Prisoner's Dilemma/John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb

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Anchor Books, Jan 1, 1993 - Mathematics - 294 pages
Should you watch public television without pledging?...Exceed the posted speed limit?...Hop a subway turnstile without paying? These questions illustrate the so-called "prisoner's dilemma, " a social puzzle that we all face every day. Though the answers may seem simple, their profound implications make the prisoner's dilemma one of the great unifying concepts of science, an idea that has influenced leaders across the political spectrum and informed our views of conflicts ranging from the Cuban missile crisis to the Persian Gulf War. Watching players bluff in a poker game inspired John von Neumann--father of the modern computer and one of the sharpest minds of the century--to construct game theory, a mathematical study of conflict and deception. Game theory was readily embraced at the RAND Corporation, the archetypical think tank charged with formulating military strategy for the atomic age, and in 1950 two RAND scientists made a momentous discovery. Called the "prisoner's dilemma, " it is a disturbing and mind-bending game where two or more people may betray the common good for individual gain. Introduced shortly after the Soviet Union acquired the atomic bomb, the prisoner's dilemma quickly became a popular allegory of the nuclear arms race. Intellectuals such as von Neumann and Bertrand Russell joined military and political leaders in rallying to the "preventive war" movement, which advocated a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. Though the Truman administration rejected preventive war the United States entered into an arms race with the Soviets and game theory developed into a controversial tool of public policy--alternately accused of justifying arms races and touted as th only hope of preventing them. A masterful work of science writing, Prisoner's Dilemma weaves together a biography of the brilliant and tragic von Neumann, a history of pivotal phases of the cold war, and an investigation of game theory's far-reaching influence on public policy t
 

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PRISONER'S DILEMMA

User Review  - Kirkus

Here's one version: You and your partner are captured. If you rat on him ("defect'') and he is silent, you get off scot-free and he gets three years—and vice versa. If you both rat on each other, you ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - radicarian - LibraryThing

Great mixture of history and game theory, surprisingly exicting. Read full review

Contents

DILEMMAS
1
Prisoners Dilemma
11
The Institute
17
The Sturm und Drang Period
28
GAME THEORY
37
Cake Division
43
ZeroSum Games
51
Curve Balls and Deadly Genes
59
Was it a Trial Balloon?
155
Coda
164
Are People Rational?
171
von NEUMANNs LAST YEARs
179
CHICKEN AND THE CUBAN MISSILE
195
Volunteers Dilemma
201
The Madman Theory
212
Deadlock
218

THE BOMB
65
World Government
71
Preventive War
78
The RAnd corportATION
83
PRISONERs DiLEMMA
101
Tuckers Anecdote
116
Prisoners Dilemmas in Literature
123
Nuclear Rivalry
129
The Man from Mars
135
The Korean War
141
Francis Matthews
147
Howards MetaGame
226
is Defection in the Genes?
234
TIT FORTAT
240
Artificial Selection
246
TIT FOR tat in the Real World
253
Shubiks Dollar Auction
260
Strategies
266
The LargestNumber Game
272
Bibliography
279
Index
285
Copyright

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About the author (1993)

William Poundstone studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of The Recursive Universe, about information theory and physics, and Labyrinths of Reason, an exploration of paradox in science. He is also known as the author of such popular books as Big Secrets, The Ultimate, and Prisoner's Dilemma. He has written for Esquire, Harper's, SPY, and other periodicals. He lives in Los Angeles.

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