Pop Culture

Game theory in film, music, and fiction.


The Mind Game

Suggested by Bruno Shovelton and others (by Mike Shor)

Hector Macdonald's first novel incorporates game-theoretic notions and confronts Home Economicus with the emotion-driven man. Many references to game theory abound. First, we must recognize that everything is a game:

"First rule of game theory: do whatever produces the optimal final outcome for you."
"I didn't know we were playing a game."
"But of course we are. . . ."

Yet, interests coincide more often than not, and zero-sum mentality may be misplaced:

"Your mistake is to assume that every game must be a conflict. You are so concerned with winners and losers, with defecting prisoners, that you ignore a whole array of animal behaviour: straightforward, self-serving cooperation."

Is there room for human emotion? Not according to one character, who sees it only as clouding judgement:

"View interactions with others through the dispassionate lens of game theory: use backwards induction, like a chess player, to work out what action on your part will induce your opponent to behave in the way that best favours you."

Mike Shor, 2005