The lazy bureaucrat problem

The lazy bureaucrat problem is ancient, as old as bureaucracy itself. In the 1990s, mathematicians decided to look at the problem. They have since made progress that, depending on your point of view, is either impressive or irrelevant.

Four scientists at the State University of New York, Stony Brook issued the first formal report. The Lazy Bureaucrat Scheduling Problem, by Esther Arkin, Michael Bender, Joseph Mitchell and Steven Skiena, appeared in the journal Algorithms and Data Structures. The study describes a prototypically lazy bureaucrat, transforming this annoying person into a collection of mathematical formulas, theorems, proofs, and algorithms….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.