The World the Game Theorists Made
The World the Game Theorists Made
The World the Game Theorists Made seeks to explain the ascendency of game theory, focusing on the poorly understood period between the publication of John von Neumann and Oscar Morgenstern’s seminal Theory of Games and Economic Behavior in 1944 and the theory’s revival in economics in the 1980s. Drawing on a diverse collection of institutional archives, personal correspondence and papers, and interviews, Paul Erickson shows how game theory offered social scientists, biologists, military strategists, and others a common, flexible language that could facilitate wide-ranging thought and debate on some of the most critical issues of the day.
"In this deeply researched and readable book, historian Erickson chronicles the passage of game theory from mathematical economics to arms-control theory to evolutionary biology, and back to economics. Until now, there has been remarkably little written about the history of game theory since its creation in 1944...Erickson brings a distinctive voice to the material. The book will edify and surprise even specialists, let alone the rest of us, who have to live in a world created by game theorists whether or not we can articulate the pay-offs in the matrix."
"This valuable work provides an academic overview of the history of game theory, including applications in economics, biology, military strategy, psychology, and political science. Erickson presents game theory as both a theory and a tool for rational reasoning processes, based ultimately on probabilistic ideas. Working from an examination of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944), he explores game theory's role in military decision making during the Cold War arms race, contrasted to its role in understanding human learning, information processing, and individual decision making. Erickson extends the conflict resolution roles of game theory into evolutionary biology and natural selection processes. Overall, this is a quality effort complemented by detailed chapter notes and extensive references. Recommended."
“[A] carefully researched history of game theory, and an ambitious project: Erickson’s aim is to provide a unifying narrative of more than 50 years of game theory following the publication of von Neumann & Morgenstern’s (1944) Theory of Games and Economic Behavior….[A]n important work recommended to anyone interested in the evolution of game theory and its entanglements with the postwar political establishment, its mutual influence with the social sciences, and its major players.”
The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought
"Paul Erickson has written a vital book. Game theory has been a critical part of the social, mathematical, and biological sciences for several decades. It has also seeped into the popular imagination. Yet until now no one has tracked the theory’s odyssey across the disciplines, or explained its peculiar appeal and adaptability. Treating game theory as both tool and ideology, The World the Game Theorists Made thrillingly fills out this story. Perhaps most strikingly, Erickson shows how game theory has survived despite its repeated failure to fulfill the highest hopes of its exponents. This is an outstanding and sure-to-be influential study of twentieth-century science and social thought."
Joel Isaac, Christ's College, Cambridge
“This is the first work I am aware of that treats the history of game theory as a whole, rather than restricting itself to game theory in a specific discipline. In light of the highly interdisciplinary nature of game theory (just look at the schedule for the Game Theory World Congress!), this represents an obvious hole in the literature, one that The World the Game Theorists Made is poised to fill.”
Scott Ashworth, University of Chicago
“Whereas the literature in game theory is vast, critical studies of its philosophy and history are scarce. The World the Game Theorists Made narrates the early development and dissemination of game theory, from von Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior onward, displaying thorough knowledge of the primary texts and novel insights into the theory’s idiosyncratic development. The field of game theory has met its match in Erickson’s steady unraveling of the threads of the intricate tapestry its legacy now represents.”
S. M. Amadae, Ohio State University
"Drawing on a diverse collection of institutional archives, personal correspondence and papers, and interviews, Paul Erickson shows how game theory offered social scientists, biologists, military strategists, and others a common, flexible language that could facilitate wide-ranging thought and debate on some of the most critical issues of the day."
Table of Contents
Chapter 2. Acts of Mathematical Creation
Chapter 3. From “Military Worth” to Mathematical Programming
Chapter 4. Game Theory and Practice in the Postwar Human Sciences
Chapter 5. The Brain and the Bomb
Chapter 6. Game Theory without Rationality
Chapter 7. Dreams of a Final Theory