Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Can You Keep Your Job While Innovating?

Justin Lall says, at least in the context of competitive bridge, basically no. This is similar to NFL coaches not going for it on fourth down as often as they should, but a little bit more nuanced.
The situation in bridge is less dire, as percentage plays are respected, and the math is often easily demonstrable. However, a large part of becoming a great bridge player, good enough to be hired to play on professional teams, is having excellent judgement about when situations to go against conventional wisdom or A priori odds.... 
The biggest problem is that you are not just thinking about a bridge problem anymore, that’s the easy part, you’re deciding if making this play is worth possibly getting fired, get a bad reputation, maybe never get hired again and be forced to get a 9-5 job that pays much less.
You can generalize his argument to the claim that some now vs more later trade-offs are a superset of exploration vs exploitation trade-offs.

I agree. In the short run people who follow the status quo have an edge, especially in the absence of good long run indicators.

One prediction of this is that if 1) the football season were longer, or 2) instantaneous ratings for the probability that a team would win became standard (like "pawn units" in chess), more coaches would go for it on fourth down.


If you think this post was just an elaborate excuse to use the word "superset," you know too much.