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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like a good idea to me. But it should be an expansion -- "Game Theory" should remain a part of "Game Science."

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Drew Fudenberg said...

I think that this is a good idea. "Game science" is a better, more accurate name, of the range of things that "game theorists" do, and the hysteresis effects, while not trivial, doesn't seem so large as to rule the change out. It would be even better to come up with a one-word Latinate name, but I can't think of one and there may not be any good choices. ("Ludology" doesn't appeal to me.)

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sympathetic to the idea of changing the name to make it clear that the larger community of researchers interested in games should feel welcome. However, I'd prefer a name such as
"Society for the Study of Games" or something similar to "Game-Science Society".

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Michael Maschler said...

You present good arguments in favor of your proposal. Nevertheless, I recommend
to leave the term as is for the following reasons:
1. Game theory is already an incorrect name because the theory hardly deals with games. Thus, your suggestion does not make things more accurate.
2. The number of people working in the area expands exponentially as you said and new areas use game theory. Why replace a winning horse?
3. Even laymen know very well that game theory does not deal with games and have some idea of what game theory accomplishes.
4. If someone will write a paper as to how to play against a less than rational player,no one will refuse calling it a game theoretical paper.
5. I am not sure that a university will agree to open a department on Game Theory,but by the same token they will be reluctant to create a game theory sciences department. That is why we adopted the "Center for the Study of Rationality".
Thus, if you want an accurate name, this is a better alternative.But I still think that
game theory should remain the name of GTS.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Larry Blume said...

The study of games (broadly conceived) should be as much an empirical science as it is theoretical. While there has been some interaction between theory and empirical research with so-called 'behavioral game theory' and experimental economics, gains from interaction are still left on the table. For instance, I think the econometric literature on parameter estimation in games with multiple equilibria would look different if it was informed by the literature on population games. It is an admirable goal, of great potential import, for the Society to facilitate interchange across the theoretical/empirical boundary as well as across all the disciplines mentioned in the draft. There is merit in a name that reflects this broad goal, especially if there are accompanying programmatic ideas. I agree with the third comment, that perhaps 'Game Science Society' is insufficiently alliterative, but also with Drew that ludology is ludicrous.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Ken Binmore said...

I am much in favor of expanding the tent under all the headings listed. For example, because we were so inward-looking, evolutionary biologists reinvented game theory for themselves (sometimes getting things wrong that we had sorted out long before). Changing the name of the society is only a small thing, but it may serve to signal that we are open to a wider membership.

4:52 AM  
Anonymous Vince Crawford said...

I agree that a name that goes beyond "Game Theory" would better communicate what we do to outsiders, though I also share Michael Maschler's concerns about preserving the value of our current trademark. But I do not really like the sound of "Game Science Society" and I am not sure that the word "Science" will send the right message (i.e. empirical as well as theoretical) to outsiders either. I would favor something like "Society for the Analysis of Games and Strategic Behavior" or perhaps (emphasizing the connection with the journal) "...and Economic Behavior". These are too long, but they would turn into acronyms anyway.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Tzachi Gilboa said...

If the name is to be changed, why not change "games"? I think that the misnomer "games" is only justified in the context of "game theory", carrying with it the history of the field. More precisely, we are thinking about various scientific approaches to the study of interaction among decision makers -- wouldn't "Interaction Sciences" be more accurate? We can also think of "Game Theory and Interaction Sciences" if we want to keep the GT brand name.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous myrna wooders said...

Since the main publications associated with the Game Theory Society, and also the interests of many of the members of the society, go beyond game theory in its narrow sense, I’m in favor of changing the name. A question is, however, how wide should the coverage of the name be? For example, Game Science may better describe research currently being published in GEB and IJGT. Game Sciences, however, is more analogous to the Social Sciences or the Natural Sciences, and would include game science in biology, psychology, mathematics, political science and economics (in fact, a subset of most branches of the Social Sciences).

A concern is that a Game Sciences Association (or Society) might be too broad and loose focus. It could perhaps foster more specialized Societies under an umbrella organization. Imagine Allied Game Sciences Meetings; already I would like at attend!

8:01 AM  

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