Game Theory

Published on Sunday, November 01, 2009 in , , , ,

Prisoner's Dilemma MatrixA couple of years ago, I wrote about the prisoner's dilemma, a challenge in making choices without perfect knowledge. That's only one aspect of what is known as game theory, the branch of mathematics that studies strategic situations where the players choice's conflict with each other. Game theory covers strategic games, of course, but also covers many common social, political and economic situations, as well.

Probably the most famous example of game theory is this bar scene from the movie A Beautiful Mind, where it's applied to men trying to get dates in a bar. If you enjoyed that article, Plus Magazine has many more clear articles on game theory that you may enjoy.

A good introduction to game theory can be found in two of the episodes of the program I mentioned in my previous post, Zero Sum Games and Prisoner's Dilemma. You can find a good variety of introductions to game theory on the web, ranging from the basic introductory videos I just mentioned, all the way up to full free game theory courses from Yale!

Once you have an understanding of the basics of game theory, you might want to take another look at the Beautiful Mind scene, and take a deeper look at the game theory analysis of that scene.

Learning about game theory is one thing, though, while applying it is quite another. The whole point of game theory is to learning to make the most effective choices you can for your situation, and I know that Grey Matters readers are people who enjoy learning by doing.

Over at Game Theory .net, they not only offer excellent references for students, but quizzes and tests, too. More importantly four our purposes, for both students and geeks, there is an excellent selection of interactive demonstrations and games to try out!

Even as new situations arise, you can usually find ways to apply classic game theory principles to them. There is an excellent blog, focused on game theory applications to current events, called Mind Your Decisions. Readers of this blog who are interested in game theory will definitely enjoy this blog, as the explanations are clear, and presented in an understandable, often fun, manner. You can find just about everything relating to game theory, ranging from jokes to questions on current events, and even links to other blog posts. I won't rob you of the joy of discovery by linking to specific parts.

As you can see, learning about game theory is just about learning math, it's about evaluation your choices more effectively so that you can make better decisions. If you go through these resources, and thinking about how each type of challenge applies to your own life, you'll be amazed at what you can learn.

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