Scribner Seminar Program
Serious Games: Conflict, Voting and Power
Instructor(s): David Vella, Math and Computer Science
Description: Why didn’t the United States and the Soviet Union enter the 1973 Yom Kippur War? Is plurality voting the fairest way to choose the President of the United States or other elected officials? In the United Nations Security Council, exactly how much more power do the permanent members have than the other nations? In this seminar, students explore how mathematicians have contributed to the analysis of political questions like these. Game theory is a field of mathematics that was developed to study conflict and competition. The players (which can be individuals, teams, corporations, or entire nations) have conflicting interests and attempt to determine the best course of action without knowing what their opponent(s) will do. Game theory can be applied in a wide variety of situations, such a choosing a location to poen a business, understanding tactical choices made in World War II battles, analyzing the nuclear arms race, deciding how to vote in an election, or arbitrating a labor dispute. In this seminar, students will apply game theory and related aspects of voting theory to address the questions raised above and others like them in a variety of fields from anthropology to politics and international relations.