Pulling the Grim Trigger | Kevin Zollman


April 23rd, 2021

1 hr 16 mins 25 secs

Season 11

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode

Kevin is a game theorist, philosopher, and author who studies the evolution of language and the mathematics of social behavior.

In this episode, we have an entertaining and engaging conversation about game theory.


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinzollman/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KevinZollman


[00:14:56] "The idea here is that when we have situations where we can cooperate for mutual benefit, that is if we all wear masks, we're cooperating, we're helping one another. "

[00:17:23] "For a game to be a zero sum game, it needs to be that if one person wins, someone else loses."

[00:26:47] "One of the things game theorists know is: it's important to make it smaller rather than bigger. Because the bigger it is, the more the easier it is to sneak under the radar and cheat. And you want to create opportunity for accountability

[00:32:40] "Talking to one another is another example of a game. Especially when we're worried about circumstances where we might have an incentive to be dishonest or at least not fully honest."

[00:49:36] "Game theory always says you have to think about what it is the other person doing, and what are their incentives, and what are they thinking about. Because if you misunderstand what they're doing because you think that they have a different set of incentives, then you can make mistakes."

[00:59:27] "What game theory helps you to do is: it helps to ask what are the things you need to think about?"

[01:02:43] "A game theorist would say the first thing you've got to do, is figure out what they value. Because you can't make any predictions about what they're going to do until you know what they want."


[00:02:50] We learn about Kevin’s background

[00:05:05] What Kevin thought his future would be like

[00:06:22] We talk about Kevin’s background in programming

[00:07:18] How programming makes its way into the research and work he currently does

[00:09:14] What is a game and why do we need theories about them anyways?

[00:11:13] Is game theory evil?

[00:12:42] Game theory in poker

[00:14:00] The game theory of wearing masks in a pandemic

[00:17:13] Is wearing a mask a zero sum game?

[00:18:31] What is the prisoner’s dilemma

[00:23:37] Repeated prisoner’s dilemma

[00:25:01] Prisoner’s dilemma and engagement pods on social media

[00:27:51] Pulling the grim trigger

[00:29:23] Is game theory unique to humans?

[00:32:15] How is game theory applied to language?

[00:34:45] Do you have to know you’re in a game to be playing a game?

[00:36:48] What is a Nash equilibrium?

[00:40:44] What does fairness mean to a game theorist?

[00:44:30] What can a game theory teach us about our own sense of fairness and morality and equality?

[00:45:10] The ultimatum game

[00:47:50] “You don’t play the hand, you play the man across from you.”

[00:51:11] Is losing ever a winning strategy?

[00:52:55] How can we use everything we've just been talking about to negotiate better job offers?

[00:55:55] A hot topic of discussion in both of our households

[01:01:56] Can multiple people be playing the exact same game but have different rewards?

[01:03:28] A Game Theorist Guide for Parenting

[01:05:36] It’s 100 years in the future, what do you want to be remembered for?

[01:07:05] The Random Round

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