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MAA Distinguished Lecture: Game Theory and the Humanities

By Steven Brams

Thursday, November 14, 2013
6:30-7:30 pm
MAA Carriage House

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Abstract: While game theory finds frequent application in economics, political science, psychology, sociology, and evolutionary biology, mathematical calculations of strategic choice are seldom associated with the worlds of literature, history, philosophy, religion, or law.   

But game theory can illuminate wrenching choices, including those fueled by such emotions as anger, jealousy, or love. These will be illustrated by some of the following: Abraham's biblical decision to offer his son, Isaac, for sacrifice when God commanded him to do so; difficult and sometimes murderous choices of characters in Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth, and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22; and historical choices by the Supreme Court, presidents, and other leaders, especially in crises and wars.

Biography: Steven J. Brams is Professor of Politics at New York University and the author, co-author, or co-editor of 18 books and more than 250 articles. His books include Theory of Moves (Cambridge, 1994) and, co-authored with Alan D. Taylor, Fair Division: From Cake-Cutting to Dispute Resolution (Cambridge, 1996) and The Win-Win Solution: Guaranteeing Fair Shares to Everybody (Norton, 1999). His newest books are Mathematics and Democracy: Designing Better Voting and Fair-Division Procedures (Princeton, 2008) and Game Theory and the Humanities: Bridging Two Worlds (MIT, 2011). He holds two patents for fair-division algorithms and is chairman of the advisory board of Fair Outcomes, Inc.

Brams has applied game theory and social-choice theory to voting and elections, bargaining and fairness, international relations, and the Bible, theology, and literature. He is a former president of the Peace Science Society (1990-91) and of the Public Choice Society (2004-2006). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1986), a Guggenheim Fellow (1986-87), and was a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (1998-99).

News Date: 
Wednesday, October 23, 2013