Competition vs Cooperation
April 16, 2011

“Competition undermines sustainability in the long term.” — Dr. Joseph Tainter

Introduction to Game Theory

LECTURE DESCRIPTION: We introduce Game Theory by playing a game. We organize the game into players, their strategies, and their goals or payoffs; and we learn that we should decide what our goals are before we make choices. With some plausible payoffs, our game is a prisoners’ dilemma. We learn that we should never choose a dominated strategy; but that rational play by rational players can lead to bad outcomes. We discuss some prisoners’ dilemmas in the real world and some possible real-world remedies. With other plausible payoffs, our game is a coordination problem and has very different outcomes: so different payoffs matter. We often need to think, not only about our own payoffs, but also others’ payoffs. We should put ourselves in others’ shoes and try to predict what they will do. This is the essence of strategic thinking.

Course Materials

Interactive Prisoner’s Dilemma Game

Evolutionary Stability: Cooperation, Mutation, and Equilibrium


LECTURE DESCRIPTION: We discuss evolution and game theory, and introduce the concept of evolutionary stability. We ask what kinds of strategies are evolutionarily stable, and how this idea from biology relates to concepts from economics like domination and Nash equilibrium.

Course Materials

Evolutionary Stability: Social Convention, Aggression, and Cycles


LECTURE DESCRIPTION: We apply the idea of evolutionary stability to consider the evolution of social conventions. Then we consider games that involve aggressive (Hawk) and passive (Dove) strategies, finding that sometimes, evolutionary populations are mixed. We discuss how such games can help us to predict how behavior might vary across settings. Finally, we consider a game in which there is no evolutionary stable population and discuss an example from nature.

Course Materials

Interactive Evolution Games

Beyond the Tragedy of the Commons with Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom

“That all persons call the same thing mine in the sense in which each does so may be a fine thing, but it is impracticable; or if the words are taken in the other sense, such a unity in no way conduces to harmony. And there is another objection to the proposal. For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual. For besides other considerations, everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill; as in families many attendants are often less useful than a few.”

— Aristotle, Politics, Book II, Chapter III, 1261b

Elinor Ostrom, a political scientist from Indiana University and winner of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, looks at a variety of research into why some groups self-organize and others do not, and the relevance of the theory of collective action to the governance and management of natural resources.

Ostrom is considered one of the leading scholars of common pool resources–forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands, and irrigation systems. In particular, her work emphasizes how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields.

Collective Action and the Commons: What Have We Learned? (Ostrom @ Cornell, 2009)

Companion Powerpoint (From Ostrom’s Tanner Lecture @ Stanford, 2011):

“The Challenge of Sustainability: Frameworks”

Abstract: Currently, the scientific approaches to the study of sustainability of complex ecological systems and complex socioeconomic systems are quite disparate. Over time, biology and ecology have accepted the necessity of understanding complex systems in developing a nested, scientific language to study them. Over time, many of the social studies that focus on the question of sustainable ecosystems or the sustainability of market systems or political systems have attempted instead to develop the simplest possible models and theories to explain what is occurring in the world over time.

The biological and ecological sciences have been extremely successful in understanding ecological systems that are remote, and thus, not strongly affected by human action. When humans play a major role, both the biological sciences and the social sciences are lacking effective theories and explanations of failures as well as successes.

One of the steps necessary to solve this problem is the development of a shared language that links what is going on in regard to resource systems and resource units with what is going on in relationship to governance systems and actors as they jointly affect action situations, incentives, and outcomes.

In this first lecture, Ostrom will review some of the work being done to build a better framework for understanding complex ecological and socioeconomic systems.

Elinor Ostrom Delivers Her Nobel Prize Lecture

In The Beginning, There Was Eros.
April 15, 2011

“These things declare to me from the beginning, you Muses who dwell in the house of Olympus, [115] and tell me which of them first came to be. In truth at first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundation of all1the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, [120] and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them.

