Watching players bluff in a poker game inspired John von Neumann--father of the modern computer and one of the sharpest minds of the century--to construct game theory, a mathematical study of conflict and deception. Game theory was embraced at the RAND Corporation, the think tank charged with formulating military strategy for the atomic age, and in 1950 two RAND scientists discovered the "prisoner's dilemma"--A disturbing game where two or more people may betray the common good for individual gain. The prisoner's dilemma quickly became a popular allegory of the nuclear arms race. Game theory developed into a controversial tool of public policy--alternately accused of justifying arms races and touted as the only hope of preventing them. Biographer Poundstone weaves together a biography of the brilliant and tragic von Neumann, a history of pivotal phases of the cold war, and an investigation of game theory's far-reaching influence.--From publisher description.
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