When to cooperate and when to defect

A new simulation called The Evolution of Trust does a good job of introducing the basic concepts of game theory.

As described on BoingBoing, it demonstrates a range of strategies that are possible in a multiplayer game which is iterated and not zero-sum. Most of this was already familiar to me from the international relations and environmental politics literatures, which are full of talk about prisoners’ dilemmas, security dilemmas, common property failures, and tragedies of the commons. The ‘detective’ strategy was new to me, however.

Game theory in general deserves criticism for being an inaccurate representation of actual human behaviour. Nevertheless, it has explanatory power in scenarios ranging from fishery depletion to tax evasion to nuclear war.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

4 thoughts on “When to cooperate and when to defect”

  1. Saddest quote in the demonstration: “In 1985, when Americans were asked how many close friends they had, the most common answer was ‘three’. In 2004, the most common answer was ‘zero’.

    (Bonus points for logical punctuation.)

  2. What if a book didn’t just give you old facts, but gave you the tools to discover those ideas for yourself, and invent new ideas? What if, while reading a blog post, you could insert your own knowledge, challenge the author’s assumptions, and build things the author never even thought of… all inside the blog post itself?

    What if, in a world where we’re asked to constantly consume knowledge, we construct knowledge?

    Explorable Explanations is an attempt at answering some of those questions. We’re a totally unorganized “movement” (if you can even call it that) of artists, programmers, and educators who make things & tools for active learning.

    Neurotic Neurons by Nicky Case
    an interactive animated-video-essay-thing on neurons & anxiety

    What Can A Technologist Do About Climate Change? by Bret Victor
    how tools, simulations, and exporables can combat climate change

  3. Backward induction is the process of reasoning backward in time, from the end of a problem or situation, to determine a sequence of optimal actions. It proceeds by first considering the last time a decision might be made and choosing what to do in any situation at that time. Using this information, one can then determine what to do at the second-to-last time of decision. This process continues backward until one has determined the best action for every possible situation.

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