Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Game Theory Wins Nobel

So the latest Nobel for Economics was awarded to Robert J. Aumann, and Thomas C. Schelling for the development of Game Theory. Interestingly Game Theory has not only affected economics, politics (especially with regards to nuclear proliferation) but also Evolution. Gene Selection employed ideas from Game Theory to predict how genes could spread in a population by promoting altruism. Genes that promote certain "rules of behavior" that reward other individuals that play by the rules (and thus share the gene in question) while punishing those that cheat (and hence do not share this gene) can become stable in a population. Such a behavioral strategy is called (in Game Theory and Evolution Biology) an Evolutionary Stable Strategy (or ESS). One famous example is the Tit-for-Tat behavior (read this great site for more on Tit-for-tat). One offspring of gene selection is Sociobiology, which in my view has been unfairly attacked for political reasons - if you can get a hold of the last issue of Seed Magazine, it has an excellent article on the history of Sociobiology.

For more on all these related topics I highly recommend Richard Dawkin's landmark book, The Selfish Gene.