Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Monday, October 10, 2005

And for $1.2 million, the prize goes to...

Thomas Schelling!

Congratulations are in order for Thomas Schelling (along with Robert Aumann) for winning the "Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2005." What got them the win? Their work in developing non-cooperative game theory and applying it to social sciences. To read more about their work, check out this PDF.

Mr. Schelling's work has been extremely influential in many areas, of both policy and education, and was some of the most enjoyable and interesting work I have studied. Schelling's book, Arms and Influence, is a must-read for anyone interested in International Relations, Security, or Nuclear Strategy and Policy. His application of game theory makes his analysis both salient and easily understandable, which is probably why it's taught to most students who take up international relations. Mr. Schelling's game of "chicken" (or "hawk/dove") is an excellent example.

Most people are familiar with the game of chicken; if you've seen The Last Action Hero you know it. Two cars drive at eachother as fast as they can, with the object being not to crash, but to be the person who doesn't swerve out of the way to avoid the crash. Methods to help win can include: having a winning reputation in the game, throwing away your steering wheel as the two cars are coming at eachother, and having a nice 4-point harness ala Payback.

Applying this game to IR, there are of course multiple levels. If I beat you the first time, perhaps you gain a reputation as someone who is weak, and you want to eliminate that rep, so you challenge me again. In the second game, I have to be careful because it's possible that you value shedding the "loser" label so much you make irrational choices and have every intention of crashing into me. When applying this same thing to IR and security studies, it isn't too difficult. Say one country Positions missiles to fire into their adversary. The adversary positions their missiles to fire into the original participant's country, and says if the aggressor doesn't back down, they'll fire their missiles. Who backs down first? Does not backing down really give you a win? What happens if you fire first, and destroy the 2nd country's ability to strike back (second-strike)? There are many levels and considerations that need to be played out, and they all make these studies very interesting.

If you have the time or inclination, I heartily recommend checking out some of Schelling's works.


  • I strongly agree. Congratulations are definitely in order. I can also now say I met a Nobel laureate.

    However, if we're going to talk about contributions to game theory, I still say William Riker should have been acknowledged first. But he's dead, and Herbert Simon probably stole his glory.

    And no, for non-students of economics, I'm not talking about Star Trek. Even though his nickname is "Commander Riker."

    By Anonymous brett, at 10/11/2005 8:12 PM  

  • Everybody knows that Admiral Kirk is much more deserving of the award than Riker.

    Riker's got that twin guy who causes trouble.

    By Blogger Jason, at 10/12/2005 1:06 PM  

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