My most recent blog was a memorial to John Nash, founding father of mathematical game theory and cooperative gaming in particular. Nash, whom the move A Beautiful Mind was about, died last week in a car accident in New York. Some people have asked me for more on how game theory demonstrates the logic of cooperation that Nash’s work relates to.
To answer that, check out this video from ASAP Science: Nice Guys Finish First. SEE THE END OF THIS POST. The video shows why cooperation affords the most reliable gain in a Prisoner’s Dilemma game scenario. Prisoner’s Dilemma is a card game in which both players try to win as much money as possible and also avoid losing the money they already have. Basically, cooperation is the safest solution for both players in Prisoner’s Dilemma and it assures they will both win a pretty good chunk of change, if not the absolute maximum that the selfish solution provides. For both players to get a good return and avoid maximum loss, both players need to decide within themselves to give up trying to win at the other player’s expense. Though the game of Prisoner’s Dilemma is constructed so that grabbing the goods from a cooperator does maximize immediate financial reward, it is also true that this ultimate victory is unlikely. The risk that someone will be selfish is a bummer coz it introduces maximum risk of loss to each player…and further it guarantees that if both players are selfish they are certain to both lose, and thereby forfeit the opportunity they would have had to win a nice sum if they had only cooperated. Prisoner’s dilemma is a cautionary tale about greed.
Also check out the Tit for Tat computer simulation game that shows the best game strategy of any is cooperative. I won’t explain it all here. Basically though, Tit for Tat looks at statistics of many rounds of play and it shows cooperation wins. Tit for Tat translates to real life this way: cooperation breeds trust and trust creates helping communities. In a helping community, everyone gives and takes so that each individual gets material support from others. Note that in game theory they don’t even talk about the emotional and neuro-physiological benefits of sharing and helping that the evolutionary biologists and positive psychologists talk about. And the spiritual benefits of cooperation? That’s WAY off of the game theory map. What game theory does is to show that cooperation is indeed rational over time in many game scenarios…so much for the competitive mantra about greed being in one’s “rational self interest”. That is SOOOO old paradigm!
The last part of the video “Nice Guys Finish First” demonstrates that Nature is onto the logic of cooperation as well, since individuals who are “nice” are trusted and helped by their peers. The thing about competing to win is that it looks like success in the short term and from the perspective that we can all just walk away from negative impacts we have on others. Taking the longer view however, cooperation is the best, and even the most rational, option for one and all.