Saturday, February 17, 2007

Game theory for primitives

Tom Schelling has more than once (see interview on page A9 of today's WSJ) written that nuclear proliferation is inevitable so we must somehow press for increased sophistication by those who obtain them. Of course. The fear has always been that nutcases get their hands on them and there is an abundance of these. I am not sure that epiphanies automatically accompany gaining the weapons.

Jeffrey Sachs suggests game theory teaches us to practice "generous tit-for-tat".

"Today’s game theorists would describe [Pres. John F.] Kennedy’s strategy as “generous tit-for-tat” (GTFT). A player adopts a position of cooperation as long as the other side does, too. If the second player begins to cheat, the first player stops cooperating as well, to show the cheater that there are adverse consequences... The door remains forgivingly open to future cooperation, however, if the cheater reverts... And generously, the first player might initiate renewed cooperation, with a view to enticing the former cheater to reciprocate. GTFT is so successful and robust that many evolutionary biologists suppose that the basic strategy is somewhat hardwired in human attitudes...."

I have no idea how relevant any of this is for the primitives who I see spreading mayhem on the nightly news.