September 20th, 2007
Scientific-Computing.Com’s recent blog articles "Beyond the Prisoner’s Dilemma" and "Global warming and the Prisoner’s Dilemma" are interesting examples of using the logical structures of game theory as starting points for logical thought at younger levels.
The blog conversation starts with the big environmental issue of global warming and this friendly video where the protagonist explains the application of minimax to the global warming debate. He argues, in a nutshell, that given uncertain future consequences of humanity’s impact on the planet, and given also a choice of decisions about how to act against those potential consequences, it makes the most logical sense to exclude the catastrophic choice of doing nothing to prevent global warming by acting as if global warming were a certainty.
I like how the minimax principle here facilitates students’ understanding by offering a powerful structure for considering different possibilities. Because minimax is so clearly structured and relatively easy to grasp, it is the sort of idea, like the Venn Diagram, which ought to be a constantly recurring feature of students’ education. In Mathematics, it bears close resemblance to the Carroll diagram, which is a similarly undervalued structure for understanding issues.