Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The “Prisoner's Dilemma” moratorium

[Perhaps the nicest thing about having a blog is being able to shoot off an angry post when a news story annoys you.]

I'm not sure what the best way to get the ball rolling here would be (perhaps a kickstarter?) but we need  to have a strictly enforced rule that no journalist or pundit is allowed to mention the prisoner's dilemma for the next five or ten years, however long it takes to learn to use it properly and, more importantly, discover that game theory consists of more than that one concept.

If we could just get writers to stop mistaking a stag hunt for prisoner's dilemma, it would be a massive improvement. I see this all the time and it drives me crazy.

Then there are ideas like Schelling focal points. As mentioned before, while most political commentators have had what can only be described as a humiliating season, a handful (notably Josh Marshall, Jonathan Chait and Paul Krugman) have actually enhanced their reputations. One of Krugman's best posts of the year was this game theory-based analysis of the over-reaction to the results in Iowa (more on my reaction here).

Not to name any names, but a lot of writers would be looking better now if they had spent more time thinking about focal points and less time claiming to see inflection points.

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