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Monday, September 24, 2007

Game Theory Simplified

Game theory often seems to be a daunting academic topic. However, much of this impression is the result of mere obfuscation. Here I explain some "game theoretic" concepts in everyday terms:

Stag Hunt -- Jackie, Sue, and Mary are dressing up to go out to the local dance club in hopes of meeting some "stags." Their expectations, however, will be disappointed, as all they will find at the club are weasels camoflauged as stags. A game characterized by imperfect information.

Folk Theorem -- This theorem states that "Folks is just folks." It has been challenged by the Showtime series "Queer as Folk," which raises the important theoretical issue, "Just how queer are folk?"

Prisoner's Dilemma -- The food at the prison is uniformly crap. But if you don't eat at least some of it you will starve. How to resolve the dilemma?

Chicken -- Guido and Tony decide to play chicken with their Camaros on Court St. They separate by a few blocks and point their cars at each other. However, they have forgotten that Court St. is one-way and busy. Before Guido can pull out, the B71 bus passes him and hits Tony head on. This is a "coroner solution."

Coordination Game -- After the police find out what Guido and Tony were doing, they will make Guido play the "Coordination Game," as well as the "Breathe into the Breathalyzer Game."

Rock, Paper, Scissors -- In Brooklyn, we play this game as follows: Player A approaches Player B with a "rock" and some "scissors." Player B then hands over all of the paper in his wallet.

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