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Rock, Paper, Scissors : Game Theory In Everyday Life
Praised by Entertainment Weekly as "the man who put the fizz into physics," Dr. Len Fisher turns his attention to the science of cooperation in his lively and thought-provoking book. Fisher shows how the modern science of game theory has helped biologists to understand the evolution of cooperation in nature, and investigates how we might apply those lessons to our own society. In a series of experiments that take him from the polite confines of an English dinner party to crowded supermarkets, congested Indian roads, and the wilds of outback Australia, not to mention baseball strategies and the intricacies of quantum mechanics, Fisher sheds light on the problem of global cooperation. The outcomes are sometimes hilarious, sometimes alarming, but always revealing. A witty romp through a serious science, Rock, Paper, Scissors will both teach and delight anyone interested in what it what it takes to get people to work together.
Physicist and Ig Nobel Prize-winner Fisher (How to Dunk a Doughnut) explores how game theory illuminates social behavior in this lively study. Developed in the 1940s, game theory is concerned with the decisions people make when confronted with competitive situations, especially when they have limited information about the other players' choices. Every competitive situation has a point called a Nash Equilibrium, in which parties cannot change their course of action without sabotaging themselves, and Fisher demonstrates that situations can be arranged so that the Nash Equilibrium is the best possible outcome for everyone. To this end, he examines how social norms and our sense of fair play can produce cooperative solutions rather than competitive ones. Fisher comes up short of solving the problem of human competitiveness, but perhaps that is too tall an order. Game theory works better as a toolkit for understanding behavior than as a rule book for directing it. Fisher does succeed in making the complex nature of game theory accessible and relevant, showing how mathematics applies to the dilemmas we face on a daily basis. (Nov.)
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November 02, 2008
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