Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb

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Should you watch public television without pledging?...Exceed the posted speed limit?...Hop a subway turnstile without paying? These questions illustrate the so-called "prisoner's dilemma," a social puzzle that we all face every day. Though the answers may seem simple, their profound implications make the prisoner's dilemma one of the great unifying concepts of science, an idea that has influenced leaders across the political spectrum and informed our views of conflicts ranging from the Cuban missile crisis to ...
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New This very readable book is partly a biography of John von Neumann, partly a nontechnical history of the branch of mathematics known as game theory, and partly a description ... of some of the paradoxical findings that arise from that theory. Von Neumann was a brilliant mathematician who was the major figure in the Manhattan Project and later an active public figure. Thus, those portions of the book that deal with his life are interesting and informative. Those sections that deal with game theory use no mathematics beyond simple arithmetic and are thus fascinating, thought provoking, and easily accessible to the layperson. For all biography and science collections. NEW COPY. FAST DELIVERY FROM S-E UK WITH PROMPT AND FRIENDLY SERVICE. NAME OF OWNER INSIDE. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ secti Read more Show Less

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Overview

Should you watch public television without pledging?...Exceed the posted speed limit?...Hop a subway turnstile without paying? These questions illustrate the so-called "prisoner's dilemma," a social puzzle that we all face every day. Though the answers may seem simple, their profound implications make the prisoner's dilemma one of the great unifying concepts of science, an idea that has influenced leaders across the political spectrum and informed our views of conflicts ranging from the Cuban missile crisis to the Persian Gulf War. Watching players bluff in a poker game inspired John von Neumann--father of the modern computer and one of the sharpest minds of the century--to construct game theory, a mathematical study of conflict and deception. Game theory was readily embraced at the RAND Corporation, the archetypical think tank charged with formulating military strategy for the atomic age, and in 1950 two RAND scientists made a momentous discovery. Called the "prisoner's dilemma," it is a disturbing and mind-bending game where two or more people may betray the common good for individual gain. Introduced shortly after the Soviet Union acquired the atomic bomb, the prisoner's dilemma quickly became a popular allegory of the nuclear arms race. Intellectuals such as von Neumann and Bertrand Russell joined military and political leaders in rallying to the "preventive war" movement, which advocated a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. Though the Truman administration rejected preventive war the United States entered into an arms race with the Soviets and game theory developed into a controversial tool of public policy--alternately accused of justifying arms races and touted as the only hope of preventing them. A masterful work of science writing, Prisoner's Dilemma weaves together a biography of the brilliant and tragic von Neumann, a history of pivotal phases of the cold war, and an investigation of game theory's far-reaching influence on public policy t

A fascinating biography of the dazzlingly brilliant Hungarian mathematician--considered by many to be the greatest genius of the 20th century--Prisoner's Dilemma tells the story of John Von Neumann, the inventor of the digital computer and key player in the invention of the atom bomb. Photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Poundstone's three-dimensional outline of game theory mathematics sketches the life of its inventor, John von Neumann, and his role in Cold War policy-making. Photos. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This very readable book is partly a biography of John von Neumann, partly a nontechnical history of the branch of mathematics known as game theory, and partly a description of some of the paradoxical findings that arise from that theory. Von Neumann was a brilliant mathematician who was the major figure in the Manhattan Project and later an active public figure. Thus, those portions of the book that deal with his life are interesting and informative. Those sections that deal with game theory use no mathematics beyond simple arithmetic and are thus fascinating, thought provoking, and easily accessible to the layperson. For all biography and science collections.-- Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll., CUNY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385415675
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/18/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.22 (d)

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