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

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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.

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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: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 130 people found the following review helpful By RV on March 3, 2003
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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118 of 125 people found the following review helpful By triskaidekaphilia on September 1, 2002
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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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I found this book at a used book store and while I generally need little prodding to purchase a math book, in this case a quick glance through the first few pages convinced me to purchase it. Although human emotions are powerful forces in our lives, many of our decisions are still made based on rational thought and perceived benefit. This is the realm of game theory, which is an analysis of decision-making based on the interpretation of rewards and punishment.
The first games examined in this book are the standard ones of two-person zero-sum games, first with and then without equilibrium points. A two-person zero-sum game is one where the winnings of one player must match the losses of the other. In other words, the sum total of value held by the two players is a constant. This is followed by an examination of utility theory, which is a determination of the true value of the rewards and punishments. It is here where emotions and personal preference are the strongest. Something as simple as bragging rights can often have more value than large monetary payments. The next chapter deals with two-person non-zero-sum games, where the total value held by the two players is not a constant. The last chapter deals with n-person games, which are difficult to analyze, but are the most interesting because they are closest to life. Success in n-person games almost always requires the formation of a cooperative, in the sense that there is the potential for a coalition that can dominate everyone else.
What I enjoyed the most about this book was the examples and the problems. At the start of the chapters, there is a set of questions that introduce the material, and they are answered at the end of the chapter. In between, the explanations are clear, with a minimum of formulas.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By T. W. M. Philip on July 16, 2004
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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