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Showing posts from June 3, 2012

prisoner's dilemma world

The conceptual children of the Cold War came out of its belly with the apocalypse in their eyes, a mindset conditioned by the great global unconditional surrender of the Axis. There was a ghastly optimism in it that danced in the nuked ruins of cities, and then rebuilt them carefully, like the potential targets that they were. Keep your high use population away from the epicenter, and let the low use population take the brunt - that was the day's secret slogan. Among this progeny one finds the “prisoner’s dilemma.” Like all the problems in game theory, the prisoner’s dilemma arose in the fold between economics and the Air Force – between the Cowles commission and the Rand corporation, between the economy of managed demand of the future and the Air Force’s interest in dropping hydrogen bombs, or at least  threatening to, for maximum effect. In reality, it came out of a problem in game theory developed at Rand and observed by Albert Tucker, a Princeton mathematician who grasped th

Zona report

Juri Lotman begins one of his essays with the following anecdote: “There is a story about an episode in the life of the famous mathematician P. L. Chebyshev. At one of his lectures on the subject of the mathematical aspects of cutting clothes, there appeared an unexpected audience consisting of tailors, fashion-able ladies, and so on. However, the first sentence spoken by the lecturer-"Let us suppose for simplicity's sake that the human body has the form of a sphere"-put them to flight. Only mathematicians who found nothing surprising in this opening remark remained in the hall. The text selected its own audience, creating it in its own image.” The anecdote mixes in just that little bit of Gogol to make a flying leap forward into Lotman’s subject, which is that selection mechanism. I, however, think that the anecdote fits, equally, what has been happening to us in the economic realm in the Zona era. In 2008, I named the coming depression the Zona because it ni