Ok, so you remember the setup: 100 people have had marked dollar bills put randomly
into 100 boxes, and every person, one at a time, gets to look in fifty of the boxes,
and you all collectively win only if every single person finds their own bill.
$100 dollar payout to each of you if you win, nothing if you lose.
In the last video I asked whether or not you should take the bet.
Did you make the right choice?
I mean, clearly, if all 100 of you gamblers just choose 50 boxes at random when you go
into the room, the likelihood of each of you finding your bill is one half, so the probability
of ALL of you finding your bills and winning the whole game is one half times one half
times one half… a hundred times.
And one half to the power of 100 is about 0.0000000000000000000000000000008.
You're more likely to roll 9 one-roll yahtzees in a row - and then pick the king of hearts
at random out of a deck of cards.
You could do a little better by trying to correlate which boxes you pick - like, if
there were only two people and two boxes, they should each pick different boxes, because
if they pick the same box only one of them can possibly find their own bill, and they'll
But this kind of strategy only improves your odds a tiny little bit, and it has less benefit
the more people there are.
However, despite all this, it turns out that there's a strategy that results in you gamblers
winning over 30% of the time!
This strategy is SO GOOD that you're more likely to win using it than if just TWO people
out of a hundred picked randomly, since one half times one half is twenty-five percent.
What we’ve forgotten is that you can obtain information FROM the boxes themselves, because
the room is exactly the same each time.
The first box will always have the same-numbered dollar in it, and so will the second box,
the third, the fifty-seventh, etc.
All you have to do is use the dollar in one box to tell you which box to go to next.
This might not seem like a great advantage, but it's HUGE.
The trick is to start with the box that corresponds to your number.
Your dollar probably isn't IN that box, but the bills inside will take you on a random
path through the boxes, a scavenger hunt where each box tells you where to go next.
You can think of this as linking up boxes in chains, connecting them based on the bills
Any random arrangement of the boxes results in a different set of chains, some long, some
Short chains are ones like "box 30 says go to box 82, box 82 says go to box 5, 5 says
go to 30."
That's a chain of link 3.
Long chains link up more boxes before circling back - and the LONGEST possible chain links
up all 100 boxes.
But each chain ALWAYS circles back, since there are finite boxes.
And of course, if you end up back where you started within 50 boxes, you've won, because
that means the previous box had a dollar bill that told you to go your starting point, and
you started on your number, so the previous box's dollar bill was YOURS!
And that's why this strategy is so good - because when the boxes are randomly arranged, about
30% of the time there will be NO chains connecting more than 50 boxes, so not only will you win,
but so will everyone else - as long as they’re following the same strategy!
The magic of this solution isn't that it's better odds for any single individual to find
their dollar (it isn't) - it's that all of the successes and failures are forced to happen
together - everyone wins together, everyone loses together - your fates are linked by
using the numbers inside the boxes to guide you along invisible chains… towards victory.