Q: Looking at the flipside, was there ever a situation in which you were pleasantly surprised at what game theory was able to deliver?
A: None. Not only none, but my point would be that categorically game theory cannot do it. Maybe somewhere in a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie story there was a situation where the detective was very clever and he applied some logical trick that somehow caught the criminal, something like that. You know in America there was a programme on CBS, called Numbers, written Numb3rs, with the ‘e’ reversed. Numb3rs wanted to make people curious about mathematics through detective stories. I happened to hear about it because I had done some experimental work with Amos Tversky and Dana Heller, about the game of hide and seek. In one of the episodes they refer to the paper. Of course it was a joke, but the fact that my name was mentioned in such a programme made me very happy. But outside such programmes, I categorically cannot see any case where game theory could be helpful.
That’s from The Browser’s FiveBooks interview with Tel Aviv University’s Ariel Rubinstein, one of the world’s most prominent game theorists.
We used the textbook Rubinstein wrote with Martin Osborne in the second-semester microeconomic theory course I took during the first year of my Ph.D.
I really enjoyed going through the material (especially in contrast with the second half of the course, on general equilibrium theory). Since then, however, I have been struck time and again by the limited applicability of game theory. It’s interesting that one of the world’s leading game theorists is forthcoming about that lack of applicability.