Customer Reviews


12 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Directly Related To What You Already Know
The enjoyment, or perhaps the utility you'll find with this book, will be directly related to how much you know about Game Theory prior to this read. This book spends, as much time on history and biography as it does on what Game Theory is about, so this work would seem to be most appropriate to those who are new to the material. I had only basic understanding of Game...
Published on 17 Dec 2002 by taking a rest

versus
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good start but kind of tails off towards the end
this is a decent introduction to game theory, the cold war and the life of John Von Neumann. it starts off well enough and is interesting enough but it soon becomes a little boring if your not that bothered by the cold war. The information on game theory and prisoners dilema is interesting, but it all gets a little samey. Not bad, but seems to run out of steam.
Published on 15 Jan 2010 by Ben


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Directly Related To What You Already Know, 17 Dec 2002
By 
taking a rest - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
The enjoyment, or perhaps the utility you'll find with this book, will be directly related to how much you know about Game Theory prior to this read. This book spends, as much time on history and biography as it does on what Game Theory is about, so this work would seem to be most appropriate to those who are new to the material. I had only basic understanding of Game Theory from other books I had read, within which this field of study was mentioned, so for me the book was very worthwhile. The historical and biographic aspects of the book were not new, so there were of less interest to me.

Math need not be a passion for this book to be understood and enjoyed. The various games that are explained and, "played", for the reader actually utilize little in the way of math. Game Theory in practice is about the number of participants, the choices they have, how the games should rationally be played, and how there are played when people replace theory. The results of these games are applicable to daily life, whether it explains how a network will decide the placement of their commercials, why a person will stand in a line of unknown length, or pay more than the true value of an item (like a dollar bill). Peoples behavior often crosses from the irrational to the absurd, and many of these games will point out courses of action almost all readers will have taken at one time or another, when the rational decision was the opposite of what they chose to do.

The book is also a good primer for further reading on Bertrand Russell, John Nash the subject of the movie, "A Beautiful Mind", and John von Neumann, who many considered the most brilliant man alive during his career, and many other great scientists of the 20th Century. There is also review of the development of both the atomic and hydrogen bombs, and the very surprising groups of people that either supported their development and use, and those that were diametrically opposed. There is also some discussion on how Game Theory was and is used to make decisions on a global scale, and also where Game Theory falls short of some of its initial promise.

You will most likely enjoy following "The Prisoner's Dilemma, The Stag Hunt, The Dollar Auction, and So Long Sucker", the last of which often was alleged to have spouses leave the scene of the game is separate cabs. Any one who is inquisitive will enjoy the book, and may be motivated to pursue a variety of its topics further.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book - Easy to Read and Follow, 2 Mar 2010
By 
Clare Topping (Northamptonshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb

I bought this book following a short section of an economics course which used game theory and the Prisoner's Dilemma to explain decision making in areas such as cartels, collusion and advertising budgets which inspired me to learn more. However, it sat unread on my shelf for nearly a year, which I now regret because this is such an interesting text.

The author has made it part von Neumann biography, part cold war politics and part game theory and, in the main, has put it together perfectly with enough emphasis on each part to make it interesting to a wide readership.

Although I did struggle with certain sections, partly because there is possibly a little too much discussion about the different types of game theory and their likley outcomes e.g. chicken, stag hunt etc, I disagree with another reviewer that thought that the book tailed off towards the end. For me the last couple of chapters which outlined later uses of game theory in the biological and evolutionary fields were very interesting, and I am sure that there are more recent applications which build on this chapter and which this book has inspired me to look for.

In all, a very well written book that is easy to read and which shows how Game Theory is present in every day life decisions whether we realise it or not, often making human behaviour very predictable.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to both game theory and von Neumann, 26 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
This should be of interest to both readers concerned with Cold War policy and the development of game theory. Poundstone is one of the more gifted writers (at least regarding narrative skills) to address game theory, an often perplexingly technical subject, offering an interesting, fairly comprehensive introduction to the subject without becoming mired in its more technical aspects. And his characterization of von Neumann, an interesting intellect, is able and compelling.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John von Neumann as a prisoner of ideas, 5 Mar 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
John von Neumann is the father of game theory: the field which mathematicised games and other situations of conflict, in the process making them analytically tractable. Von Neumann's inspiration was simple parlour games, with poker being a prominent example. In Poundstone's words:

"Good poker players do not simply play the odds. They take into account conclusions other players will draw from their actions, and sometimes try to deceive the other players. It was von Neumann's genius to see that this devious way of playing was both rational and amenable to rigorous analysis."

John von Neumann studied a version of poker where individual poker hands are replaced by numbers between zero and one -- with higher numbers beating lower ones. He then used this model to show how players should bet their best hands, but also how they should sometimes bluff with their very worst hands. This model is still used as a representation of poker by poker theorists today.

