Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - May 10, 2015

Brian Gongol

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Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

The importance of game theory

More often than I'd like, I find myself wondering if anyone in Washington, DC, has ever heard of game theory. It's one of the most valuable branches of economics -- and it's really just a simple matter of asking the question "What if?" -- and then following it through a few iterations. We are told, for instance, that the threat level has been raised at US military institutions because of a perceived threat on the part of terrorists sympathetic to (or identifying with) groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh.

If we were rational users of game theory, we wouldn't just have blanket threat levels and elevate them only at times when we have strong evidence of something being likely to happen. A world ruled by game theory would have us ask, "What if I were one of the bad guys? What would I attack, and how would I do it? Knowing the obvious security reactions, how would I adapt? If I were aiming for the element of surprise, what would I do?" And from there, one would continue on, layering additional questions and conditional circumstances upon the previous ones in order to determine what events are likely, probable, and possible -- even without the benefit of surveillance.

One might have more faith that our public officials were knowledgeable users of game theory if we'd not seen so many instances in which the government appears to have been totally blindsided by events:

If we don't like getting caught with our pants down, then we probably need to start assigning some people to think like our opponents and enemies -- and then have them report back so we can (in Wayne Gretzky's words) skate to where the puck is going to be.

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