Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Game Theory Defined... At least for now.

I’ve been thinking about game theory recently, and my thoughts keep going in circles. I thought if I tried to put down some of the thoughts, then maybe I can get it all straight in my head.

So in order to discuss game theory in a logical and rational way, Spock would tell us we first need to define it. That would be the Star Trek Spock, not the Dr. Spock. I’m not quite sure what the Dr. Spock would say.

Definitions are always hard. The more they exclude, the more useful, but narrow, they are. But then they don’t fit everything you think needs to be there. But as you broaden the definition, it becomes less useful. My favorite example of this is from Dr. David Wiley who, after reading a definition of learning objects, stated that it was incredibly “broad, and on examination fails to exclude any person, place, thing, or idea that has existed at anytime in the history of the universe.” Reading that piece is one of the few times I can ever remember laughing out loud whilst reading academic literature.

But I’m stalling. So what do I mean when I talk about game theory? I think game theory can be employed when two or more people are engaged in an interactive situation where both can affect the outcomes of the other. Once employed, game theory helps us to describe a past outcome, predict a future outcome, or prescribe action so the outcome is more likely to be the one we want.

I admit it, that is very broad definition, but I think game theory has useful applications well beyond ‘games’ or military strategies. It can help us understand love, war, pollution, rush hour, and everything in between.

More on this later; my three year old can’t quite go to bed on his own. The Velcro on his pajamas has worn off so I need to go find duct tape.

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