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Game Theory: A Nontechnical Introduction (Dover Books on Mathematics) Subsequent Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0486296722
ISBN-10: 0486296725
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"A lucid and penetrating development of game theory that will appeal to the intuition . . . a most valuable contribution."—Douglas R. Hofstadter, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach
The foundations of game theory were laid by John von Neumann, who in 1928 proved the basic minimax theorem, and with the 1944 publication of the Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, the field was established. Since then, game theory has become an enormously important discipline because of its novel mathematical properties and its many applications to social, economic, and political problems.
Game theory has been used to make investment decisions, pick jurors, commit tanks to battle, allocate business expenses equitably—even to measure a senator's power, among many other uses. In this revised edition of his highly regarded work, Morton Davis begins with an overview of game theory, then discusses the two-person zero-sum game with equilibrium points; the general, two-person zero-sum game; utility theory; the two-person, non-zero-sum game; and the n-person game.
A number of problems are posed at the start of each chapter and readers are given a chance to solve them before moving on. (Unlike most mathematical problems, many problems in game theory are easily understood by the lay reader.) At the end of the chapter, where solutions are discussed, readers can compare their "common sense" solutions with those of the author. Brimming with applications to an enormous variety of everyday situations, this book offers readers a fascinating, accessible introduction to one of the most fruitful and interesting intellectual systems of our time.

About the Author

Davis is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the City College of NY (CUNY).

Patrick A. Davis is the national and "New York Times" bestselling author of six previous novels: "The Commander, A Slow Walk to Hell, A Long Day for Dying, The Colonel, The General, " and "The Passenger." He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and the Army Command and General Staff College, and a former Air Force major who flew during the Gulf War. He helped plan and direct U-2 surveillance operations for Operation Desert Storm and flew eleven combat sorties. He is a former pilot with a major airline.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Mathematics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Subsequent edition (July 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486296725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486296722
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As the name implies, this is a non-technical introduction to a very complex and technical subject. As such, the writer walks a very fine line between making the subject matter understandable to the lay-person and providing scientific support for his arguments. He is able to do this with a mixed level of success.
The first few chapters of the book deal with relatively simple subject matter, two person zero sum games. In these chapters, the author is easily able to explain the concepts and solutions without getting technical. However, as the book progresses, the author grapples with ever more complex problems, such as two person non-zero-sum games and with n-person games. As the problems become more complex, the author's explanations become less well organized and clear. It is obvious that behind the arguments stand solid mathematical reasoning, however since the book tries to avoid mathematics as much as possible, many of the explanations and assumptions remain vague.
Although I was familiar with many of the concepts in the book, this is the first book I have read on game theory. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Although I would have liked to receive more in-depth explanations in many cases, I felt that the book opened a window for me into this fascinating world. I was especially pleased with the many real world examples the author uses to illustrate the wide-ranging applications of game theory. These examples include an application of game theory to the evolution of species; and the use of game theory to determine who holds the power in a political system. More well known concepts, such as the Prisoners' Dilemma, are also comprehensively discussed.
Bottom line, this is a really enjoyable book that covers a very challenging subject.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Davis' book suffers from its very nature -- it attempts to explain a highly technical, that is, mathematical, subject without using mathematics. Davis is only partially successful in avoiding the use of mathematics; given the almost impossible nature ot the task, he does quite a good a job at explaining game theory.

The chapters on zero sum games hold together nicely and manage to leave the reader with an understanding of their nature as well as how to arrive at a Pareto-optimal solution. (Small rant: It drives me absolutely bonkers when I hear business school grads tossing around the word "Pareto" as if they had any idea of what they spoke!) When non-zero sum games are introduced, however, Davis simply cannot overcome the complexity of trying to explain multi-variable solutions with mere words. He resorts to quasi-mathematical explanations or makes assumptions that would not be at all obvious to the lay reader.

This book is an excellent refresher in game theory, or a good primer for those with some knowledge of the topic and some intuitive mathematics.
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Format: Paperback
This is an extremely well written book. It strikes a good balance between a mere book of giving skin deep introductory knowledge of game theory, and a book with too much technical stuff (esp. mathematical proof). The author made a good job almost like Stephen Hawking and Richard Feyman to explain difficult thing with an easy and friendly way. What's more, the author included also many varies paradoxes, theroms from many great leaders in the game theory's field. In beginning of each chapter, the author listed some questions for the reader to think about, before moving forward. I must say this is a very good book for those who are not very sophisticated and advance in mathematics, or as a very first entry for anyone who wants to pursuit and learn game theory.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is my "Goldilocks/Babybear" game theory book. Not too hard, not to soft, just right.

Without calculus, Davis provides a complete introduction to an arcane but useful mathematical discipline. The Compleat Strategyst: Being a Primer on the Theory of Games of Strategy by Williams was too soft. It used the simplest possible methods to address the concepts being discussed, and barely acknowledged some of the most interesting topics in game theory. Games and Decisions: Introduction and Critical Survey by Luce and Raiffa was good, up until you hit the calculus (pretty quickly in each chapter), after which I have no basis to form an opinion.

Davis hits all the important concepts of game theory without resorting to sigma notation or even more occult symbols (unlike Luce and Raiffa). He does, however, require a fairly solid understanding of algebra, (unlike Williams). With this fairly humble prerequisite knowledge, Davis takes the non-mathematician where he or she needs to go, and provides a fairly complete level of understanding.

I would recommend this one as a perfect sequel to Williams, should the reader not be challenged, or as a stand-alone for the marginally mathematically literate (such as myself) who need a practical understanding of mathematically grounded decision making.

E. M. Van Court
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Format: Paperback
The book covers the most interesting concepts and examples from Game Theory which are usually covered in first couple of chapters in a more serious book. However, this book is intended mostly for casual audience which might be even seeing "The Prisoner Dilemma" for the first time. The book was actually very useful for me since I had to find some book to do a quick recall of basic things because I had to give a simple lecture and I had left the research in the field for couple of years... If you want to see if you (or someone else) might be interested in game theory, start with this book. If you are already working in the field, you might skip it completely.
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