F*** You Buddy, So Long Sucker or Prisoners Dilemma

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in Stories of the Way

These are the different names given to a game invented by John Nash based on ‘Game Theory’ strategies when he was a mathematician working at the Rand corporation in the 1950’s. Game Theory was applied by the Rand strategists, who included leading mathematicians, as a military strategy to maintain the balance of power between the USA and the Soviet Union. Nash developed a game he called “F*** You Buddy” in which the only way to win was to betray your partners.

At that time there were escalating tensions and mistrust between the Soviet Union and the USA over the development of nuclear weapons. John Nash (who suffered from schizophrenia as documented in the film “A Beautiful Mind”) demonstrated that it was possible to create stability through suspicion and self-interest. The program developed from this theory was termed “MAD” for Mutually Assured Destruction. It was reasoned that the Soviets would not attack the USA out of fear and self-interest knowing that if they did, they too would be devastated by a nuclear attack.

Nash made the assumption that humans were naturally calculating and always seeking an advantage over their fellows. By applying Game Theory to all forms of human interaction, Nash proved that a society based on mutual suspicion didn’t necessarily lead to chaos, but led to an equilibrium.

Game Theory produced a dark vision of humanity and society as a whole, where everyone was mistrustful of one another. This system could only work if everyone behaved selfishly. As soon as people started co-operating together, instability ensued and this proved to be the case when the system was tested – participants co-operated with each other.

The Nash Equilibrium is defined as a stable state of a system involving the interaction of different participants, in which no participant can gain by a unilateral change of strategy if the strategies of the others remain unchanged.