Friday, May 4, 2012

Interesting application of game theory

The Economist has an interesting article on some of the successes in game theoretic models.  Toward the end there is a suggestion:

The “principle of convergence”, as it is known, holds that armed conflict is, in essence, an information-gathering exercise. Belligerents fight to determine the military strength and political resolve of their opponents; when all sides have “converged” on accurate and identical assessments, a surrender or peace deal can be hammered out. Each belligerent has a strong motivation to hit the enemy hard to show that it values victory very highly. Such a model might be said to reflect poorly on human nature. But some game theorists believe that the model could be harnessed to make diplomatic negotiations a more viable substitute for armed conflict.
Today’s game-theory software is not yet sufficiently advanced to mediate between warring countries. But one day opponents on the brink of war might be tempted to use it to exchange information without having to kill and die for it. They could learn how a war would turn out, skip the fighting and strike a deal . . .
This is an interesting model of war. What it essentially suggests is that if an army is tough enough and has a strong enough resolve to go through with its threats, it can win a war without actually doing it. But while there won't be wars, there will still be a need for a powerful military and military spending. It makes for interesting food for thought. What would war look like if this plan was actually implemented? Does this suggestion make sense?

I suspect that many Neocon thinkers would think this is strange because they tend to think that wars will almost always involve at least one dictator who has little interest in preserving the lives of his people and would rather risk actual fighting than a bloodless surrender, even if it really seems to be inevitable. A political Realist, on the other hand would probably take this to be an idea way to get things done, but I can see reservations there as well. A political Constructivist is probably wondering of this kind of mediation isn't already the role of the UN.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I guess the "liberal" side of me wants to scream about the evils of the military-industrial complex. However the conservative/realist (almost inhuman side) in me also sees the necessity of warfare as a tool to better mankind. Surely it can be argued that warfare has bettered us many times in the past- whether it is a lesson to learn about our own nature; a newly made technology; or a new discovery that betters us during peace. I am not sure if this comment strengthens your argument, or even if it is relevant to the posting- however this is what was sparked during my thoughts.