“Envy-Free” Algorithm Easily Settles Divorce and Inheritance Disputes

divorce homeless

One of the most expensive parts of a marriage is the divorce.

Divorce and death are two of the most common events that take place in the average person’s life. Unfortunately divorce and death often involve some pretty potent cocktails of emotion, leading to the types of fights that leave relationships and families torn asunder. What’s more, the legal proceedings involved in a divorce are extremely expensive, sometimes too expensive for married couples that desire a divorce. Lucky for us a group of researchers have created what they believe to be an easy and viable solution to divorce and inheritance disputes.

Related Article: Biggest Wastes of Money (Part 2): Bottled Water, Weddings, Jewelry, Paper Towels

In a paper published in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, researchers Steven Brams from New York University, Wilfrid Laurier University’s D. Marc Kilgour, and the University of Graz’s Christian Klamler outline a pair of simple algorithmic functions that divvy up property and wealth in a completely fair and envy-free way.

The distribution of property is an age old issue, possibly one of the original conflicts early humans faced hundreds of thousands of years ago. As the authors note in the paper,

The problem of fairly dividing a divisible good, such as cake or land, between two people probably goes back to the dawn of civilization.

divorce dispute

“Look Honey, I know you want everything, but this should be fair.” “WHAT IS FAIR?” http://www.ehow.com

As society has evolved, more and more of our possessions have become indivisible, especially in the case of non-allocated marital property in a divorce. The researchers state that this added difficulty with regards to indivisible property is no challenge for their algorithms.

Unlike more demanding fair-division algorithms, which ask players to give more detailed information or make more difficult comparisons, our algorithms are easy to apply and, therefore, eminently practicable.

The algorithms take into account how each party ranks a list of their self-identified priorities from best to worst. In this way the algorithms are able to optimize fairness.  The first algorithm requires that players take turns attributing a rank to items, starting with their most preferred item and descending to their least preferred item. The second algorithm asks that each party submit the complete preference ranking to an unbiased source, or a computer.

Related Article: In 1610 God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm

The algorithms are envy-free because they do not compare items directly, but rather the preference each party has for an item relative to preferences for other items as well as the opposite party’s preferences. This should be an easy process, but divorce is never easy, is it? If both parties desire an item at the same point in the algorithm, meaning that the relative preference each party has for the item is equivalent, a problem arises. Let’s take an example of party A and B ranking four items from left to right (most preferred to least preferred):

A: 1 2 3 4
B: 2 3 4 1

Now, if we give A item 1 and B item 2 (their most preferred), the next unallocated item on both their lists is item 3. Who should get it? The algorithm gives it to A and gives item 4 to B, which is an envy-free allocation because each player prefers its items to the other player’s:

A prefers item 1 to 2 and item 3 to 4
B prefers item 2 to 3 and item 4 to 1

Not only does each party prefer its pair of items to the other’s, but there is no alternative allocation that both parties would prefer, which makes it efficient.

divorce by state

There is no such thing as bachelorhood in Idaho. http://www.livescience.com/

An ideal allocation isn’t always possible using the algorithm, but to be fair, an ideal allocation is practically never possible during a divorce, so this is a major improvement regardless. If worst comes to worst, the algorithm can place items that both A and B have a high preference for into a contested pile to be argued over at a later time. This at least makes the pile of non-allocated items smaller, and attorney fees less expensive for both parties.

Related Article: Money, Designed to Fail: In The Federal Reserve’s Grip

There are nearly 1 million divorces occurring in the United States each year. Some countries have divorce to marriage ratios as high as 71%. As for inheritance disputes, everyone dies, so major familial disputes are inevitably ubiquitous around the world. Just think of all the time, money, stress, and relationships these simple algorithms will save.










Computer Chips Modeled After the Human Brain


I dare you to look at contemporary computer chips and not admire their abilities.  The most impressive example may be the realized dream of hand-sized smart-phones, pieces of technology we already tend to take for granted. And yet – with all their condensed might packed into a few square centimetres, those chips are nearing their developmental boundaries.

