Friday, 11 December 2015

No, You'll not get 36 books!

Of late, I've been seeing a surge of lucrative status updates on Facebook in which the premise is giving people books as Christmas/New Year presents. The statement goes as follows:

“The best present one can give is a book. This will truly be an amazing end to the year. Join in. I need 6 people of any age to participate in a book exchange. You only have to buy ONE book and send it to one person and you'll receive 36 in return! Comment if you're interested and I will PM you the information.”

Now, if you've shared this as your status, there is one of the following possibilities:
  • You are a sheep. You saw something lucrative and shared it because everyone else was sharing.
  • You were smoking something while you did the math.
  • You understand the inherent deceit in the offer and posted it anyway because you know you are near the top-level in the hierarchy and you'll get a number of books.


Before I go on to explain the deceit and possible outcomes, I must bring your attention to this simple rule (and no, it is not rocket science). Matter (read: Books) cannot be created or destroyed, which means, Santa is not adding books to the transaction. (If Santa is real, is a different debate altogether.) So,

Books Gifted = Books Received as Gifts

Coming back to deceit, this type of business model is called a Pyramid Scheme which Wikipedia describes as, often illegal and unsustainable that lures members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public.

If you're near the top-level in the hierarchy i.e. a famous Facebooks user, with a lot of friends/followers, and you put this up as your status (and 6 or more people subscribe to the plan who in turn put this up as their status and so on) there might be a number of people who would want to give the one book they purchase to you as a gift. So, you'll end up getting a lot of books (even more than 36) depending on how far this shit propagates and the number of your followers.

On the other hand, if you're at the bottom in the hierarchy, you will end up getting not 0 (zero) but -1 (negative one) books i.e. you will gift the only book you purchase and will get none in return. And yes, the number of people at the bottom will eventually be far more than the ones at the top.

In technical terms,

For the directors (the top-level), the scheme is potentially lucrative—whether or not they do any work, the organization's membership has a strong incentive to continue recruiting and funneling money to the top of the pyramid. Without creating any goods or services, the only ways for a pyramid scheme to generate revenue are to recruit more members or solicit more money (here books) from current members. Eventually, recruiting is no longer possible and the plurality of members are unable to profit from the scheme.

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