Posted by: Michael Mandel on October 10
The economics blogs had a very positive reaction, in general, to this morning’s announcement of Robert Aumann and Thomas Schelling as the latest Nobelists in economics . For example, Tyler Cowen writes
I am happy to see Schelling — a fruitful generalist if there ever was one — and Aumann, a deeply philosophical thinker, get the nod. Aumann I don’t know personally, but there are few scholars I admire more than Thomas Schelling.
I’m going to take a bit of a different position. I agree that Schelling and Aumann are deserving prize winners. But their subject matter—game theory—has big problems.
In my opinion, despite today’s Nobel prize, game theory has hit a dead end. The more fruitful road forward leads through behavioral and experimental economics. (I say this as someone who wrote his doctoral dissertation on game theory).
In any real-life situation, game theory does not predict a single equilibrium. Instead, it typically offers a very wide range of possible outcomes. Moreover, game theory assumes a certain kind of rationality which has not been backed up by the facts.
Behavioral and experimental economics don’t start off by assuming rationality. Instead, they actually look at people’s real-world behavior, and then make predictions based on that. For example, see the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, granted to Daniel Kahneman and Vernon Smith.
More about this later.
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