Crowdsourcing the Travelling Salesman

Despite some worries, the field of operations research is not exactly sitting on a street corner with a begging bowl.  There are lots of people out there who are willing to pay us for what we do.  Perhaps not as often as they should, or as much as we deserve, but “operations research” is a legitimate career path.  You can get jobs in government, academia or industry; you can work as a consultant; you can write (and get paid for) software; you can even write popular books on the subject!

But if you create an operations-research inspired movie, you might find it a rather tough go to get enough fannies in the seats in order to pay the bills.  While we certainly are captivated by the idea of “what would happen if P=NP”, most of the world seems far more captivated with “I wonder how James Franco would do as Oz”.  So when a movie does explore an operations research theme, it needs to be creative in its funding.

Traveling Salesman is a movie that explores what would happen if a group of mathematicians did find a fast algorithm for the Traveling Salesman Problem.  Now, I know what I would do if I found such an algorithm:  I would dance a jig on my Dean’s desk, and immediately look for the cushiest academic job I could find.  It appears that the writers of this movie went off in a slightly different direction, involving government agents, ominous music, and sweat-soaked brows.  Well, I suppose that might happen too.

The producers of the film are trying to get broader distribution, and are counting on the wisdom of the crowds to fund that distribution.  There is an IndieGoGo campaign with a very modest goal of raising $3500.  With that, they will make the film available through such outlets as (from their campaign):

  • Buy and Rent from iTunes
  • Buy and Rent from Amazon VOD
  • Buy and Rent from Google PLAY
  • Buy and Rent from Distrify
  • Netflix and Hulu are under consideration
  • Other outlets are also in negotiation

Personally, I love it just for the tchotchkes (that movie poster will look great in my office).

Right now they are at $2675:  is there interest in the operations research community to put them over the top?

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