By Devang Patel

Have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law?  Googling Murphy’s Law, it goes something like this.  “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”  Now if you’ve ever worked on a huge project, you know exactly what I mean.  So if you know the worst will come…how do we defend against it?  Preparation.  As the wise Benjamin Franklin says:

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”

That’s where Game Theory comes in.  Google gives a quick definition of game theory:

 “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers.” Game theory is mainly used in economics, political science, and psychology, as well as logic, computer science, biology and poker.”    

But to me the best way to explain Game Theory is this.  It’s setting yourself up in such a way that the chances of Murphy’s Law occurring is minimized to the least probability in a given situation.  Now each decision leads to a new possible outcome and each possible outcome has a consequence.  In order to succeed, it’s the player’s job to make sure that each action made is a purposeful one, the purpose being to succeed.  The best decisions (although it sounds like common sense)…are the ones that increase the chance of success and also decrease the chance of failure at the same time.  Those are the moves you have to find…to win.

Here’s an article that does a better job explaining it than wikipedia does.

The cool part is that game theory can be applied to anything.  By understanding the basics you’ve probably increased your chances of success by 40% (Even though you’ve probably applied it without even knowing it sometimes…i.e.  intuition).  Intuition doesn’t just come from nowhere…your brain has made a subconscious analysis of your environment/situation and intuition is just the answer popping into your thoughts.  Have you ever wondered why your intuitions or “gut feelings” are usually correct?   Intuition is the “answer” that comes to your brain after it has “crunched the possible scenarios” to find the best possible answer.  So stick to your guts my friends…as long as you’re thinking rationally that is!

So if Murphy’s Law exists…do you have to prepare for every possible fail?  No ofcourse not!  We must think about the most realistic situations of failure and prepare for those in a given situation.  i.e. I will study for this exam instead of wasting time watching TV or going out with my friends.

However things become interesting and complex when you put 2 contradicting choices together.  i.e. I want to have as much fun as I can and also get the highest score on the exam.   The problem is that the game is a zero-sum game:

 a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s).

So in the same example about studying and having fun…you cannot have too much fun and still get the highest score on the test.  And vice versa you can’t study all the time and expect to have the most fun either.  So go study…but take a few breaks too!

Here’s a brief youtube video sums it up.

Until next time.

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