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Wisdom of Crowds Effect

Source: https://phys.org/news/2010-09-scientist-braess-paradox-high-traffic.html

Purported to save travel times, the addition of a new road to an urban area would surprisingly create longer travel times. Braess’s Paradox states that when a new route to a transportation network is added, it would increase travel times. However, within the past few years, scientists have been able to provide evidence that the paradox does not hold true to all cases. Professed by the article, Anne Nagurney has proven that Braess’s Paradox does not occur when the demand for travel increases. Within her derived formula, the paradox holds true only to a specific range of demand. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the abandonment of the paradox suggests that the network would become more crowded. As a result, this would seemingly incur an increase in travel times. However, Nagurney asserts that the “Wisdom of Crowds” effect can explain the results. There are two types of travel behavior: user-optimizing behavior and system-optimizing behavior. User-optimizing behavior is concerned with making choices that benefit the individual, whilst system-optimizing behavior is concerned with making choices that benefit the group. When drivers make the choice of driving down a new promising road to save time, it would work at first. However, as more drivers choose to drive down the same road, Braess’s paradox manifests. Over time, as drivers realize that they are incurring a greater travel time, they choose to drive down the old road. By committing to choices that saves everyone more time, drivers are becoming more system-optimizing.

The article presents a view of Braess’s Paradox that has not been covered in class. Though we have performed calculations of choices drivers make under the paradox, we haven’t been able to discuss if it would had been more optimal for the drivers to drive down the old road. If we had considered a case in which there are considerably more drivers, we would have realized that Braess’s paradox would not have manifested. Since driving down the new road would incur a greater travel time, overtime, the drivers would choose to drive down the old road to collectively save more time. Instead of pursuing their self-interests, they become wise and choose to cooperate in driving down the old road.

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