Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Nash, Frankfurt School and Hope

Around sixty five years ago it was a mathematician exploring Game Theory that came up with an idea of an Equilibrium that gave a mathematical basis for interactions between competing players, or participants, or people. Here, knowing the strategies of other players, the game is in Equilibrium if by changing my own strategy I fail completely to change the strategy of other players. In another way, when the game or competition is in Equilibrium I'm stuck in a set, a rut if you prefer. Some time in the 1970's Economists adopted the mathematics, and finally they were able feel less like flamboyant seers around a Supply and Demand curve in a Free Market and more like serious type scientists with something useful to offer. And there's all sorts of ho ha around the mathematics and the mathematicians engaged in the theoretical work of the Nash Equilibrium, they were awarded Nobel Prizes. And naturally enough the radical wing of Business Studies found solace in the possibilities of a rut that included the words New and Improved, or a number that followed a decimal point. 2.00, 2.5, 3.00 and so on.

You can look at it any way you wish to, but at least 90 percent of a population may have no idea what the Nash Equilibrium is, how it works, or what it attempts to describe. Yet a devotion to the Nash Equilibrium's interpretation, supported by the purity of mathematics and by the equal signs that can be proved through numbers, dominate a great many decisions that emerge from social, political, military and economic sectors of our society. "It's mathematics and it works" they'll say. Around Eighty years ago a group of thinkers in Germany chose to believe that Germany was ripe for the same sort of Socialist Revolution that had overtaken the Czar's Russia. They were terribly, terribly wrong and most of them found sanctuary in the USA where they developed what some call Critical Theory. If you're wrong, don't claim to be right by blaming each other, instead try valiantly to actually find out why you were wrong. Sometime in the 1950's Critical Theorists had become incredibly unfashionable and they'd pretty much concluded the ruts in a society are so deep that so long as the soap powder works there's not much to be done. Depressing? Depends how reasonable your hopes are.

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