October 6, 2014

The seven damaging dilemmas

Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life

Let me pick the seven deadly social dilemmas from this book:
• Prisonner Dilemma, when communication between two people is not possible and this prevents any cooperation that would end in mutual profit.
• The Tragedy of the Commons, which is logically equivalent to a series of Prisoner’s Dilemmas played out between different pairs of people in a group.
• The Free Rider problem (a variant of the Tragedy of the Commons), which arises when people take advantage of a community resource without contributing to it.
• Chicken (also known as Brinkmanship), in which each side tries to push the other as close to the edge as they can, with each hoping that the other will back down first. It can arise in situations ranging from someone trying to push into a line of traffic to confrontations between nations that could lead to war, and that sometimes do.
• The Volunteer’s Dilemma, in which someone must make a sacrifice on behalf of the group, but if no one does, then everyone loses out. Each person hopes that someone else
will be the one to make the sacrifice, which could be as trivial as making the effort to put the garbage out or as dramatic as one person sacrificing his or her life to save others.
• The Battle of the Sexes, in which two people have different preferences, such as a husband who wants to go to a ball game while his wife would prefer to go to a movie. The catch is that each would rather share the other’s company than pursue their own preference alone.
• Stag Hunt, in which cooperation between members of a group gives them a good chance of success in a risky, highreturn venture, but an individual can win a guaranteed but lower reward by breaking the cooperation and going it alone.
Think for a similar situations in recent cases in close politics and health policy and management. For sure the improvement on the final resolution is related with this statement:
Cooperation would lead to the best overall outcome in all of these cases, but Nash’s trap (which is now called a Nash equilibrium) draws us by the logic of our own self-interest into a situation in which at least one of the parties fares worse but from which they can’t escape without faring worse still.
And if this is so, what then must we do?
  • Changing Our Attitudes: If we came to believe that it was immoral to cheat on cooperation, for example, that would obviously help to resolve many social dilemmas.
  • Benevolent Authority: Relying on an external authority to enforce cooperation and fair play.
  • Self-Enforcing Strategies: Developing strategies that carry their own enforcement so there is no incentive to cheat on cooperation once it has been established. 
And if this is so, how can we implement it?
And so on...