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Snippets about: Game Theory

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Evolution Favors Forgiveness

The Prisoner's Dilemma is the most famous scenario in game theory: two prisoners are being interrogated separately. If both stay silent, they each get a short sentence. If one rats the other out, the snitch goes free while their partner gets a long sentence. If they both snitch, both get medium sentences. The rational play is to always snitch.

The question is, how can cooperation ever emerge in a dog-eat-dog world? The surprising answer: forgiveness. Computer simulations of evolutionary processes show that the most successful long-term strategies for iterated Prisoner's Dilemma games are "nice" ones - they start out cooperating and only defect if their partner does first. But critically, they also quickly return to cooperating if the partner starts behaving nicely again.

Tit-for-tat, but with reconciliation. Strict punishment of defectors, but no grudges. Why does this work? Essentially, being forgiving avoids an endless cycle of retaliation. One party's selfish action doesn't lead to an arms race of increasing betrayal.

This sheds light on the evolutionary origins of seemingly irrational human behaviors like empathy and mercy. Natural selection can counterintuitively favor "nice" strategies.

Section: 1, Chapter: 11

Book: Algorithms to Live By

Author: Brian Christian

The Uncertainty of the Nerd

The ludic fallacy refers to the misuse of games, gambling, and probability theory to model real-world phenomena. It occurs when we confuse the clean, tidy, clearly defined randomness found in games of chance with the far more complex, open-ended randomness found in real life. An example is equating the odds of winning a casino roulette spin (where probability can be cleanly defined) with the odds of a real-world event like a war breaking out (where probability is far more intractable). Those who spend too much time in artificial, ludic environments can become "nerds" - people who think explicitly about probability but fail to understand how randomness operates in the real world.

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: The Black Swan

Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Books about Game Theory

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