Monday, September 23, 2013

"Is game theory nothing but a fable?"

It appears that The Browser pulled the post that Professor Syll links to but Rubenstein has gone on record before this post, see for example this more in-depth 2012 interview.
From Lars P. Syll:
One of the world’s most renowned game theorists – Ariel Rubinstein – gives his — affirmative — answer in this interview (emphasis added):
What are the applications of game theory for real life?
Ariel_Rubinstein1That’s a central question: Is game theory useful in a concrete sense or not? Game theory is an area of economics that has enjoyed fantastic public relations. [John] Von Neumann [one of the founders of game theory] was not only a genius in mathematics, he was also a genius in public relations. The choice of the name “theory of games” was brilliant as a marketing device.

The word “game” has friendly, enjoyable associations. It gives a good feeling to people. It reminds us of our childhood, of chess and checkers, of children’s games. The associations are very light, not heavy, even though you may be trying to deal with issues like nuclear deterrence. I think it’s a very tempting idea for people, that they can take something simple and apply it to situations that are very complicated, like the economic crisis or nuclear deterrence. But this is an illusion. Now my views, I have to say, are extreme compared to many of my colleagues. I believe that game theory is very interesting. I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about it, but I don’t respect the claims that it has direct applications.
The hell you say.

HT: Mike Norman Economics where a couple commenters come close to saying Rubenstein doesn't know what he's talking about.
Probably members of the International Game Theorists Guild.

If you go there you may also want to see what Devlin says about math and usefulness in this morning's "Stanford's Keith Devlin: The Joy of Math", e.g.:
...Ms. Tippett: You know, this is — this is kind of tangential to that, but it feels a little bit related. One of the interesting ways you talk about how mathematics has evolved is that across history, there's abstract math going on, which has no conceivable application at the time in which it's being done. But, for example, you talked about how encryption systems that now run the Internet followed on work with prime numbers a couple of centuries ago, at which time it was outlandish to imagine that these things would ever have practical applications. And now, fundamental aspects of our reality depend on them.
Mr. Devlin: Yeah. In fact, one of the leading people, G.H. Hardy in Cambridge, actually went on record in a book and said — he was quite — because someone had challenged him about the fact that you can use these things for practical uses in mathematics. And he said — he went on record as saying, nothing he had done in his professional career could ever find practical application. And by golly, within a hundred years, this is the basis for the Internet in modern society and security.
Ms. Tippett: [laughs]
Mr. Devlin: So, if there's one thing history tells us, it's never, ever look at something and say this will never be used because in the case of mathematics, time and time again things come around and get used. I'm actually of two minds about this. I'm always surprised and I think, ‘Wow, this is what Eugene Wigner described as "the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.’"...