Randomness vs. Stupidity

Randomness vs. Stupidity is the eye-catching front cover of the latest issue of Improbable Research.

These guys have form, having picked our Sicilian friends, Pluchino et al. for their ‘IgNobel Prize’ in 2010. It was they who suggested, using maths, that we’d be no worse off using randomness to pick politicians and employees. (Earlier entries on this topic have already appeared here in equality-by-lot.)

As well as this issue devoted to this topic, the Editor, Marc Abrahams, has a 2-page spread in the London Observer, (which you can read at http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/aug/19/most-improbable-scientific-research-abrahams).

In the article, Abrahams refers to an old-ish paper by Phelan (2000) which seems to support the idea of random promotion: “random promotion systems (supposedly a baseline condition) outperformed up-or-out and relative merit-based systems …”.

I am greatly encouraged that my hobby-horse of lotteries for hiring, firing and promoting employees is supported by these studies, and that they are getting a widespread airing in mainstream media.

Now, is there anyone else who might be interested in studying ‘Lotteries for Jobs’?

2 Responses

  1. Huh? Since you’re posting about employees, why not combine both? Why not employ stratified sampling?


  2. Yes indeed. It’s usual to draw up a short-list of the best qualified applicants, so it’s easy to imagine a short-list of 6, with the winner decided by the roll of a die.

    Alternatively, and this has been done, if there is a huge number of applicants, a ‘long’ short-list can be picked by lot.


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