Dan Paluska

do i play the lottery?
December 20, 2009, 6:35 pm
Filed under: randomness | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

is my plan for success based in a hit? or based in the increment?

question scalable rewards?

everybody is searching for scalable rewards. you know, the kind of reward that keeps on giving. the big one.
let me tell you something friend, if you invest in this thing here, you will be set for life. this is the deal of a lifetime. if you can find your way into this one situation, then you will be fine. how about that movie where the old timers get together for one last heist? the one that will allow them to never work again? did it go smoothly?

do you look at people who play the lottery or scratch-off tickets as being deficient in mathematical understanding? how about musicians who play gig after gig for next to nothing, hoping to one day get the record contract that will pay them big bucks? or the author who is starving until they get a book deal? or the post-doc trying to get the nature paper? or the artist who wants to get a piece into the collection at the MOMA? how about the guy who takes a lot of timelapse movies and posts them to youtube, what lotto is he hoping to win? or grant applications? what are the lotteries i’m planning to win? how can i replace those plans with something more incremental?

so… back to the question. are scalable rewards inherently unsustainable? they are fractal or chaotic or unpredictable. should we working to design any new system or community to be without scalable rewards? or at least we should minimize them? the less scalable the rewards, the more long term sustainable the system will be? more leverage is more scalable is less sustainable?
this is also related to the everyone-is-a-chef idea.

that said, it’s clear that in the near term, scalable rewards do exist and people will continue to hit is rich with them for a while, but maybe we should be working to highlight the slow paths… so if you think you’re placing too much emphasis on a lottery style payback, what is something small you can do to correct your path?

where are you going?

Animal training and the design of self rewarding systems

sean says “unless you’re the boss, you’re playing by somebody else’s rules.” but we and many people we know have no interest in being the boss ourselves. so how do you, me, him, her, we, them, etc, change the rules?

How do we design flat and self-rewarding ecosystems?

Wikipedia is a self rewarding system. If you come to a page and the page has been vandalized, you can help the system and activate the revert function on the post. When you do this, you are rewarded with the information you came for. Clay Shirky, HCE book has a nice section on wikipedia.

So where to now?

Let’s go back to nytimes article on animal training and husbands. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=husband+animal+training

A great article. A snippet that summarizes pretty well.

I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Eventually it hit me that the same techniques might work on that stubborn but lovable species, the American husband.

The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.

I was using what trainers call “approximations,” rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can’t expect a baboon to learn to flip on command in one session, just as you can’t expect an American husband to begin regularly picking up his dirty socks by praising him once for picking up a single sock. With the baboon you first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop. With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.

Give it a read and try to convince yourself we are above animals. We like to give our civilization a little more credit than it may deserve. How do you give yourself a treat for riding the bicycle?