Prisoner's Dilemma

William Poundstone, Author Doubleday Books $22.5 (290p) ISBN 978-0-385-41567-5
When it flourished in the 1950s, game theory, the construct of Hungarian-born mathematician John von Neumann (1903-1957), was the dominant metaphor for nuclear war debates. Game theorists today operate on more modest economic and organizational models but this reevaluation of game theory's development is nevertheless interesting. Poundstone's three-dimensional outline of the mathematics of game theory sketches von Neumann's life and offers game theory scenarios of Cold War history. The ``prisoner's dilemma'' is the classic model of conflict situations in which strategies leading to either individual gain or the common good are examined. Featuring much of the think tank/parlor game quality that makes game theory so seductive, Poundstone ( The Recursive Universe ) wisely restricts his discussion of von Neumann to that which serves his theme. The West's Cold War policy was formed around the structure of game theory at the RAND Corporation and other think tanks; Poundstone makes essential connections among the theory, von Newmann's politics and historical forces. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Open Ebook - 282 pages - 978-0-307-76378-5
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1078-2
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-385-41580-4
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