Ariel Rubinstein brings his game theory debunking manifesto to The Browser.

In general, I would say there were too many claims made by game theoreticians about its relevance. Every book of game theory starts with “Game theory is very relevant to everything that you can imagine, and probably many things that you can’t imagine.” In my opinion that’s just a marketing device.

Let’s show its usefulness by using game theory to analyze Ariel Rubinstein.  We model him with the following game.  Ariel is the first mover.  He privately observes whether game theory is useful.  Then he has the first decision to make.  He can either announce publicly that game theory is not useful or stay silent.  If he stays silent the game is over.  If he announces then everybody else moves next.  We can either try to prove him wrong by citing examples where game theory is useful or we can stay silent.  Then the game ends.

Let’s solve the game by backward induction.  If Ariel has announced that game theory is not useful, each of us has a strong incentive to find examples to prove him wrong so we do (assuming game theory is in fact useful which we will find out by looking for examples.)  Knowing this, and having privately observed that game theory is useful and being the humble yet social-welfare maximizing (not to mention supremely strategic) person Ariel is, Ariel announces that game theory is not useful so as to give the rest of us the incentive and the glory of proving him wrong.

And so it is done.

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