Friday, August 03, 2012

Systems Design Can Create Perverse Incentives

My comments on comment on my comment on The Two Root Causes of Everything?
“...the system is encouraging the bad behavior...” Such as the current Olympic games, with the badminton players throwing matches to get a better paths toward the medal round. It’s poor sportsmanship and poor ethics, but I can understand the players being tempted to do that.
I must admit I didn't see the badminton matches and my first response is that seems lame.  Did they break any rules or do anything really dishonest, it didn't seem like it.  For example,  those bike races where they roll around the sloped track - the competitors don't try to go fast, they try to setup the right conditions to help themselves (they practically stop sometimes).

Then I read a bit more and maybe it was justified (I guess refs even interrupted the play to say - quit that… the fans were booing...).  But yeah setting up the rules the way they did was crazy.  It shouldn't be you create an incentive to do worse in one game in order to do better overall.

Setting up the rules to make someone looking at the best system outcome  will come from sub-optimizing how I play in this game isn't great.

To a much much less degree other competitors have to sub-optimize current games to see the big picture (swimmers and track athletes have to swim fast enough to make the next round but not tire themselves out).  Granted those swimmers don't benefit from losing.  But they benefit from not trying their hardest at all times.

That situation with the gymnast also could be risky.  Only 2 on a team are allowed to compete for the overall individual competition.  The best USA person (I guess) was beat out they came in 4th overall but 3rd on the USA in qualifying.  It would be hard for an individual to give up, but I can imagine it would happen if #3 of the team did great but knew they didn't have a shot really (in the finals) and the country superstar hero was going to be shut out by them doing well in the last event…  Hard for the USA to image, I think, but for perspective in the USA, say if Michael Jordan would be denied a chance, the pressure on #3 to let Michael go through would be significant.

No comments: