licenses for exploiting the electromagnetic spectrum. Game theory is helpful in matching medical residents to hospitals, in understanding the spread of disease, and in determining how to best vaccinate against various diseases—even to explain the incentives (or lack thereof) for hospitals to invest in fighting bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Game theory is valuable for understanding terrorist organizations and forecasting terrorist strategies. For analyzing voting behaviors, for understanding consciousness and artificial intelligence, for solving problems in ecology, for comprehending cancer. You can call on game theory to explain why the numbers of male and female births are roughly equal, why people get stingier as they get older, and why people like to gossip about other people.

Gossip, in fact, turns out to be a crucial outcome of game theory in action, for it’s at the heart of understanding human social behavior, the Code of Nature that made it possible for civilization to establish itself out of the selfish struggles to survive in the jungle. For it is in biology that game theory has demonstrated its power most dramatically, in explaining otherwise mysterious outcomes of Darwinian evolution. After all, people may not always play game theory the way you’d expect, but animals do, where the Code of Nature really is the law of the jungle.



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