I was introduced to the idea of Game Theory while watching a video on discrete math. The video just mentioned the topic, but I did some Googling, and found a video explaining what Game Theory is, and I realized something.
We all use Game Theory to operate in our daily lives. For example, splitting up house-hold chores and finding the best solution that equally benefits both parties.
You both make the decision that for one person to do the dishes all the time, one would be living the high-life, while the other was doing dishes night and day. So like any logical people, you realize if the work is shared, we can both suffer the least.
Before we even get out of bed, Game Theory is at work in your decisions. What to wear, what to eat for breakfast, how long to brush your teeth, etc.
So I started to look for ways to utilize the theory in order to see if the action I’m taking is actually in my best interest. Most of the time, the answer was yes.
“I’m a genius!” I thought, “I do Game Theory before I even put my socks on!”
Then I remembered every human being who ever existed makes use of the Game Theory consciously or not.
So now that you have the status quo, the next urge is obviously to find out how to “hack” the system”, or in lighter terms, maximize opportunity for yourself. I was going to use some personal story that I’m sure anyone could apply Game Theory to.
But then I remembered a funny clip on the Trailer Park Boys about stealing furniture, and how commentator’s on YouTube were saying the rationale is pretty solid. And I also felt, that rationale probably would work, so maybe I should test that feeling against my more current leanings.
And because of my love for TV and my interest in professional problem solving, I decided to apply Game Theory to the situation.
The premise is Ricky walks into a government office and just starts moving furniture.
His hopes are that no one will really say anything and he can just take the furniture home.
He’s quite succesful at hauling out almost all the furniture with his method.
But the office manager is notified, and arrives screaming that this cannot happen.
Ricky once again overcame this hurdle by continuing to “keep it moving”.
Finally, the manager puts his foot down and forces Ricky’s hand.
Ricky’s last trick is to say “Jeff, or John told me it was OK.”
And the manager was taken a-back by the claim. “Jeff asked you? OK EVERYONE, follow this man were getting new furniture from Jeff soon”, the manager said.
The flip of the tables can be shown with some Game Theory and how Ricky tilted them into his favor.
The first premise is the one Ricky played first. The odds here were 50/50 as you can see in the chart below. Two out of four outcomes are pro-Ricky, but also two are in favor of the manager. 50/50 odds are OK, but when Ricky gets cornered, he flips the table.
With the surprising new factor of Jeff, the tables have turned totally on the manager. Ricky turned the interaction into a 75% chance of winning a favorable outcome by flipping one of the outcomes in his favor. His old odds of winning are still there, but Ricky made it so, that its also in the managers best interest to let him move the furniture.
It’s a small visualization of ‘turning the tables‘ on someone that’s more tangible than hearing about it by word of mouth. So next time you try to calculate your next decision, just throw it into Game Theory and see if you can find some truth in which decision is best.