Sunday, February 24, 2008

Prisoner's Dilemma of Game Theory

An interesting game of the following scenario-
You have two people in jail, awaiting do process. You know they're guilty of some awful crime, but you have no concrete evidence. If they cooperate with each other and both deny the crime, they would get away with a fine, a slap on the wrist. Now, you separate them and inform each that if he/she confesses and the other doesn't, he/she would get off completely; and if they both confess, they'd get a more lenient jail sentence.

Player1 / Player2




(2 , 2)

(0 , 3)


(3 , 0)

(1 , 1)

The table displays potential payoffs with respect to player 1 and 2. Each prisoner or player in this game must estimate the strategy of the other. The obviously best solution for both lies in them cooperating with each other and avoid therefore any jail time. However, each would risk receiving the maximum penalty to adopt that strategy. The payoff for confession lies in either walking free or a less severe punishment.

One can notice the conflict between individual and group interests easily. For each player, the potential payoff becomes higher if he/she chooses to confess. However as a group, the most efficient strategy results from both players cooperating with each other, where they both receive a payoff of 2 utilities.

The game resembles many group-work situations I have experienced in the past. Conflict of interest arises all the time, and it takes integrity and emotional strength to stick to the plan for the "greater good", or good of the group. Businesses have failed, relationships ruined, because some people choose strategies with greater individual payoff which could become self-sabotaging in the long run as the collective suffers.

Simple solutions exist. Team players must choose to be a "team player". A business, marriage, family, or a simple friendship requires all players to cooperate continuously for success. That sometimes requires faith in each other and individual sacrifice, and the result would be well worth it.

0 Reflections: