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"Fairness Dotcom" -- The Discovery Files

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The need to divide things among people is an aspect of daily life filled with potential pitfalls. Whether the deal involves land, an inheritance or credit for an idea, a split perceived as unfair can lead to war, personal feuds, or silent, seething resentment. Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University hope to minimize such unwelcome outcomes through a new website,, that offers "provably fair" solutions to everyday dilemmas--how to split rent, divide goods or apportion credit for a project. The site employs the latest mathematical and theoretical approaches to these problems, but site visitors won't need an advanced degree to use them.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Fair share, for sure?

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files, from the National Science Foundation.

One piece of cake left: Two of us. We'll split it using the cake rule: "I cut, you choose." Both of us should be happy with the outcome. But what about more complex divisions, such as an inheritance, splitting land, or even sharing credit for an idea? Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a way to offer "provably fair" solutions.

It's a research project. It's a web site. Spliddit dot org: Powered by seven decades of mathematical and theoretical research regarding fair splitting, dividing, and sharing. The first ready access; to advanced algorithms; to deal with these daily dilemmas. The website analyzes crucial factors about the participants' desires, as well as the details of the pending transaction, then arrives at a split that its designers hope will leave all involved saying, "yeah, that's fair."

Say you wanted to determine a fair way for three roommates to split the rent and the rooms in a house. Spliddit would ask each roommate to specify the features most important to him or her. Using that information and other factors, an algorithm then recommends who should get which room, and how much each should pay.

Spliddit--S-P-L-I-D-D-I-T (say Spliddit, then spell it out)--dot org: The science of sharing, the mathematics of meting it out. By the way, as far as taking credit for this whole thing, it looks like they're going to have to--split it.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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