Curtis examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought.
The programme traces the development of game theory, with particular reference to the work of John Nash (the mathematician portrayed in A Beautiful Mind), who believed that all humans are inherently suspicious and selfish creatures that strategize constantly. Building on his theory, Nash constructed logically consistent and mathematically verifiable models, for which he won the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics. He invented system games that reflected his beliefs about human behaviour, including one he called ‘Fuck You Buddy’ (later published as “So Long Sucker”), in which the only way to win was to betray your playing partner, and it is from this game that the episode’s title is taken. These games were internally coherent and worked correctly as long as the players obeyed the ground rules that they should behave selfishly and try to outwit their opponents, but when RAND’s analysts tried the games on their own secretaries, they were surprised to find that instead betraying each other, the secretaries cooperated every time. This did not, in the eyes of the analysts, discredit the models, but proved that the secretaries were unfit subjects. See U.S. Air Force Project RAND Memorandum RM-789-1, “Some Experimental Games,” Merill M. Flood, 20 June 1952, pp. 15–16: “This is in contrast to the proposed theoretical solution in which the two secretaries would have shared the amount g only, with the first secretary receiving m in addition. Upon inquiry, it developed that they had entered into the experiment with the prior agreement to share all proceeds equally!”
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