Thursday, September 5, 2013

Game Theory - a brief explanation

M. Shane Smith

Simple mathematical models can provide insight into complex societal relationships, by showing that mutual cooperation can benefit even mutually distrustful participants.

Game theory is a tool that can help explain and address social problems. Since games often reflect or share characteristics with real situations -- especially competitive or cooperative situations -- they can suggest strategies for dealing with such circumstances. Just as we may be able to understand the strategy of players in a particular game, we may also be able to predict how people, political factions, or states will behave in a given situation.

Just as people generally try to win games, people also try to "win" or achieve their interests or goals in competitive situations. However, both in games and in the real world, we generally follow a set of rules to do this. Some games, like some real situations are "winner-take-all." These games are by their nature very competitive, as only one person can win. (Chess would be an example of such a game.) Other games, however, require cooperation to win. Many of the newer video games, for example, require cooperative strategies among multiple players in order for any single player to advance. In the real world, even during times of hostility, rivals generally have common interests and must cooperate to some degree.[1] Even during the Cold War, despite an intense East-West standoff, Moscow and Washington cooperated to achieve their common goal of averting a nuclear war.
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