Mathematics > Ignorance is...Blythe?

Ignorance is...Blythe?

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: November 22, 2010

Nah. Ignorance is really me. Because I've yet to figure out how to put photo's in these flipping posts. Perhaps I'll stumble upon Blythe and sort out the details on that. But knowing my sense of direction, I'll be at the DMZ heading north and wondering why I'm being escorted to a meet with the Great Reader, er make that Great Leader... while my class will be sitting there patiently wondering where is that teach?

Or TWMF. I'm not sure what TWMF really stands for, but my brother assures me he will post that tomorrow and I'll be less ignorant on that acronym. It is knitted into a ski cap that arrived at my door today with a scarf that he assures me will be of great use next month when I return to Korea after a 17 year absence.

At least I'll have knitwear there. But all I have here are words. No wait, I have math too. That might be my out.

So right. What I was here to write about is math.

What? Still here? Let me rephrase that, not only math but an arcane form of math known as game theory.

C'mon. Get out of here, poser. You are not interested.

Fine, fine, fine. You don't fear math any more than I fear the wrath of Blythe. I've always liked that about you, I'm not ashamed to admit. So here is the deal. A guy named Bruce Bueno de Mesquita wrote a book called The Predictioneer's Game. Darn fine book, for the most part.

What he does is take John Nash's ideas on Game Theory and applies them to political science. I know, I know. Stanger bedfellows than Boy George and well, anyone. But nonetheless, he merges game theory and applies it to business, litigation and world politics. And he kicks butt.

His argument is that his math model can beat an acclaimed expert 90% of the time when he differs from the expert. That is pretty good shooting. Or proof that poli sci is a joke. I'll leave that proof to the reader.

That said, he goes on to show that game theory really does work when applied to human beings by, in his words, "taking a dim view of humanity". Mi hermano!

Life to me follows his model. I know what people will do based on their past and their present interests. I just can't predict the timing as well as he does. I have people that I work with who I know will behave badly, I just can't predict when. I like that his model has the ability to predict those times given the data. Granted he has been tweaking the model for decades and has it running on a PC. My model had similar tweaks, but it is running on a vintage brain. So I'm behind on the hardware side.

Still I'm not feeling too horrid. Because I have one thing going for me. It is one slight slant to how the world works. Now what Bruce does is this, he goes back in time and does the "what if" look at history. He takes the data input available at the time (say 1914) plugs the data into his model and tries to figure a way to prevent WW I. He does come to such a solution.

He looks at the world this way. Some event (call it A) happened, but he argues that if people had seen his simulation, they would have seen B and averted a massive War! Basically his argument is this about WW I "If the declaration of war was postponed a mere 2 months, the political situation would have evolved to the point where the window to declare war would have passed." (and then a whole bunch of other things would have been averted.)

But that is exactly where I break ranks with Bruce. I go back to the film A Beautiful Mind where apocryphally John Nash is at a bar working the details of game theory. He goes to the details of self interest and figures out his best path forward.

That is exactly the problem with Bruce. His model is great when he does it present tense (and he does in the book.) But it fails when he goes past tense. Even though he is doing it only to validate his model, once he gets back there he can't help himself but to think what if...what if only Britain had his model and used it in 1914?

Going back to the Nash issue in the bar, Bruce see it as Bimodal. Get the girl or don't get the girl. He misses the million other options, like...have another beverage and throw up on her shoes to forestall intimacy. It is that kind of genuis that bimodal thinking seems to ignore.

And that is where I have issues. People have more options than A or B to start. and furthermore, people in the present tense don't have future tools at hand. There is no way to get to the future without going through all the choices in the present. Pick on, that means making all the best decisions you can now without the benefit of hindsight...

Which brings me to my point here. To me the math says that in the present tense we are all ignorant.

And to me, that is bliss.

Any Comments?


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