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A. Scott Cunningham
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I'm enjoying this book far more than all the other elementary game theory textbooks I've plowed through. I'm a doctoral student in economics, and I'm reading this book for a readings class. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in dipping their feet into game theory. It's very readable and uses no mathematics, thus making it accessible to the non-technician and beginner.
Brams uses 2x2, non-cooperative models of complete information for the most part. He uses both game trees and normal expressions of the situations under analysis. This is, I think, one of the strengths of the book. The stories are familiar, if you are familiar with the Judeo-Christian religion, and thus this captures one's attention in ways that abstract stories about prisoners, and husband and wives and other classic illustrations in game theory may not. God is included as a player in situations Brams analyzes, and his interpretations are, at the very least, illuminating. While reading it, I was reminded of an Edmund Burke quote which more or less says that even heresy is valuable insofar as it stirs the stagnant waters of science such that progress can be made. I am finding that even when I disagree with Brams interpretation, his game theoretic explanation nonetheless sheds some light on the story, as well as on broader spiritual ideas like faith and rationality.
One criticism I have of the book is, though, that it is limited only to games of complete information. As I said, I do believe that the fact that this book only uses noncooperative games of complete information is its strength, precisely because I believe this book is helpful as a primer to game theory. But, because he omits problems of imperfect information, I am left wondering whether he has truly modeled many of these situations as accurately as he could have. For instance, when dealing with the "sacrifice game" involving God and Abraham, wherein God has ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Brams seems to treat Abraham as having complete foreknowledge of God's preference rankings of the four various outcomes. It is difficult for me to believe that Abraham, even being an intimate to God, would possess this kind of knowledge. I would have preferred to see Brams introduce models which would allow Abraham to deal with the asymetric information inherent in this kind of situation. Is anything lost by assuming complete information in these games? Not necessarily. Having not worked the alternative problems out for myself, I cannot say, but since Brams is so effective at making game theory accessible in this book, I believe he had ample opportunities in the book to introduce slightly more complicated notions like mixed strategies and signaling. He certainly is talented and creative enough to do so.
All in all, I recommend the book to all students of economics, religion, sociology and political science. I do not necessarily believe that the analysis is hugely valuable for the more generally "spiritual" person, but I definitely would not discourage that person from reading the book. Brams is unusually gracious and respectful of religion, generally, and the characters (including God) in this book. That is definitely a plus. It is rare for anyone to assume rationality when thinking about religion, and when scholars finally do, I tend to be impressed. And I was impressed with Brams, both for the tone of the book, but also for the content. Highly recommended.