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Topic: **Game theory**

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# Braess’s paradox

**Braess' paradox** is the observation that adding one or more roads to a road network can slow down overall traffic flow through it. The paradox was postulated in 1968 by German mathematician Dietrich Braess, who noticed that adding a road to a particular congested road traffic network would increase overall journey time.

The paradox may have analogies in electrical power grids and biological systems. It has been suggested that in theory, the improvement of a malfunctioning network could be accomplished by removing certain parts of it. The paradox has been used to explain instances of improved traffic flow when existing major roads are closed.

### Discussed on

- "Braess's Paradox" | 2021-05-16 | 64 Upvotes 30 Comments
- "Braess’s paradox" | 2018-09-22 | 134 Upvotes 37 Comments
- "Braess’ paradox" | 2017-01-08 | 136 Upvotes 91 Comments
- "Braess' paradox: adding a new road to a city can slow down traffic" | 2015-10-16 | 98 Upvotes 61 Comments

# Herd Immunity

**Herd immunity** (also called **herd effect**, **community immunity**, **population immunity**, or **social immunity**) is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through previous infections or vaccination, thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune. In a population in which a large proportion of individuals possess immunity, such people being unlikely to contribute to disease transmission, chains of infection are more likely to be disrupted, which either stops or slows the spread of disease. The greater the proportion of immune individuals in a community, the smaller the probability that non-immune individuals will come into contact with an infectious individual, helping to shield non-immune individuals from infection.

Individuals can become immune by recovering from an earlier infection or through vaccination. Some individuals cannot become immune due to medical reasons, such as an immunodeficiency or immunosuppression, and in this group herd immunity is a crucial method of protection. Once a certain threshold has been reached, herd immunity gradually eliminates a disease from a population. This elimination, if achieved worldwide, may result in the permanent reduction in the number of infections to zero, called eradication. Herd immunity created via vaccination contributed to the eventual eradication of smallpox in 1977 and has contributed to the reduction of the frequencies of other diseases. Herd immunity does not apply to all diseases, just those that are contagious, meaning that they can be transmitted from one individual to another. Tetanus, for example, is infectious but not contagious, so herd immunity does not apply.

The term "herd immunity" was first used in 1923. It was recognized as a naturally occurring phenomenon in the 1930s when it was observed that after a significant number of children had become immune to measles, the number of new infections temporarily decreased, including among susceptible children. Mass vaccination to induce herd immunity has since become common and proved successful in preventing the spread of many infectious diseases. Opposition to vaccination has posed a challenge to herd immunity, allowing preventable diseases to persist in or return to communities that have inadequate vaccination rates.

### Discussed on

- "Herd Immunity" | 2020-03-14 | 46 Upvotes 72 Comments

# John von Neumann

**John von Neumann** (; Hungarian: *Neumann János Lajos*, pronounced [ˈnɒjmɒn ˈjaːnoʃ ˈlɒjoʃ]; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. Von Neumann was generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time and said to be "the last representative of the great mathematicians"; who integrated both pure and applied sciences.

He made major contributions to a number of fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, representation theory, operator algebras, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics.

He was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics in the development of functional analysis, and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor and the digital computer.

He published over 150 papers in his life: about 60 in pure mathematics, 60 in applied mathematics, 20 in physics, and the remainder on special mathematical subjects or non-mathematical ones. His last work, an unfinished manuscript written while he was in hospital, was later published in book form as *The Computer and the Brain*.

His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA. In a short list of facts about his life he submitted to the National Academy of Sciences, he stated, "The part of my work I consider most essential is that on quantum mechanics, which developed in Göttingen in 1926, and subsequently in Berlin in 1927–1929. Also, my work on various forms of operator theory, Berlin 1930 and Princeton 1935–1939; on the ergodic theorem, Princeton, 1931–1932."

During World War II, von Neumann worked on the Manhattan Project with theoretical physicist Edward Teller, mathematician Stanisław Ulam and others, problem solving key steps in the nuclear physics involved in thermonuclear reactions and the hydrogen bomb. He developed the mathematical models behind the explosive lenses used in the implosion-type nuclear weapon, and coined the term "kiloton" (of TNT), as a measure of the explosive force generated.

After the war, he served on the General Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and consulted for a number of organizations, including the United States Air Force, the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As a Hungarian émigré, concerned that the Soviets would achieve nuclear superiority, he designed and promoted the policy of mutually assured destruction to limit the arms race.

### Discussed on

- "John von Neumann" | 2015-06-26 | 20 Upvotes 3 Comments

# Keynesian beauty contest

A **Keynesian beauty contest** is a concept developed by John Maynard Keynes and introduced in Chapter 12 of his work, *The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money* (1936), to explain price fluctuations in equity markets.

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- "Keynesian beauty contest" | 2011-06-12 | 81 Upvotes 27 Comments

# List of Games in Game Theory

Game theory studies strategic interaction between individuals in situations called games. Classes of these games have been given names. This is a list of the most commonly studied games

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- "List of games in game theory" | 2009-07-25 | 23 Upvotes 8 Comments

# Mechanism design

**Mechanism design** is a field in economics and game theory that takes an objectives-first approach to designing economic mechanisms or incentives, toward desired objectives, in strategic settings, where players act rationally. Because it starts at the end of the game, then goes backwards, it is also called **reverse game theory**. It has broad applications, from economics and politics (markets, auctions, voting procedures) to networked-systems (internet interdomain routing, sponsored search auctions).

