaths from opiate related drugs eclipse both of these stats.

All sobering. Wish I had a pain killer for my neck though.

Till next.

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