Game Theory Applied

From the results of the United Kingdom's Brexit referendum in June to the endless, senseless violence making forgettable headline after forgettable headline every day, all of it fading into the backdrop of brutality and bloodshed, the world itself seems to have spun out of control. Amidst all the chaos, I wonder about choices. Not merely the choices driven by our socio-economic statuses but about the way individual choices impact the collective.

Many wonder how Brexit could have happened but the principles of game theory demonstrate that the exit was imminent. To simplify game theory - a person will chose their dominant strategy when their perceived payoff is higher. However, if an entire population chooses this same dominant strategy, the payoff per individual will decrease. Depending on your background, experience or education dictates whether you will choose a dominant strategy or not. Studies within classroom settings have shown that people who are more educated chose their non-dominant strategy not necessarily out of their own good will but because they assume that others who are choosing or "voting" are rational in not choosing their dominant strategy because they know that if everyone chooses their dominant strategy, the collective and the individual will be worse off.

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The problem is that people do not always make rational decisions this can be based on lack of information, imperfect information, biases, etc. Typically they do not put themselves in their opponent's shoes and assume others are also rational. Applied information and knowledge is power. However, there are 46 million of people in slavery today who do not have access to freedom, let alone education and information. Would they likely execute their dominant strategy? I was recently in India at a brick kiln where generations of families are enslaved to work for no pay, living in horrific conditions. Children are forced to work day in and day out without adequate food and water. Emancipation and freedom would be a great step, an important step for them, most assuredly, but they must have the proper infrastructure to know how do we empower them to make meaningful choices?

Author and non-profit leader Gregory Boyle sums it up really well, "You actually abolish slavery by accompanying the slave. We don't' strategize our way out of slavery, we solidarize, if you will, our way towards its demise. We stand in solidarity with the slave, and by so doing, we diminish slavery's ability to stand." I believe this if this belief and approach is applied to every facet of life, the world will be a better place for all, where everyone chooses a less dominant strategy.