— Hesiod, “Theogony,” 7th century BCE, (lines 114-138)

“Sing, Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill [ 10 ]
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s Brook that flow’d
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues [ 15 ]
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread [ 20 ]
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
And mad’st it pregnant…”
—  John Milton, 1667, “Paradise Lost”, Book 1, (lines 17-22)

      “IMMORTAL LOVE! who ere the morn of Time,
On wings outstretch’d, o’er Chaos hung sublime;
Warm’d into life the bursting egg of Night,
And gave young Nature to admiring Light!—
YOU! whose wide arms, in soft embraces hurl’d
Round the vast frame, connect the whirling world!
Whether immers’d in day, the Sun your throne,
You gird the planets in your silver zone;
Or warm, descending on ethereal wing,
The Earth’s cold bosom with the beams of spring;
Press drop to drop, to atom atom bind,
Link sex to sex, or rivet mind to mind;
Attend my song!—With rosy lips rehearse,
And with your polish’d arrows write my verse!—

— Erasmus Darwin, 1802, “The Temple of Nature,” Book 1, (lines 15-28)

“EDITOR’S NOTE: l. 15. This address to Immortal Love conflates many different ideas. It alludes to the opening of Genesis, by way of Milton’s invocation of the Holy Spirit, which “with mighty wings outspread / Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss / And mad’st it pregnant” (Paradise Lost, I, 20-22); but it also echoes the invocation to the love-goddess Venus which opens Lucretius’s materialist poem De Rerum Natura (I, 1-49). For “the egg of Night” (17), see III, 178n, where Darwin quotes from Aristophanes’s The Birds: “sable-winged night produced an egg, from whence sprung up like a blossom Eros, the lovely, the desirable, with glossy golden wings.” Darwin distinguishes this “celestial” creative Eros (who reappears as the god of “Sentimental Love” in Canto III) from the “terrestrial” god of sexual love Cupid (the dominant deity of Canto II, on Reproduction). Early drafts make this identification clearer by addressing the present passage to “Celestial Love.” Darwin had already explored these ideas in notes toThe Economy of Vegetation, discussing the Aristophanes quote more fully (I, 413n), and (in The Economy of Vegetation, I, 101n) linking the image of “the egg of Night” (17) to the idea of evolution, in single organisms, in the formation of the earth and finally between species: “From having observed the gradual evolution of the young animal or plant from its egg or seed . . . , philosophers of all ages seem to have imagined, that the great world itself had likewise its infancy and gradual progress to maturity; this seems to have given origin to the very ancient and sublime allegory of Eros, or Divine Love, producing the world from the egg of Night, as it floated in Chaos.” Darwin goes on to link this idea to evidence that the earth’s crust has built up slowly, and that many plants and animals display “useless or incomplete appendages,” suggesting development from or towards other species.”

For more on Eros, its grip on our psyche and the consequences of unrestrained “terrestrial” Eros, download a PDF of my Senior Thesis: Marketing Magicians of the Shopocalypse: Eros, Advertising and… the End of the World? 

ABSTRACT: The modern marketing profession is not merely the child of 20th century capitalism. It is also an heir to the theories and traditions of Renaissance magic. In particular, Giordano Bruno’s techniques of “bonding” and his special version of the classical “art of memory” provide the basis for especially effective forms of integrated brand promotion which combine the raw power of human desire with an appeal to the archetypal nature of the human psyche. This article examines the Classical origins of Bruno’s theories and techniques as well as some of their modern marketing usages in an attempt to ascertain how they have brought humanity to the brink of extinction through the stimulation of consumer frenzy, and how they might help us survive.

From the Conclusion: Both lover and beloved, then, have together succumbed to the incessant whinnying of the corporeal horse (the lower Eros), exercising little to no self-restraint. The consumer/beloved engages in self destructive behavior at the behest of the manufacturer/lover, and the cycle of dysfunctional codependence perpetuates itself to the brink of annihilation. This is precisely the kind of self destructive greed which caused Wall Street to crumble at the expense of taxpayers and which lurks in the trash-strewn epicenter of the Shopocalypse.

