Game Theory

Question: 

What are the similarities between the principles of "The Art of War" and game theory? What are the differences?

Gary's Answer: 

Unfortunately, the fast answer to this question is so technical that it will seem boring rather than clever.

The Art of War is similar to game theory in that:

  1. Both are systems of decision-making.
  2. Both try to predict what others will do in a given situation.
  3. Both are based on comparing situations to make choices.

The differences are::

  1. Game theory is a mathematical means of decision-making, rather than a psychological one. It assumes that players will be logical, picking the options that provide the best mathematical probability of success over the term of the game. Sun Tzu’s system is primarily based on human psychology, though it also uses mathematics and physics because they factor into our thinking.
  2. Game theory predicts the actions of others within a well-defined “game” that has a fixed number of known players, a limited number of types of moves, a known game space, and so on. Sun Tzu’s system predicts reactions in the real world where most of the critical information is missing. Competition in the real world involves an unknown number of competitors, known moves and the fact that new moves can be invented at any time, and the ability to create entirely new competitive arenas, such as the Internet.
  3. Game theory is a linear, logical left-brain process. It calculates its probabilities mathematically based upon the good level of information within the game. This calculation is systematic and deterministic. Sun Tzu’s system is a holistic, creative right-brained process. It deals with situations that are too complex, too fast changing, with too many unknowns for simple calculation. Choices are either reflexive and intuitive based upon the instant recognition of common situations or creative and innovative based upon unique conditions.

In general, game theory applies only to a well-defined set of cases where mathematicians can get the calculations to work. Sun Tzu’s system applies to the rest of the competitive world.