Zak, who has also performed studies to localize the brain’s computing of utility, notes that such work revolutionizes the kinds of questions that economists can study.

“In economics we generally think of this utility function as pretty much uniform across individuals,” he said. “Now we can ask all kinds of questions about that. How stable is it, how different is it across people, why do you prefer coffee and I prefer tea? What if the price of coffee went up twice as much, what if you haven’t drunk coffee in two weeks? Do you value it more, do you value it less? These are really basic questions that may affect things like how things are priced in the market and it may affect how we design laws.”17

Yet while neuroeconomics may provide the foundation for understanding individual behavior and differences, it cannot alone provide the Code of Nature, or a science of human behavior like Asimov’s psychohistory. History comprises the totality of collective human behavior in various forms of social interaction— politically, economically, and culturally. It’s in understanding human culture that science must seek a Code of Nature, and game theory provides the best tool for that task.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement