Binary Search

I posted yesterday about that game a firm I’d been a summer associate at had done to try to get the summers to know the partners better. I detailed the process I used to figure out which of the partners had once boxed Muhammad Ali. I won the second round of that game as well, which of the partners had golfed in a PGA affiliated game, but that one wasn’t as deductively impressive.

I sat down to look at the question. After revealing my process from the previous week, I felt a certain amount of pressure. Which partner golfed in a PGA affiliated game? How was I going to figure out that?

I checked name associations with the PGA, of course. That didn’t turn up anything. It must have been a small game of some kind and not had much about it on the Internet. It seemed likely it would be an older partner. After all, golf was once mandatory for any decently powered attorney. It still played a big role in some places, but not as much as it once did. Still, it could have been a younger person as well. It just wasn’t as likely.

Did I know about anyone’s golfing habits? Not really. I could look in their offices for golf memorabilia, but I wasn’t sure that was the best way to go about things.

Then I thought about the binary searching we’d covered in my various computer courses. I had the ability to ask yes or no questions, right? Why not see if I could find yes/no questions that would split the population of partners in half each time. That’s a fast searching method, the bulk of the overhead being in organizing a data set into a form upon which a binary search can be done.

Is the person a man? Is the person over fifty? I got down to a pretty small population pretty fast with just a few yes/no questions designed to split the partners in half. Then, once I had a small enough group, I made a few guesses. Guesses worked fine once you had a small enough group to guess from.

I won again.

Now, I don’t think they were as happy about my win that time when I detailed the process I used to go about this round. I’d kind of gamed the system, and the strategy would have worked for pretty much any round regardless of the person or question. The other summers basically gave up and didn’t play any more…and all I really got was whichever of the firm logo plastic cup or stress ball I hadn’t won in the first round (I don’t remember which I won for which).

They stopped the game after those two rounds. It was supposed to run each week the full length of the summer program.

My bad.


About David S. Atkinson

David S. Atkinson enjoys typing about himself in the third person, although he does not generally enjoy speaking in such a fashion. However, he is concerned about the Kierkegaard quote "Once you label me you negate me." He worries that if he attempts to define himself he will, in fact, nullify his existence...
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