William Poundstone's book is an entertaining biography of von Neumann, focusing primarily on his achievements in game theory, but also covering much of his work in other areas -- including his key role in the development of the A-bomb and computers.

Von Neumann's work in game theory was centred around zero-sum games: games such as poker, where any players' gain is another players' loss (the payoffs cancel out and sum up to zero). However, game theory applies to a much richer variety of problems: so called non-zero-sum games, which raise the potential for collaboration and aggregate gains or losses amongst the players. The most famous non-zero-sum is "the prisoner's dilemma", a problem so canonical that Poundstone named his book after it.

The key feature of non-zero-sum games is, that when repeatedly played, they give players an incentive to deviate from the strictures of game theory in zero-sum and one-shot games. Poundstone explains this with Robert Axelrod's famous prisoner's dilemma computer tournament, where the winning entry was the simplest and most willing to collaborate with its fellow players.

It seems likely that von Neumann was never able to appreciate these wider applications of game theory; he dismissed John Nash when Nash tried to explain his extension of von Neumann's theory to non-zero-sum games (see Sylvia Nasar - A Beautiful Mind). It is likely that von Neumann fell into a similar trap when contemplating the cold war: von Neumann was a strong advocate of preventive early war against the Soviet Union -- modelling the conflict as a zero-sum battle, and not a repeated non-zero-sum game, hence his "prisoner's dilemma".

This is a thoroughly entertaining book which manages to accessibly explain several key issues in game theory to a wide audience.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 13 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
I read this a few years back. I found it a good mix of theory and history. After reading it I felt I knew John von Neumann better and also knew why TIT FOR TAT is such a good strategy for iterated games. The latter helped when reading texts on altruistic behaviour in animals.
It motivated me to buy a text book on game theory - so it must have been good.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, introducing game theory effectively., 31 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
This book has been a constant reference for me since I bought it in 1993. It complements such classics as Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene", and Axelrod's "The Evolution of Cooperation". Provides an analytical basis for understanding the development of "society".
The biographical notes on Von Neumann are historically interesting, and provide an elegant counterpoint to the technical material. The alternation of chapters between the two threads is well-done.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good, all-round read about the childhood of game theory, 7 Jan 2010
By 
Peter Bjørn Perlsø "somethingorother" (Denmark, Europe) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
The book is loosely centered on John v. Neumann's life and career; people and topics it also covers are the rise of the RAND Corporation from a wad of cash the Air Force didn't know what to do with after the Second World War, and how it came to be the world's focal point for research in Game Theory and other odd and unlikely subjects. It mention in passing John Nash and the equilibrium carrying his name, Bertrand Russel and his involvement in cold war diplomacy - the time span it covers is, as hinted in the title, from before the cold war to towards its end.

On the subject of game theory, it gives a comfortably non-technical introduction to the field, where everyone can read along without getting lost in pages many of equations. Even though the center of it all is game theory, it wanders to and fro between the game theoretic field, a biography of J v. Neumann, and the developments and people of Game Theory thoughout the decades, and international politics under the shadow of a nuclear weaponized age. In this case, this is however a plus, as I feel the author manages to do this without causing too much of a dense of discontinuity, and besides, seeing the wider aspects of the discipline put into practise (or rather, attempted...) makes for good perspective. And sometimes with outrageous humor, as well.

All in all a very enjoyable little book about a very interesting subject.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good start but kind of tails off towards the end, 15 Jan 2010
By 
Ben "ben_ism" (Milford Haven, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
this is a decent introduction to game theory, the cold war and the life of John Von Neumann. it starts off well enough and is interesting enough but it soon becomes a little boring if your not that bothered by the cold war. The information on game theory and prisoners dilema is interesting, but it all gets a little samey. Not bad, but seems to run out of steam.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting yet all over the place, 4 Mar 2010
By 
Darren Simons (Middlesex, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
I found this book a little to categorise (it wasn't quite what I expected). The book could be:
- an introduction to game theory and the prisoner's dilemma (which is what the title suggests)
- a biography of John von Neumann, the mathematician / academic
- a history of the Cold War from the perspective of the genuine fear of nuclear holocaust

The book is definitely interesting to read and it does connect the three subjects above together but I'm not really sure it's what I wanted to read. Certainly von Neumann was a key contributor to game theory and was employed by the US government in the drive to build a nuclear bomb but somehow the book misses something
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The life of von Neumann and applications of game theory, 18 Mar 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Paperback)
A clear presentation of the prisoner's and other dilemmas, as well as some basic components of game theory. It also provides insight into the life and times of John von Neumann.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First
ARRAY(0xb1d0e240)

This product

Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb
£11.37
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews