The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were discovered as a result of research done by Dr. Katalin Kariko. While obviously we can not be sure yet about the long-term effects of the vaccines, their development is clearly an enormous scientific advance. On the surface, this appears to be the pinnacle academic success story: academia is one of the few places where fundamental scientific research can be done without concerns for immediate practicality or financial profit, and Dr. Kariko did her research while working at UPenn. …


In the Weakest Link game show, eight contestants answer a series of trivia questions to accumulate a “bank” of money, with one contestant (the “weakest link”) voted off at each round. When there are 2 contestants remaining, they face off for a series of 5 questions each, with the winner receiving the entire amount that was banked. In theory the champion could win “up to a million dollars,” but in practice the total bank ends up being in the $40k-$80k range.

For the first several rounds, it makes a lot of sense to vote for players who are actually the…


It is widely known that there is a lot of “random noise” in AI conference paper acceptances. For example, an experiment was done at the conference NIPS several years ago showing that paper acceptances were much closer to random chance than initially expected. In that experiment, some papers were reviewed by two independent committees, and the two committees disagreed on 57% of the outcomes of these papers: “Relative to what people expected, 57% is actually closer to a purely random committee, which would only disagree on 77.5% of the accepted papers on average.” …


Funding plays a critical role both for starting a company and for running an academic research lab at a university. In the first case, it makes perfect sense. The startup founders do not have enough money themselves for the resources needed to start the company, so they try to persuade people with money to fund them. They do so by describing their plan for going to market and eventually producing a profit, both for themselves and for the investors. …


Recently the following game was proposed on twitter:

5 poker players go to house in WSOP. There is one master unbelievable room everybody wants. To determine who gets the room everybody writes a number 1–10. Whoever writes the highest UNIQUE number gets the room. What do you write?

The question was presented as a poll, and the results (over 9179 votes) were 41% for 10, 20.9% for 9, 24.2% for 8, 13.9% for 7.

Obviously the poll was intended to find out what strategy people would expect to perform best in practice against realistic opponents, who may or may not…


The conference NeurIPS instituted a new reviewing policy this year:

“In order to cope with the growing number of submissions, this year we will adopt an “early desk-reject” process involving only Area Chairs and Senior Area Chairs. Area Chairs will be responsible for identifying papers that are very likely to be rejected, and Senior Area Chairs will cross check the selections. These papers will not be further reviewed, and authors will be notified immediately.”

I received emails today notifying me that both of my submissions were in fact desk rejected. In case you are interested, versions of both of these…


You may recall the origin of the holiday Festivus in Seinfeld, as described by Frank Costanza:

FRANK: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reach for the last one they had — but so did another man. As I rained blows opon him, I realized there had to be another way!

KRAMER: What happened to the doll?

FRANK: It was destroyed. But out of that, a new holiday was born. “A Festivus for the rest of us!”

So recently I submitted the paper Fast Complete Algorithm for Multiplayer Nash Equilibrium to the Conference on…


The P vs. NP problem has been singled out as one of the most challenging open problems in mathematics/computer science, and carries a $1M prize for the first correct solution. It is considered by many to be the single most important open problem in computer science. It was first discussed informally by John Nash, Kurt Gödel, and John von Neumann in the 1950s, and introduced formally by Stephen Cook in 1971. The problem has apparently stumped many brilliant minds, and incorrect alleged proofs are quite common. …


There has recently been a lot of attention for AI game theory — the branch focused on large-scale imperfect-information game solving in particular — in part due to success of poker AI agents such as Libratus and Pluribus in defeating top human players. Many outlets have referred to these results as major technological breakthroughs and several papers have been published in the prestigious journal Science.

So naturally, since these achievements are widely viewed as being major scientific breakthroughs, we would expect top universities to be competing to hire professors in the area to lead laboratories to further develop these breakthrough…


On the 6/3/19 episode of Jeopardy, which ended up being James Holzhauer’s final episode, the following scenario arose for Final Jeopardy. The scores were $11,000 for Jay, $23,400 for James, and $26,600 for Emma, with final jeopardy category “Shakespeare’s Time.”

I created a game-theoretic model of this situation to determine the Nash equilibrium wagering strategies for all players. The model is based on the following assumptions and simplifications:

  1. Assume that Emma and James will get the answer correct with probability 0.9, and Jay will with probability 0.7 (someone gave me these values as estimates).
  2. Assume that the players only care…

Sam Ganzfried

Researcher in artificial intelligence and game theory http://www.ganzfriedresearch.com/

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