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The Survival Game


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About the Author

A professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, zoologist David P. Barash is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Myth of Monogamy (0-8050-7136-9) and The Mammal in the Mirror. He lives in Redmond, Washington.


Game theory attempts to explain the dynamics of life as a series of individual games, each involving specific moves that take place within a strictly delineated set of rules. Depending on whom you ask, it's either a brilliant tool for analyzing the complexities of social life or hopelessly reductionist. Zoologist and professor of psychology Barash (coauthor of The Myth of Monogamy), who emphatically falls into the former camp, proves an apt popularizer of the basics of the field, and his book reads like an introductory seminar led by a friendly professor with a slightly corny sense of humor. Readers who have never heard of the Prisoner's Dilemma or the Game of Chicken will find Barash's explanations accessible, while those who are already familiar with the basics of game theory can appreciate the wealth of historical, biological and hypothetical cases to which he applies its methods, ranging from the Bush administration's foreign policy in the spring of 2003 to the behavior of sponge-dwelling isopods in the Gulf of California. Though persuasive, game theory as laid out here and in other works (the best known being Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene) can often seem harshly rational in its cold calculations of life and death, and Barash himself writes in his conclusion, "[F]or a long time I have really loved game theory, and, for about as long, I've hated it." By the end of this highly readable introduction, readers will understand quite well what he means. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Barash combines game theory with evolutionary biology, arguing that the strategic choices people make as they go through life [are] encoded in their brains by millions of years of evolution . . . His examples-including farm economics, jungle mating strategies and World War II battlefields-are convincing." --The Washington Post

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