Summary of Rock, Paper, Scissors

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Len Fisher, an award-winning author of popular science books, has written an entertaining, enlightening and practical guide to the abstruse discipline of game theory. Fisher shows how game theory explains phenomena as mundane as why spoons go missing from a coffee break room, as ingenious as rabbinical problem solving in the Talmud and as fateful as global warming. getAbstract finds that his lively writing invites a wide audience. Fisher engages lay readers by elucidating an intensively mathematical subject without heavy reliance on equations or jargon. His treatment of the subject makes game theory appear only slightly more complicated than child’s play. In fact, he often uses children’s games to illustrate the role of game theory in daily life.

About the Author

Len Fisher, Ph.D., is the author of Weighing the Soul and How to Dunk a Doughnut, which was named Best Popular Science Book of the year by the American Institute of Physics. He is the recipient of an Ig Nobel Prize for calculating the optimal way to dunk a doughnut.



Games People Play

Game theory explains many of life’s mysteries and provides a way to understand everything from domestic squabbles to military confrontations. Game theory is based on more than competition. In fact, cooperation may be the ideal response in some games. Individuals, groups and entire nations can sidestep some traps in game theory by getting along instead of allowing destructive competition to intensify.

One of the most famous destructive patterns in game theory is known as “the Tragedy of the Commons.” Game theorist Garrett Hardin publicized this pattern in 1968, using the example of grazing land that several livestock herders share. Each herder can make a little extra profit by allowing one more animal to graze. But if all of the herders do so, overgrazing will ensue and the land will turn barren. The Tragedy of the Commons also explains why spoons may disappear from a company’s coffee break room. Each employee who takes a spoon from the break room gains some convenience at no cost. But, of course, when every person takes a spoon, none remain. This theory also sheds light on such serious issues as international conflicts over global warming. Each country...

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