2554: Gift Exchange

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 17:56, 13 December 2021 by (talk) (Transcript: ponytail)
Jump to: navigation, search
Gift Exchange
In addition to having all their budgets in a spreadsheet with consistent formatting, they just love expressing preferences on a well-calibrated numerical scale.
Title text: In addition to having all their budgets in a spreadsheet with consistent formatting, they just love expressing preferences on a well-calibrated numerical scale.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a SURVEY - Please rank this comment on a scale of <thunderstruck frowny face> to <maniacally grinny face> when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon: Title text is not fully explained
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

Many political scientists would see creating a fair gift exchange as a really tricky problem, since it involves different valuation of various goods (one person might like socks while another person would not), a possible incentive to misrepresent how much you value things ("You're going to have to offer me a LOT to give up these socks, because I really like them"), arbitrary order effects (who goes first matters), and more. These problems have a lot of political analogues in the political science topics of social choice and institutional design, and many political scientists dedicate years of their life to figuring out the best solutions.

The "It's okay if it's complicated" line is funny because many of the theoretically best solutions a political scientist might come up with would be very complicated--far more so than the typical person would want to think about.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Ponytail is talking to Cueball.]
Ponytail : Ugh, I have to organize a fair gift exchange for my survey-loving family.
Ponytail : Do you want to help?
Ponytail : They said it's "okay if it's complicated".
[Caption below the panel]: The perfect gift for a political scientist
comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I assumed this comic was saying that political scientists like looking at the data from "surveys". And "it's complicated" reminds me of a survey option. The title text seems to be about survey ratings, which are from a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. 17:57, 13 December 2021 (UTC)

Shouldn't someone mention that this comic came out a few weeks before Christmas, when it is customary for people in certain Christian countries to give gifts to each other (citation needed)?

I thought that the point was that Ponytail was being given the present of having to organise the fair gift exchange, not that she was giving her family a gift of it.

  • Ponytail says "Ugh" at the start, implying that she doesn't want to organize the exchange, but since Cueball in this strip is a political scientist, she's offering him the gift of getting to organize it. -- 04:42, 15 December 2021 (UTC)

white elephant gift exchange? We call it Evil Santa a play on Secret Santa 09:00, 15 December 2021 (UTC)

  • Oh, I now see that there are a number of listed variants on the Secret Santa page 09:05, 15 December 2021 (UTC)

Might the title also be a reference to Matcel Mauss' classical text "The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies" ? 09:43, 15 December 2021 (UTC)

Is the mention of "white elephant" appropriate here? The comic itself doesn't seem to imply that this is about "white elephant" gifts, but rather the opposite (desired, or fair, gifts) 18:54, 15 December 2021 (UTC)

It might be worth pointing out in this article that this particular problem was solved ([1]) over 14 years ago by a mathematician (a useful branch of knowledge), Dr. Chris Okasaki, not by a political ‘scientist’ (har har). The persons involved in the gift exchange create want lists, a tool takes the want lists and creates a bipartite graph with certain properties then finds a perfect matching representing the optimal trades, ensuring that everyone who trades something they brought for something else gets something they like better than what they started with.

The comics also reminds of a scene in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon - one of the heroes, mathematician, solved the problem of dividing an inheritance among relatives by letting them place items on a 2D coordinate plot drawn on a parking lot (and spending a week on supercomputer to calculate the final results). 00:01, 14 January 2022 (UTC) Edheldil