28 April 2010

Game Theory - Self Interest vs Collective Interest

This stuff can get pretty complicated, but in a nutshell, here is what its about - highly relevant to resolving the sustainability challenge:

Excerpt from the New Scientist, 17 March 2010

'The classic example of a problem in game theory is the prisoner's dilemma. It was formulated in 1950 to illustrate a situation where cooperation is the best policy overall but is trumped by raw self-interest, leading to a less-than-ideal outcome for everybody. It goes something like this.

You and your partner in crime have been arrested and placed in separate cells. You are each offered the following deal by the prosecutor: confess, or remain silent.

If you confess and your partner remains silent, all charges will be dropped against you and your partner will go to prison for 10 years.

If you remain silent and your partner confesses, he will go free and you will go down for 10 years.

If you both confess, you will both be sent to prison for 5 years.

If both of you stay silent the prosecutor will rustle up some lesser charge and you'll each do 6 months.

Neither you nor your partner will learn what choice the other has made until after you have both announced your decision.

The dilemma is that, whatever your partner does, you're better off confessing. So the rational choice is to confess. But when you both confess, the outcome is far worse than if you had both remained silent.'

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