25
Jul
09

Prisoner’s Dilemma – Real life situations


People always shouting over the phone are a major irritant for me at my workplace. Just thinking about it made me realize that this is just a case of prisoner’s dilemma. Just a note on prisoner’s dilemma before I explain my views.

Loosely defined, it’s a game theory situation where each person tries to maximize his own payoff regardless of whatever the other people do, and ultimately everybody in the situation end up being worse off than what they had been had they been more considerate about the other people. Wiki provides elaborate details for interested readers.

Coming back to the situation, when one person starts shouting, the other person shouts because otherwise he can’t hear. Similarly others follow and soon, everybody start shouting. Thus it becomes inconvenient for everybody when just by talking softly everybody could have been better off.

Some more interesting real life examples are as below (read more here):

  • A club has a fire, and all rush for the exits, preventing the exit of anyone; as a result, all perish.
  • Athlete A uses steroids, which gives him a competitive advantage. Other athletes are forced to use steroids to retain parity. As a result, no athlete is given a competitive advantage, but all are subjected to the hazards of steroids.
  • Big kids “pick on” little kids, and society allows it (“you have to learn how to defend yourself”). Thus, a kid must “act tough” to develop a “rep,” and avoid being singled out. Soon kids become teens become adults, and fists become knives become guns, and gangs become organized gangs become organized crime.
  • The pollution which results from the collective actions of individual drivers who believe that their one act of driving “doesn’t matter,” resulting in air no one wants to breathe.
  • A depositor hears that a bank is in trouble, and goes to pull out his savings. Others are forced to pull out their savings as a “run” begins on the bank’s savings, and the bank collapses.
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