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July 13, 2020 | Update: Live at MIT! 🥳


Welcome to the Office Hour, <<First Name>> 🎉


We send emails out every MWF. Today, we’re studying the lottery, fake news, and a fun brain teaser at the end. 🧠


💵 A prize-linked savings account

🗞 Better fact-checking for fake news

💵 A prize-linked savings account


WHAT:  What if you combine a savings account with the lottery, creating a new kind of savings account with a lottery payout? Your savings would be pooled and invested and then the investment gains would become the prize pools.That’s exactly what Professor Tufano proposes, and now a YC-backed startup is working on making this a reality.

WHO: Peter Tufano was a professor at Harvard Business School for 30 years when he researched this idea. He is now the Dean of the Saïd Business School at Oxford. 

WHY SHOULD I CARE: 1/3 of Americans can’t come up with $2,000 in case of an emergency. Yet, Americans spend $60 billion dollars on the lottery every year, with significant overlap between these two groups. Only problem: most states only allow the state to conduct a lottery. But this is changing as 33 states now allow this.

TL;DR: Every dollar you save now buys you a lottery ticket for a jackpot based on investment gains. This can help solve the notoriously low personal savings rate.* 


*the US personal savings rate is now at an all-time high thanks to unemployment insurance and government stimulus checks: Feb 2020: 8.2% vs. April 2020: 33%


🗞 Better fact-checking for fake news


WHAT: Bias is nothing new in AI, but there is a fascinating irony when fact checking models are trained on biased data. That is the case for many fact checking models that were trained on the popular Fact Extraction and VERification (FEVER) dataset. Fortunately, MIT professor Regina Barzilay created a debiased FEVER dataset and developed a new fact checking algorithm that performs better than the others across every metric.  

WHO: Regina Barzilay is a professor at MIT and a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). She’s interested in NLP, and its intersection with chemistry & oncology. 

WHY SHOULD I CARE: ~45% of Americans get their news from social media, which is a perfect breeding ground for fake news. Furthermore, Gartner predicts that if current fake news trends persist, “a majority of people in the developed world will see more false than true information.” Developing robust AI-driven fact checking systems can prevent this dark prediction from becoming a reality.

TL;DR: Many of today’s fact-checking algorithms were trained on a popular but biased dataset. Researchers have now debiased this dataset and developed the best-performing fact-checking algorithm to date.



Kominers’s Conundrums: Brainteaser

100 people are being held prisoner. The Warden shows them a room with a single light switch, and explains: 

  • Each day, I’m going to choose one of you at random and bring you into this room. When the first prisoner walks into the room, the switch will be ‘off.’
  • You can flip the switch if you want, and I’ll leave it however you set it for the next prisoner.
  • Any one of you can declare at some point that all the prisoners have been in the room at least once

The Warden lets the prisoners confer beforehand to agree upon a strategy — but once the game has started, the prisoners can’t communicate except (possibly) by flipping the switch.

Can you figure out a strategy that guarantees the prisoners their freedom?

Recommended by Ben Golub, Associate Professor of Economics at Harvard University

Solution here

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