The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right and who is dead.
July 19, 2006 7:20 AM   Subscribe

Game Theory at the movies. The Princess Bride demonstrates the use of common knowledge, Butch Cassidy laments pareto equilibrium, and Swingers is an example of pooling equilibrium. Though no longer on the site, you can still see the most involved rock, paper, scissors game ever filmed [.mov].
posted by blahblahblah (25 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if Butch Cassidy is really pareto, is it? By spending so much to stop Butch Cassidy he's preventing previous robberies which could cost him more than that just Butch Cassidy by himself.
posted by geoff. at 7:30 AM on July 19, 2006

Truly you have a dizzying intellect.
posted by Sk4n at 7:30 AM on July 19, 2006

And they also have game theory on television. Old Lady Wheelchair Chicken, anyone?
posted by blahblahblah at 7:30 AM on July 19, 2006

Mmmm... Joan of Arcadia. That was actually a pretty funny clip.
posted by GuyZero at 7:35 AM on July 19, 2006

Hiring a posse to go after someone is almost never a Pareto improving move. The whole point of Pareto improvements is that all players must either see their utility increase or stay the same, as the result of the change. The person being hunted presumably loses utility, eliminating any possibility that creating the posse will generate a Pareto improvement.

Pareto improvement can be a very harsh criterion. For instance, sacrificing one person to save all of humanity would not be a Pareto improvement, because that one person's welfare would drop.

For one path around this, see 'Potential Pareto Improvement.'
posted by sindark at 7:43 AM on July 19, 2006

"You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Hahaha... [croak] "

Never thought to apply game theory to that. Nice.
posted by teece at 7:45 AM on July 19, 2006

I'm surprised Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner isn't on that list.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:49 AM on July 19, 2006

Though no longer on the site, you can still see the most involved rock, paper, scissors game ever filmed

Which is a TV show and not a "flim" in the filmy use of the term.
But still, a great sceene from a show I was sad to see go.
posted by cccorlew at 7:50 AM on July 19, 2006

I don't believe in game theory. I am a string theorist. I believe that it is made out of cotton and polyester.
posted by ND¢ at 8:00 AM on July 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

A propos of this thread is this AskMeFi thread.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:04 AM on July 19, 2006

geoff - the point is that the train operator's choice was NOT Pareto optimal. Everyone would be better off had the train operator paid Butch the value of the train's contents to stop robbing him (since security cost more than the robberies, making both parties worse off!)
posted by jewzilla at 8:11 AM on July 19, 2006

What the train operator did might be Kaldor-Hicks optimal, though.
posted by jewzilla at 8:12 AM on July 19, 2006


Of course, that ignores the deterrent value of making an example of those who rob you. If he had paid Butch off and others found out about it, chances are they would try to get the same treatment.

As such, it matters whether you are playing a simple game or a potentially iterated game.

As for Kaldor-Hicks, the robberies themselves might meet that standard, provided the level of utility derived from those who stole the money exceeds that which is lost to those from whom it was stolen. Given diminishing marginal returns, this may well be true.
posted by sindark at 8:30 AM on July 19, 2006

It always drove me nuts to watch "The Weakest Link" because it was clear that none of the contestants understood any game theory. The best strategy on that show would be to vote off the weakest player. Keep the strongest, and the pots would get bigger. Invariably, they would vote off the smartest players and end up with small pots.

Same thing with Survivor and Big Brother, although in those long duration games, it would be much harder to apply game theory.
posted by achmorrison at 8:44 AM on July 19, 2006

First of all, this is awesome. Second of all, completely agree about "The Weakest Link"; it was unwatchable in general, but made worse by the incompetence of the players. No one bothered to think about the performance of those around them.
posted by yerfatma at 9:07 AM on July 19, 2006

We all just lost the game.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:21 AM on July 19, 2006

Game theory applied to big brother - a simulation.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:50 AM on July 19, 2006

Something else about the Big Brother link, the simulation is actually surprisingly good at showing the Prisoner's Dilemma. It selects one of five key PD strategies: Tit for Tat, Suspicious Tit for Tat, Random Defects, Adaptive Defects, and, my favorite name, Grim Trigger, and then proceeds to play against you. It is as good an illustration out there of a repeated game under varying strategies as any I have seen on the web.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:56 AM on July 19, 2006

There is a glaring omission on their movie list: Star Trek II !
posted by vegetarian at 11:12 AM on July 19, 2006

Suprised nobody has mentioned this yet:

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Dragon, etc...
posted by lumpenprole at 12:37 PM on July 19, 2006

Surprisingly, it doesn't mention the fact that the explanation of the Nash equilibrium shown in A Beautiful Mind is wrong.

I can't remember how exactly it's wrong, but I remember reading a full proof in a book by Avinash Dixit that involved four-dimensional payoff matrices so I don't think I'll bother to work it out.
posted by matthewr at 12:37 PM on July 19, 2006

ISTR that it just didn't have much to do with a Nash; from memory it seemed to be describing something like a collective action problem. Not so much wrong as just plain not addressing the "optimal given everyone else's choices" character of a Nash eq.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:49 PM on July 19, 2006

I looked on Wikipedia, which suggests that each man men had, for the given set of other players' strategies (go for the brunette), a higher-payoff strategy (go for the blonde); that seems plausible.
posted by matthewr at 1:39 PM on July 19, 2006

Thanks a lot, blue_beetle. A LOT.
posted by cgc373 at 1:59 PM on July 19, 2006

Does anyone want to tell us what that movie clip was, since it's been metafied?

I recommend people use coraled links, eh?

posted by Deathalicious at 4:22 AM on July 20, 2006

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