This “hubris,” as Plato calls it “when desire rules in us and drags us toward pleasure in a manner contrary to reason,” has its remedy in its opposite, or “judiciousness,” which occurs “when judgment guides us by reason toward what is best and is strong enough to prevail.” Given how undisciplined it has become, regaining control over the ornery horse will not be easy. However, the task of bringing the two horses back into balance under the rational authority of the charioteer is crucial to human development, as it constitutes the process whereby the soul regains its wings. Once desires have been tempered and the wings regrown, the soul may once again partake in the procession of Zeus, gazing out once more over the rim of heaven to look upon the “things which are.”

‎”Because of Eros, and through it, all of Nature is turned into a great Sorceress.”

— Iaon P. Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, p. 87

Bibliography and Works Cited:

Bernays, Edward. (1928). Propaganda. Brooklyn, NY: Ig Publishing.

Bernays, Edward. (1935). “Molding Public Opinion.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 179, 82-87.

Bernays, Edward. (1947). “The Engineering of Consent.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 250, 113-120.

Bernays, Edward. (1971). Emergence of the Public Relations Counsel: Principles and Recollections. The Business History Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, 296-316

Berthon, Pierre; Holbrook, Morris; Hulbert, James. (2003). “Understanding and Managing the Brand Space.” MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 44, No 2, 50-51

Bruno, Giordano. (1590, reissued 1998). Blackwell, Richard & de Lucca, Robert, ed. “A General Account of Bonding.” Giordano Bruno: Cause, Principle and Unity: And Essays on Magic. Port Chester, NY: Cambridge University Press. 145-176.

Bruno, Giordano. (1590, reissued 1998). Blackwell, Richard & de Lucca, Robert, ed. “On Magic.” Giordano Bruno: Cause, Principle and Unity: And Essays on Magic. Port Chester, NY: Cambridge University Press. 103-142.

Bruno, Giordano. (1591, reissued 1991). Higgins, Dick, ed. On the Composition of Images, Signs and Ideas. New York, NY: Willis, Locker and Owens. Couliano, Iaon P. (1987). Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Curtis, Adam. (Producer). (2002, April 29). The Century of the Self, Episode 1: Happiness Machines [Television program]. BBC.

Dawkins, Richard. (1976). The Selfish Gene. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Ficino, Marsilio. Jayne, Sears, tr. (1484, reissued 1985). Commentary on Plato’s Symposium on Love. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications.

Freud, Sigmund. (1927, reissued 1989). The Future of an Illusion. New York, NY: Norton.

Freud, Sigmund. (1930, reissued 1989). Civilization and its Discontents. New York, NY: Norton.

Jhally, Sut. (1997). Advertising and the End of the World. [Film]. Media Education Foundation.

Jung, Carl. (1961). Memories, Dreams Reflections. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

Kendall, Henry, ed. (1992). Union of Concerned Scientists (group). World Scientist’s Warning to Humanity. Retrieved May 12, 2009 from

Kristeller, Paul O.; Conant, Virginia L., tr. (1943). The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Lindstrom, Martin. (2008). Buy-ology: Truth and Lies about What We Buy. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Mark, Margaret. (2001). Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. Blacklick, OH: McGraw-Hill.

Nelson, John. (1958). Renaissance Theory of Love. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Plato. (385 BCE, reissued 1991). Allen, R.E., tr. The Symposium. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.

Plato. (380 BCE, reissued 2000). Griffith, Tom, tr.; Ferrari, G.R.F., ed. The Republic. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Plato. (370 BCE, reissued, 1993). Cobb, William S., tr. The Symposium and The Phaedrus: Plato’s Erotic Dialogues. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

VanAlkemade, Rob. (Director). (2007). What Would Jesus Buy? [Film]. Warrior Poets Releasing.

Walker, D.P. (1958, reissued 2003). Spiritual and Demonic Magic. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Wertime, Kent. (2002). Building Brands and Believers: How to Connect with Consumers Using Archetypes. Sommerset, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Woodside, Arch, G.; Sood, Suresh; Miller, Kenneth, E. (2008). “When Consumers and Brands Talk: Storytelling Theory and Research in Psychology and Marketing.” Psychology and Marketing, Vol.25, No. 2, 97-145.

Yates, Francis A. (1991). Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity

Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.

%d bloggers like this: