More About the Author
Welcome to Ed Rosenthal's Amazon.com bio page!
If you're here, obviously you wanted to find out more about me or about my books. So, here's some personal stuff: I was born in Manhattan and attended Stuyvesant High School. Like many kids there, I loved math and science - and everything else, except maybe for diagramming sentences in English class. (But don't let that fool you - I always loved to write, and even wrote a suspense thriller when I was 10. That one, though, you won't find on Amazon.)
I went on to study mathematics, physics, computer science, and philosophy at the State University of New York at Albany. I majored in mathematics and made computer science my official minor.
In college I realized that I wanted to become a professor. I was warned that you either publish or perish - and it's true - but where else do you get paid to learn about cool stuff all day long, solve problems, write articles, and teach people too! So I went off to graduate school at Northwestern University to study optimization and theoretical computer science.
Along the way I fell in love with game theory and wrote my Ph.D. thesis on cooperative (cost sharing) games that arise from network optimization problems. Since then I've taught management science and operations management at Temple University. This has worked out great for me, because Temple is a buzzing and vibrant urban campus in a city (Philadelphia, in case you are from the Left Coast) that is definitely on the rise.
One idea that has totally captivated me since I was 19 years old is that nowadays, people have way, way more choice in their lives than they ever had before. You can choose your career, choose your companions, choose your dinner . . . all of which were very difficult to do, say, 100 years ago, not to mention 1,000 years ago. The question is, how does this ability to choose so many things in our lives impact the way we live and think?
This fascination with choice led me to write my first book, The Era of Choice: The Ability to Choose and its Transformation of Contemporary Life, which was published by MIT Press in 2005. In the book I show that the way we think about things - not just everyday stuff, but cultural and intellectual ideas too - has been utterly transformed by the wealth of choices in our lives. Many of the changes are wonderful, but sometimes, people really think they can have their cake and eat it too, and this can set us up for some major disappointment.
Since writing The Era of Choice I've watched our world continue to change at warp speed: for example, in just these last half-dozen years, most of us over the age of 12 have become reduced to being slightly bent over all the time, peering down at small digital devices that we clutch desperately. How could we have such wide-ranging choice in our lives, and yet end up captive to these things 24/7? Sounds like another book in the
My other longtime fascination has been with decision making. How can we figure out the best decisions? Why do we end up making the decisions that we do? What role does randomness play? How often do our emotions tangle with our higher-order, "rational" cogitation? Do our decisions clash with those of others?
If these questions fascinate you as well, then maybe you need to discover your inner game theorist. By chance, as it turns out, I had the wonderful opportunity recently to write The Complete Idiot's Guide to Game Theory.
What's game theory about? One angle on it, as I mention in the Complete Idiot's Guide, is that it's about competition, money, and guile. But more precisely, game theory is a mathematical approach to decision making in the presence of conflict and uncertainty. Simply put: how can you make the best decision you can, when
(1.) others may be working against you, and
(2.) you're not sure what's going to happen next?
In a nutshell, that's what game theory is about. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Game Theory is a serious and comprehensive book that surveys this broad subject. If you check out the "Look Inside" feature for my book on Amazon.com, you'll not only find the Table of Contents but you'll also get a good idea of my writing style and the book's level of difficulty.
About that: if you are a Ph.D. student in economics, the CIG to Game Theory will be a fun and informative read but it won't help you with the starred problems you have to do for homework. But the CIG isn't a Ph.D. level book, is it?
For the rest of us, the CIG to Game Theory is a solid introduction. You will learn some concrete techniques, from solving nonzero sum games to cooperative game solutions to auction strategy. You'll also get an introduction to a wide range of topics, from adverse selection to the role of information to repeated games, even to more specialized topics such as mechanism design. And, in addition to learning the theory - how people should act in these situations - you'll learn how people actually behave. An entire section of the book is devoted to behavioral games, far exceeding what you'd learn in competing titles.
Finally, the key thing is this: I make sure, I really do, that everybody can do the math.
Thank you for spending some time with me.
All the best,