Try to open your computer case and have a look. Ignore the dust! See all those messy cables inside? Modern computer architecture is crippled by the fact that data has to flow between the different parts of the computer: The CPU (central processing unit), hard-drive, the RAM, the video card, etc. (namely – those green cards that you see inside the computer case). Although tremendous efforts have been made to accelerate those transitions, the data flow between those parts still poses a serious bottleneck on the performance of computers since software commands have to be executed sequentially.

Related Article: Electronic Brain Implants Increase Intelligence

A new study from Boise State University suggests a better solution to the problem: computer chip architecture modeled after the human brain. Instead of a central processing unit overwhelmed by data flow frComputer_Chipom different computer parts, the new architecture will be based on the way the human brain functions. Multiple areas – each one processing it’s own part, contribute together to create the bigger picture. This kind of architecture eliminates the need for the major processing and memory units. Instead of a hard-drive, the RAM, the video-card and most probably the CPU itself, a new kind of universal electronic chip will process and store the data on its own.

According to the principal investigator of the research grant, Elisa Barney Smith,

By mimicking the brain’s billions of interconnections and pattern recognition capabilities, we may ultimately introduce a new paradigm in speed and power, and potentially enable systems that include the ability to learn, adapt and respond to their environment.

Related Article: Newcortex: How Human Memory Works and How We Learn

090713-memristors-01The neural approach is now becoming practical thanks to the on-going development of a new type of resistor: the memristor. Memristors can be tweaked to new resistance levels by applying and removing electric currents. Memristors “remember” the last resistance applied to them even after the power is removed. In simple words – a storage effect appears. An idea first conceived in 1971, for many years memristors puzzled physicist and engineers as a theoretical missing link component until recent developments finally made them practical. Although not yet commercially used, memristors are already taking active parts in research.

Dexter Johnson from The Nanoclast goes into greater detail regarding memristors:

The memristor has been on a rapid development track ever since and has been promised to be commercially available as early as 2014, enabling 10 times greater embedded memory for mobile devices than currently available.

The obsolescence of flash memory at the hands of the latest nanotechnology has been predicted for longer than the commercial introduction of the memristor. But just at the moment it appears it’s going to reach its limits in storage capacity along comes a new way to push its capabilities to new heights, sometimes thanks to a nanomaterial like graphene.

Using memristors, the team hopes to apply algorithms inspired by the interaction between the neural synapses of the human brain. The effect should follow the intricate patterns our brain implements to process and store data.

Related Article: Of Cyborg Monkeys and New Hope for Amputees

Apart from sounding super-cool (in a geek-ish way), this new approach harbors multiple advantages. First – a tremendously increased processing power. Thanks to mother nature (or depending on what you believe), our brain proves to be quite efficient in processing data. The new generation of computers will benefit from that very same system. Second – the new chips will be considerably more power efficient, suggesting they may be used in places where power support is an issue. We may expect an additional decrease in electronic-chip sizes as well.

And lastly… did I already mention that this new architecture sounds super cool?












In 1610 God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm

Jakob Boehme, a simple shoemaker born in the 15th century, suddenly realized one day that “God was a binary, fractal, self-replicating algorithm and that the universe was a genetic matrix resulting from the existential tension created by His desire for self-knowledge.”

Talk about incredible! A man whose education consisted of the Bible and proper sole curvature came up with a postulation that unifies religion and contemporary quantum theories of the universe during a stroke of intuition. The man has gone on to inspire such minds as Friedrich Nietzsche, to Georg Willhelm, to Philip K. Dick to Adam Weishaupt.

His work integrates, involves, and unifies kabbalah, alchemy, theosophy, sacred geometry, yin and yang, cosmology, and enlightenment.

A mind far ahead of it’s time!