Applying the Prisoners’ Dilemma:New Sweeping Technology in Curling

Alan Adamson’s most recent posting at Curling about the selection of the British Olympic curling team was followed up in a comment that

The Brits, despite being Olympic champions, are not really top contenders…

It will be fascinating to see what effect their new brushing technology and studies will have on their game.

Britain’s Olympic curlers are using state-of-the art brooms to give themselves an edge as they prepare to defend their Winter Games gold. Loaded with sensors and a memory card, the ‘sweep ergometer’ allows curlers to measure how well they are performing one of the game’s crucial tasks.

My prediction is that this new technology will not give the British curling team much of an edge at all. It would not take very many ends for some reasonably bright person (e.g., my co-blogger)(i.e., and probably not someone from the Canadian Curling Association) to figure out what the Brits have learned from their technology and to apply it themselves.

For example, suppose the monitor and feedback say (I doubt this would happen — it is just an example) that the most efficient brushing for someone who is small and light is to brush at a 42-degree angle to the desired path of the stone with long light strokes, then how long do you think it would be before other curlers and the announcers and sports journalists discovered this? This information is not something that can be kept secret. The response time from rivals is cheap and quick.

In terms of the prisoners’ dilemma framework, both the expected detection lag and the expected retaliation lag are short.

While I am delighted that people are doing this type of kinesiological research, and I will surely find the results (or lack thereof) interesting, spending the money and the time on something like this is not likely to give the Brit curlers much of a competitive edge for very long, if at all.

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Author: John Palmer

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