Tag: game theory

Pirates Dividing the Spoil


This is a classic logic problem. Briefly, the setup runs like this:

A band of cutthroats have skedaddled with some loot. Now comes the time to divide the take. The captain proposes a split of the treasure and the assembled pirates vote on it. If a majority of them approve of the split (or the vote is tied) the lucre is so divided. If a majority disapprove they make the captain walk the plank. Then the next highest ranked pirate takes over as captain and proposes his own split of the booty. How do they divide up the spoil?

Women: Why Bother?


Laid up with some injuries, figure I might as well write something provocative so I can enjoy the show.

I’m a single guy. Let’s assume that I do want to get married and have kids. Safe assumption. Let’s walk through the process as modern feminism has wrought it.

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Let’s say you’re playing chess. You make your move, confident that you’re giving him trouble, and you take your hand off the piece. As soon as you do, though, you see what you missed. If he moves his knight… there then he’s going to capture your queen the move after. What do you do? You […]

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The Game Theory Argument for Fast-Track Trade Authority


While public debate rages over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the real issue before Congress right now is merely whether or not President Obama should be granted fast-track authority, which allows him to negotiate a treaty on behalf of the United States and then present it to the Congress for a straight up-or-down vote with no amendments allowed. As I note in my new piece for Defining Ideas at the Hoover Institution, there’s a very strong game theory rationale for giving the president this ability:

… [F]ast-track is a good solution to a complex two-stage bargaining game. At stage one, the President and his trading partners are well aware of the prospect that the Congress could turn down a trade treaty if it is perceived, no questions asked, to put the United States in a worse position. So Congress will agree to a treaty that is better than the status quo ante for the U.S., but not so one-sided that it will drive our potential trading partners away. Hence, a stage one agreement will leave everyone better off.

In Memorium: John Nash


John_Forbes_Nash I want to take note of John Nash’s death this weekend. Nash was a pivotal figure in several disciplines, and was the subject of the movie A Beautiful Mind. He was a man who suffered mental illness, and at times the suffering was severe.

I came across his work by studying game theory, in which his theory of “Nash equilibrium” is a basic building block. His equilibrium is what allows us to predict rational behavior (although it can’t predict whether the players are rational). The short version is that there are situations in which a person is rational to choose a particular strategy, regardless of what the other players do. That’s what makes that strategy predictable.

The genius, really, was in the simplicity of it. Some of the greatest geniuses became geniuses because they took some subject that had baffled people previously, but they were able to present it in such a way that everyone who followed said, “of course.” Nash was one of those guys.

Member Post


After decades of voting faithfully and without fail, I am not voting this November. As with most such decisions, there are several reasons, some specific to my circumstances and some more general. The main reasons can be grouped into two categories: Game theory: One person’s vote almost never matters. Voting doesn’t pay, in the rigorous […]

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