Expand the Tent of the Game Theory Society

I solicit opinions about renaming the game theory society.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Expand the Game Theory Society?

I solicit opinions from members of the game theory community on the DRAFT of the proposal below. Supporting and opposing views, as well as suggested modifications are welcome. If there is sufficient interest, I will take a version of the proposal to official discussion in the Council of the Game Theory Society.

a Proposal to Rename the Game Theory Society

by Ehud Kalai

We propose “Game Science Society” as a new name for the “Game Theory Society.” Below is a brief historical overview and reasoning.

Current studies of games.

We think of a game as an interactive environment, involving n-participants (players), each having to choose actions based on his information and each being motivated by individual payoffs that depend on the information and actions of all the players. Given the large number of social, biological and mathematical environments that fit the description of games, the study of games has been accelerating at an exponential pace over the last half century. Current studies of games may be grouped as follows.
1. Non-cooperative game theory studies the behavior of payoff-maximizing players who take into consideration all strategic and informational parameters.
2. Cooperative game theory studies how coalitions of rational players allocate the profits and costs attained through the play of games.
3. Behavioral game theory studies how real players play games: experimental games played in the lab, and empirical games played outside the lab.
4. Evolutionary theory studies play guided by imitation, survival of the fittest, etc.
5. Algorithmic and artificial theory study issues of computational, informational and behavioral complexity in games played by live or by artificial players.
6. Interactive epistemology studies the subject of knowledge, including knowledge about knowledge.
Combinatorial games deal with mathematical issues unique to games.
8. Non-Bayesian Decision Theory concentrates on decision making under uncertainty, when relaxing or replacing the Bayesian assumptions made in the classical theory.
9. Neurological studies of games deal with physiological activities observed during the play of a game.
10. Economic games use the tools above to gain insights into strategic economic interaction and the performance of economic systems.
11. Political games use the tools above to gain insights into strategic political behavior and the performance of political and social systems.

Methodologies used in the study of games. Early studies of games were conducted by mathematicians who were mostly concerned with the theoretical aspects of cooperative and non cooperative games (items 1 and 2 above). But as the study of games expanded to the other areas above, they were joined by economists, political scientists, psychologists, philosophers, biologists and statisticians. Current studies of games require specialization and the collaboration of experts with knowledge of different disciplines.

Why Change the Name?

Currently, the study of games is called “game theory.” However, the term may be misleading since the subject has evolved substantially beyond one theory. As discussed above, it consists of multiple subjects that address different questions and use different methodologies. “Game Science” may be a more accurate description.

To start, we note that the name game science is consistent with other fields that study many different theories. For example, string theory is only one theory within physics, general equilibrium theory is only one theory within economics, and complexity theory is only one theory within computer science. In a similar sense, it is natural to think of the cooperative theory as one theory within game science.

It is important to have such accuracy within the profession. Consider, for example, the editorial evaluation of a paper that predicts behavior in coordination games. If the behavioral assumptions grossly violate rationality criteria, a game theorist is likely to reject the paper. But if, on the other hand, a small number of variables predict the behavior of actual players, a behavioral theorist is likely to accept the paper. Expanding the name from game theory to game science gives legitimacy, in the minds of evaluators, to use different view points in assessing the contribution of new research.

But name accuracy is also important for external considerations. As the subject and its importance become known to people outside the field, there is a loss in minimizing it by referring to it as one theory. The rapid gain of interest in game-theory within several sciences shows the broad potential of the subject. And outsiders may gain added appreciation by knowing that it is studied by scientists from different disciplines using different approaches studying different issues and for different applications. The support that the subject receives from outsiders is likely to grow with such recognition.*

An important example where the expanded name may get additional support is within a university. For example, it is hard to imagine the creation of a department devoted to the study of a theory. On the other hand a department devoted to study a science seems more plausible. To put things in perspective think of an analogy within another young field. Devoting major resources to a subject called “computing theory” is less likely than devoting major resources to a subject called “computer science.”
* It is often suggested that the word “game” should be replaced by something more serious like, interaction or strategy. We think, however, that we stand to lose more by giving up what has by now become a brand name. Hopefully, “game-science” is sufficiently close to “game-theory” to preserve the gained recognition.