The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Celebrating its 70th Anniversary

Friday, January 17, 2020

Timothy Taylor

„The „prisoners‘ dilemma“ game originated in 1950, and thus commemorates its 70th anniversary this year. The underlying ideas are remarkably important to social scientists, and to economists in particular, because they describes a situation in which the pursuit of self-interest can make all parties worse-off. More broadly, I think the prisoner’s dilemma game captures a popular intuition about why society would be better off with more cooperation and less pursuit of self-interest.

But when you look into the prisoner’s dilemma game more closely, it also offers insights about what it takes to sustain cooperative behavior, and also can help in understanding why the lines between self-interest and cooperation can get so blurry.

My goal here is to review the concepts of the prisoner’s dilemma game for those not especially familiar with it, and to explain how the prisoner’s dilemma helps to illuminate one’s thinking about the possibility concepts of self-interest and cooperation may often tend to overlap.“ (…)