Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life by Len Fisher

Why I read it: Math, math, math...

Summary: Can the world's problems be solved through game theory?

My Thoughts: Yes. Yes they can.

We all played it as kids, and we all threw rock way more than we should have. Perhaps that's just an American thing, where we've learned that the best way to victory is to pummel people with our fists like Superman or Hulk Hogan or Joe Louis. And we all understood the game. Think that you're outthinking your opponent. Predict what he or she is going to throw, and counter it. The only thing more frustrating as a kid was "bucking up." I got evens!

In Rock, Paper, Scissors, Len Fisher dumbs down game theory for us by speaking in our language, that of movies and television and sports heroes and the other bits of "culture" in which we dwell. He diagrams it all out for us logically. If A reacts this way and B reacts this way, C occurs. By breaking down the major conflicts that can arise between opposing parties - wives and husbands, nuclear nations, interplanetary combatants (OK, that's my extrapolation), the members of a group supposedly pulling for a common good - he shows us how we can work through them, then ultimately delivers a list of hints on how to avoid or settle arguments with the best possible consequences.

And lord knows the world needs it. You may be stuck in a Prisnor's Dilemma right now, or wrestling with the Tragedy of the Commons. How will you reach that perfect conclusion? Well, I can tell you one thing. Don't throw rock.

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