Mechanism design studies solution concepts for a class of private-information games. Leonid Hurwicz explains that 'in a design problem, the goal function is the main "given", while the mechanism is the unknown. Therefore, the design problem is the "inverse" of traditional economic theory, which is typically devoted to the analysis of the performance of a given mechanism.' So, two distinguishing features of these games are:

- that a game "designer" chooses the game structure rather than inheriting one
- that the designer is interested in the game's outcome

The 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Leonid Hurwicz, Eric Maskin, and Roger Myerson "for having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory".

### Discussed on

- "Mechanism design" | 2015-05-06 | 31 Upvotes 1 Comments

# Monty Hall Problem

The **Monty Hall problem** is a brain teaser, in the form of a probability puzzle, loosely based on the American television game show *Let's Make a Deal* and named after its original host, Monty Hall. The problem was originally posed (and solved) in a letter by Steve Selvin to the *American Statistician* in 1975 (Selvin 1975a), (Selvin 1975b). It became famous as a question from a reader's letter quoted in Marilyn vos Savant's "Ask Marilyn" column in *Parade* magazine in 1990 (vos Savant 1990a):

Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

Vos Savant's response was that the contestant should switch to the other door (vos Savant 1990a). Under the standard assumptions, contestants who switch have a 2/3 chance of winning the car, while contestants who stick to their initial choice have only a 1/3 chance.

The given probabilities depend on specific assumptions about how the host and contestant choose their doors. A key insight is that, under these standard conditions, there is more information about doors 2 and 3 than was available at the beginning of the game when door 1 was chosen by the player: the host's deliberate action adds value to the door he did not choose to eliminate, but not to the one chosen by the contestant originally. Another insight is that switching doors is a different action than choosing between the two remaining doors at random, as the first action uses the previous information and the latter does not. Other possible behaviors than the one described can reveal different additional information, or none at all, and yield different probabilities. Yet another insight is that your chance of winning by switching doors is directly related to your chance of choosing the winning door in the first place: if you choose the correct door on your first try, then switching loses; if you choose a wrong door on your first try, then switching wins; your chance of choosing the correct door on your first try is 1/3, and the chance of choosing a wrong door is 2/3.

Many readers of vos Savant's column refused to believe switching is beneficial despite her explanation. After the problem appeared in *Parade*, approximately 10,000 readers, including nearly 1,000 with PhDs, wrote to the magazine, most of them claiming vos Savant was wrong (Tierney 1991). Even when given explanations, simulations, and formal mathematical proofs, many people still do not accept that switching is the best strategy (vos Savant 1991a). Paul Erdős, one of the most prolific mathematicians in history, remained unconvinced until he was shown a computer simulation demonstrating vos Savant’s predicted result (Vazsonyi 1999).

The problem is a paradox of the *veridical* type, because the correct choice (that one should switch doors) is so counterintuitive it can seem absurd, but is nevertheless demonstrably true. The Monty Hall problem is mathematically closely related to the earlier Three Prisoners problem and to the much older Bertrand's box paradox.

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- "Monty Hall Problem" | 2022-06-09 | 24 Upvotes 116 Comments
- "Monty Hall Problem" | 2019-10-24 | 122 Upvotes 252 Comments
- "Monty Hall problem" | 2010-02-22 | 14 Upvotes 27 Comments

# Nash equilibrium

In game theory, the **Nash equilibrium**, named after the mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., is a proposed solution of a non-cooperative game involving two or more players in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only their own strategy.

In terms of game theory, if each player has chosen a strategy, and no player can benefit by changing strategies while the other players keep theirs unchanged, then the current set of strategy choices and their corresponding payoffs constitutes a Nash equilibrium.

Stated simply, Alice and Bob are in Nash equilibrium if Alice is making the best decision she can, taking into account Bob's decision while his decision remains unchanged, and Bob is making the best decision he can, taking into account Alice's decision while her decision remains unchanged. Likewise, a group of players are in Nash equilibrium if each one is making the best decision possible, taking into account the decisions of the others in the game as long as the other parties' decisions remain unchanged.

Nash showed that there is a Nash equilibrium for every finite game: see further the article on strategy.

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- "Nash equilibrium" | 2018-10-11 | 20 Upvotes 6 Comments

# Newcomb's paradox

In philosophy and mathematics, **Newcomb's paradox**, also referred to as **Newcomb's problem**, is a thought experiment involving a game between two players, one of whom is able to be able to predict the future.

Newcomb's paradox was created by William Newcomb of the University of California's Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. However, it was first analyzed in a philosophy paper by Robert Nozick in 1969, and appeared in the March 1973 issue of *Scientific American*, in Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games." Today it is a much debated problem in the philosophical branch of decision theory.

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- "Newcomb's paradox" | 2015-04-03 | 54 Upvotes 67 Comments

# Parrondo's paradox

**Parrondo's paradox**, a paradox in game theory, has been described as: *A combination of losing strategies becomes a winning strategy*. It is named after its creator, Juan Parrondo, who discovered the paradox in 1996. A more explanatory description is:

*There exist pairs of games, each with a higher probability of losing than winning, for which it is possible to construct a winning strategy by playing the games alternately.*

Parrondo devised the paradox in connection with his analysis of the Brownian ratchet, a thought experiment about a machine that can purportedly extract energy from random heat motions popularized by physicist Richard Feynman. However, the paradox disappears when rigorously analyzed. Winning strategies consisting of a combinations of losing strategies have been explored in biology before Parrondo's paradox was published. More recently, problems in evolutionary biology and ecology have been modeled and explained in terms of the paradox.

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- "Parrondo's Paradox" | 2023-04-28 | 69 Upvotes 48 Comments
- "Parrondo's paradox" | 2011-11-16 | 41 Upvotes 7 Comments
- "Parrondo's paradox: A losing strategy that wins" | 2010-06-01 | 43 Upvotes 12 Comments