5 Pirates Fight for 100 Gold Coins

Question:

Five pirates discover a chest containing 100 gold coins. They decide to sit down and devise a distribution strategy. The pirates are ranked based on their experience (Pirate 1 to Pirate 5, where Pirate 5 is the most experienced). The most experienced pirate gets to propose a plan and then all the pirates vote on it. If at least half of the pirates agree on the plan, the gold is split according to the proposal. If not, the most experienced pirate is thrown off the ship and this process continues with the remaining pirates until a proposal is accepted. The first priority of the pirates is to stay alive and second to maximize the gold they get. Pirate 5 devises a plan which he knows will be accepted for sure and will maximize his gold. What is his plan?

.

.

C

A

P

T

A

I

N

I

N

T

E

R

V

I

E

W

.

.

Solution: To understand the answer, we need to reduce this problem to only 2 pirates. So what happens if there are only 2 pirates. Pirate 2 can easily propose that he gets all the 100 gold coins. Since he constitutes 50% of the pirates, the proposal has to be accepted leaving Pirate 1 with nothing.

Now let’s look at 3 pirates situation, Pirate 3 knows that if his proposal does not get accepted, then pirate 2 will get all the gold and pirate 1 will get nothing. So he decides to bribe pirate 1 with one gold coin. Pirate 1 knows that one gold coin is better than nothing so he has to back pirate 3. Pirate 3 proposes {pirate 1, pirate 2, pirate 3} {1, 0, 99}. Since pirate 1 and 3 will vote for it, it will be accepted.

If there are 4 pirates, pirate 4 needs to get one more pirate to vote for his proposal. Pirate 4 realizes that if he dies, pirate 2 will get nothing (according to the proposal with 3 pirates) so he can easily bribe pirate 2 with one gold coin to get his vote. So the distribution will be {0, 1, 0, 99}.

Smart right? Now can you figure out the distribution with 5 pirates? Let’s see. Pirate 5 needs 2 votes and he knows that if he dies, pirate 1 and 3 will get nothing. He can easily bribe pirates 1 and 3 with one gold coin each to get their vote. In the end, he proposes {1, 0, 1, 0, 98}. This proposal will get accepted and provide the maximum amount of gold to pirate 5.

Bonus: Think about what would happen if there are 15 pirates or 25 pirates. Post the answer in the comments section.

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