Rent can turn otherwise friendly people into selfish monsters. If a renter can jack up the price on a subletter, he will. But as for splitting the monthly rent checks among leasees, how do roommates decide who pays what? It’s possible to have a five-hour discussion at the kitchen table that goes over everyone’s specific wants and needs, but it’s more likely that roommates end up exhausted or dissatisfied. (If this is untrue to your personal experience, consider yourself exceptionally lucky.)
Where that kind of decision-making fails, math becomes glorious. Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Ariel Procaccia wanted to see if he could build an algorithm that could divide rent in an unequivocally fair way. The result is strikingly, beautifully simple: A website called Spliddit that simply asks the renters how much they’re willing to bid for certain rooms, and spits out a fair price for each.
That’s not all. If someone whines, the algorithm will explain itself. “Each person gets a personal explanation saying why it’s fair, and that’s what’s making this compelling,” Procaccia says.
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