Thursday, February 12, 2009

Game theory is about "game" or about "theory"??

I am a little bit disappointed with what I have encountered in the game theory quiz today and what I have learned in this course in general. If game theory is all about different types of games, with little or no explicit implication on how the world works or how people really interact, then I'd rather not to get trained in this direction. Otherwise, if game theory is about theory, then here comes another issue which I care about -- what is the ultimate role of the game theory as a whole? What should we expect to get from it? Based on my shallow knowledge so far, I would insist that game theory is not only an apparatus of thinking, but also a way of simplification of the complex social phenomena we observe everyday. In my opinion, a theory is fulfilling its mission if it can be sucessfully applied to explain real world phenomena. For me or maybe for many applied game theorists out there, game theory would be powerful in revealing some hidden patterns of collective human behavior, only if it is applied appropriately -- in the sense that the application should be accompanied by some insightful understandings of the real world, and that it should not be just for fun. Perhaps for the sake of the developement of game theory as a field, theorists need to be more abstract and need to push their wild imagination further and further away so that different and interesting patterns might be discovered. However, theorists are sometimes too obsessed with the ingenuity and delicacy of their own baby models, and forget what the next step they should take.

If I were asked to give some examples of game theory models that satisfy my own judgement criterion, I would certainly list a few. Spence's signaling game would be one, Kreps's reputation game would be another, and perhaps more models in complete and incomplete contracting literature would also prevail. As to some counterexamples, maybe I would vote for various versions of extensions of Rubinstein's bargaining game. Although ingenious as they are, these games have not generated intuitive insights that can be used to shed light on real bargaining situations.

Correct me if I were wrong.

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