Episode 844: Nice Game : Planet Money In game theory, sometimes the best way to win, is to lose.
NPR logo Episode 844: Nice Game

Episode 844: Nice Game

Alissa Escarce
Electronic chess board
Alissa Escarce

Bob Axelrod was teaching political science at the University of Michigan in the 1980s, and he was obsessed with one idea: how to get countries to cooperate. Back then, it looked like the United States and the Soviet Union might be headed towards nuclear war. Axelrod wanted to figure out how to keep that from happening. And he found inspiration in an unlikely place, computers that could play chess, and one of the greatest thought experiments of all time, the prisoner's dilemma.

Today, as talks about North Korea's nuclear weapons falter: what a battle between computers can teach us about avoiding geopolitical disaster. Or, why sometimes the best way to win, is to lose.

Music: "Cheeky Bassline," "The Missing Link" and "Wanna Know You."

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