What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Question: What is Game Theory?

Barry Nalebuff: Game theory is a science of strategy. It’s anticipating how others will respond to what you are doing and realizing that you can actually change what they are doing.

In Physics, there’s the Third Law: For every action, there is a reaction equal and opposite. But in game theory, you could influence what the other person’s reaction is. It’s not programmed. You can change it.

Question: What is the history of game theory?

Barry Nalebuff: Since game theory is a science of strategy, and people have been thinking strategically forever, you can go back to the Peloponnesian War.

But I think, as a real science, in terms of being mathematized, being formalized, it goes back to Von Neumann and Morgenstern and really just about 55 years ago. It was during the war [i.e. WWII], in terms of thinking about how to locate enemy submarines and the cat and mouse game is where it began.

It started really with zero sum games, the notion that, I’ll find your sub, I’ll destroy you before you destroy me. So one person wins and one person losses.

Then John Nash, who later became famous with “A Beautiful Mind,” created the next important development, which is cooperative games; understanding that games don’t have to be just be zero sum. He gave us the concept of, what’s now called Nash equilibrium, basically a resting point for a game. A place where what I’m doing is best, given what I think you’re doing. And what you are doing is best, given what you believe that I’m doing.

And, one, it wasn’t clear that games all have such a resting point. And he showed that pretty much they do, though not always in something called the pure strategies, or a fixed strategy, like sometimes in football or in tennis I’ll [IB] your forehand or backhand or I have to bluff.

But when you allow that type of general strategies, then Nash showed that each game does have such a happy end point.

It is important to remember actually that solution to the game isn’t always a good solution. So just because people are happy with what they are doing, doesn’t mean it’s good for society.

Recorded on: Oct 2, 2008

 

 

Barry Nalebuff on the Histo...

Newsletter: Share: