Latest News: Technology |  Celebrity |  Movies |  Apple |  Cars |  Business |  Sports |  TV Shows |  Geek


Filed under: News | Also on the Geek Mind


There Is No Winner in $1 Billion NCAA Pool

Mar 22 2014, 2:32pm CDT | by

1 Updates
Human Folly, Bots' Wisdom -- And That $1 Billion NCAA Pool

Photo Credit: Forbes

YouTube Videos Comments

Full Story

There Is No Winner in $1 Billion NCAA Pool

Maybe there is no intelligent life on earth. After the first 25 games of this month’s NCAA basketball tourney, absolutely no one in the $1 billion Quicken/Warren Buffett challenge produced a totally correct bracket. Every single one of the contest’s 8.7 million human entrants made at least one wrong call in trying to predict the games’ winners.

What went wrong? The sports pages are full of rueful comments about various underdogs’ unexpected wins. Scads of basketball-savvy pool participants were caught flat-footed when Mercer (seeded No. 14 in its regional) beat Duke (No. 3) The same goes for the unlikely early triumphs of teams such as North Dakota State (No. 12), Harvard (No. 12) and Dayton (No. 11) over supposedly superior opponents.

But upsets happen. They are part of every NCAA tournament — and in fact they provide much of the populist appeal of watching so many schools’ basketball teams compete. Spend a little time looking at why humanity did so poorly in this particular contest, and an embarrassing truth emerges. A simple, randomized computer program probably would have done a better job of sizing up the upsets than we did.

The word “we,” by the way, is not a rhetorical device. I filled out this rather regrettable bracket myself in what’s officially known as the Quicken Loans Challenge. (Quicken Loans is sponsoring the contest, but the person getting the most brand identification out of the action is Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett. He underwrote the insurance policy that provides for a $1 billion payment to anyone picking the right teams to win all 63 games.)

In my case, after two days of play, I’ve been sent to the sidelines, too. Color me lucky to pick Stanford and Harvard as upset winners. Write me off as hopeless for guessing Syracuse would be knocked out in a freakish first-round upset and Duke would survive. Wrong — and wrong again. Overall, I ended up with a truly mediocre 22 out of 32 right in the first two days’ action of March Madness.

Odds-makers early on had figured that no human was likely to make it all the way to, say, the Final Four with a 60-0 winning streak. But seeing everyone obliterated before the end of Day 2 of action — with just 25 of the initial 32 games having been played, is rather pitiful. Here’s why.

If people had filled out their brackets totally randomly, it would have taken 2 to the 25th, or 34 million people, to cover every single possibility. So with 8.7 million entrants, a simple computer program (call it MoronBot) would have enjoyed about a 26% chance of coming up with at least one surviving contender. Take the simple step of steering the program toward the 8.7 million most likely possibilities, based on this historical data about upsets — and MoronBot is likely to do even better.

But we couldn’t improve on random in either its raw or adjusted forms. In fact, maybe our individual efforts to out-think the odds just made it worse. Instead of working as a giant team — entering 8.7 million differentiated brackets and agreeing to split the prize — people by and large acted as solo players, trying to come up with the single bracket that they thought was most likely to win. The biggest team effort that I’ve been able to spot involved just 8,017 people acting in concert.

The result: an enormous amount of duplication, and lots of semi-plausible brackets that never got entered.

The important lesson here is that when data sets get enormous — as is happening in many areas of human endeavor — our classic human desire to be solo pattern-hunters who scour small batches of information may be counterproductive. Sometimes, the best way to get problems solved is to let the algorithms crunch methodically through all the possibilities.

Having just seen all of us do worse than MoronBot, I’m reluctantly starting to think that maybe artificial intelligence deserves a bigger shot at a lot of what we do. Because without it, we’re a pretty dumb planet.

Source: Forbes


iPad Air Giveaway. Win a free iPad Air.

You Might Also Like


Sponsored Update


More From the Web

Shopping Deals


<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/31" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.




blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Meg Ryan buys Home from Hank Azaria
Meg Ryan buys Home from Hank Azaria
Meg Ryan now has her own home to live in. She has bought the Soho luxury pad for $8 million from actor, Hank Azaria.
Sean Lowe loves Catherine Giudici too much
Sean Lowe loves Catherine Giudici too much
Sean Lowe pens articles about his wife Catherine Giudici in a most love-able manner. He wrote a blog about his love with his wife.
Drew Barrymore&#039;s sister Jessica Barrymore Died from Drug Overdose
Drew Barrymore's sister Jessica Barrymore Died from Drug Overdose
Jessica Barrymore died last month and now the SDC medical report claims that she died due to an overdose of drugs and alcohol.
Ronda Rousey gets a Hint from another Fighter
Ronda Rousey gets a Hint from another Fighter
Ronda Rousey is the reigning champion in the UFC. But she has gotten a hint in the form of a challenge from another fighter named Bethe Correia.

About the Geek Mind

The “geek mind” is concerned with more than just the latest iPhone rumors, or which company will win the gaming console wars. I4U is concerned with more than just the latest photo shoot or other celebrity gossip.

The “geek mind” is concerned with life, in all its different forms and facets. The geek mind wants to know about societal and financial issues, both abroad and at home. If a Fortune 500 decides to raise their minimum wage, or any high priority news, the geek mind wants to know. The geek mind wants to know the top teams in the National Football League, or who’s likely to win the NBA Finals this coming year. The geek mind wants to know who the hottest new models are, or whether the newest blockbuster movie is worth seeing. The geek mind wants to know. The geek mind wants—needs—knowledge.

Read more about The Geek Mind.