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Posts tagged with ‘game theory’

The Box

Cemeron Diaz starring in The Box

Recently – and not knowing what to expect or what I was about to watch – I went to see The Box. It’s one of those films you’ll either love, or hate. It’s from the same director that brought us Donnie Darko, the movie that brought us the wonderful Mad World cover.

The Box starts with a simple premise. A family is presented a mysterious box with a large red button. They are given a day to decide whether to press it or not. If they do, they will receive a suitcase with one million dollars, tax free. But – and there is always a but – someone whom they do not know will be killed. If on the other hand they decline to press the button by the time the offer expires, the box will be taken away, reprogrammed and sent to someone else.

Given this choice, what would you do?

If this has peaked your interest, stop reading here and go and watch it. Otherwise, I have to warn you that the rest of the post contains spoilers.

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Game Theory Applied to ‘Batman, the Dark Knight’

Batman pondering game theory late at night

I kind of find it hard to believe that a movie based on a comic super hero was one of the best films of 2008. This is partly because not that many good movies were released that year, but also because ‘Batman, the Dark Night’ offers more than just the mindless entertainment you would expect from such a block buster. Most recent super hero films have tried to make the genre more interesting by making their villains more nuanced. Lex Luthor in Superman is a prime example of the well respected society man by day, and evil doing genius by night.

The Joker in the latest installment of the Batman franchise however bucks this trend. He has no visible nuances at all. He’s just plain psychopathic. But it’s his evil deeds that are quite remarkable: He’s not really out for personal gain and greed like most common bad guys. Instead, he’s simply intent on creating mayhem. And not just any sort of mayhem. He also has a penchant for placing his victims in situations where they have to make really difficult choices. This because on one hand, no matter what choice they make, the outcome is most likely always going to be bad. More interestingly though: many times, that choice is also influenced by the decisions of others instead of coming from just one individual. And this is where game theory comes into play.

If you haven’t seen the Batman film or “A Beautiful Mind”, the following may contain spoilers.

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