Axelrod's work was also summarized in The Selfish Gene. (And more recently, in Behave, by Sapolsky.)
From the abstract:
"We assume that, in a world ruled by natural selection, selfishness pays. So why cooperate? In The Evolution of Cooperation, political scientist Robert Axelrod seeks to answer this question. In 1980, he organized the famed Computer Prisoners Dilemma Tournament, which sought to find the optimal strategy for survival in a particular game. Over and over, the simplest strategy, a cooperative program called Tit for Tat, shut out the competition. In other words, cooperation, not unfettered competition, turns out to be our best chance for survival."
I've never been a fan of this framing. Cooperation can be viewed selfishly when the cooperation occurs because of well informed and strategic parties in the cooperation. A great example of this in real life are cartels. Cartels are only cooperative to the point where it optimizes a stable level/equilibrium of selfishness. Most cartels would happily disband and pull all the gains but the participants realize their minimal cooperation results in the best outcomes for themselves.
I guess the main issue I have with this boils down to the underlying intent and framing of intent. Ultimately, the intent is still driven entirely by selfishness, it's just selfishness with strategy and realizing that sometimes taking everything you can from everyone won't always navigate you to your selfish goal-state.
Perhaps that's what you mean here by "pure" selfishness not working. I'd argue that pure selfishness is the intent to only do what's minimally required for others for self-gain. You can be strategic or instrategic about it.
Something like "altruistic" cooperation on the other hand creates cooperation for the sake of cooperation alone (building trust, social cohesion, stability for more people). There may be little or nothing to gain for the cooperation for some participants, perhaps even some lose by participating (knowingly or unknowingly), but the cooperation as whole benefits and those benefits are worth the costs to the participants. The cooperation may exist to help some other party with no expectation of reciprocation. I think of it like a potluck dinner: everyone brings a dish and everyone gets to eat and have a good time. Some may not bring a dish and that's fine, they still eat and gain and others know that's the case, meanwhile some may fix elaborate dishes, expensive in terms of preparation time/complexity and/or ingredients and they do so knowing they're going over and above and won't necessarily be rewarded (perhaps a compliment) but they do so anyways because they wish to share the dish or experience with others.
One about game theory and its relation to Objectivism: https://www.atlassociety.org/post/game-theory-and-objectivis...
And another about the Prisoners Dilemma specifically and which touches on the Nash equilibria: https://www.atlassociety.org/post/prisoners-dilemma
And for people like me who are interested in the relationships between the two, here are some opinions of people from quora:
Basically, times in life where it's a 'positive sum' as opposed to 'zero-sum' game.
Non-zero by Robert Wright, is probably the best synthesis on this topic.
Objectivism is just toxic foolishness.
I think she outlines cooperation as an intrinsic result when people are acting within their own self interests which I think was why I originally saw the relationship.
It's relevant in every day life: human interaction often fits the schema of the prisoner's dilemma, the signalling game or the chicken game. That tit-for-tat is the optimal strategy in iterated prisoner's dilemmata matches intuition about human cooperation.
The theory is beautiful, easy to understand and leads to verifiable predictions, especially in the context of evolution, such as the competition between genes, the behaviour of parasites, allocation of resources in a tribe, mating rituals, etc.
It certainly doesn't match my intuition because it's a quite mechanistic view of things. But speaking in mathematical terms, I have the suspicion that it's a solution for a very specific situation that generalizes with negative side-effects to social life. In any case, I've read that governments use this strategy when it comes to foreign affairs.
The idea is, that of course, in real life people are not 100% uniform, miscommunication and misunderstanding happens, etc. And you'll want to tune your parameters to the situation at hand. E.g. if you have a long standing relationship with the other actor and they've always been cooperating then you may not want to compete/retort when you see then doing it for the first time. (OTOH, what I personally found important is that in a new relationship, you should be very strict about this. Even if not immediately compete, shoot a very directed and serious warning.)
The general idea is that you don't let the other party to take advantage of you in the long run , but you always allow for de-escalation and don't try to take advantage of them in the long run either. (You will get taken advantage of, of course, because you'll always start cooperating, so if every other actor/player is competing then you'll lose on average. But not by much. However, if there are just a few one who are willing to cooperate most of the time, then you'll win big time.)
E.g. if you implement tit-for-tat in your marriage, you're gonna have a bad time.
Most people have a very simple view of the nature of politics, and therefore, tend to think the people charge are out to get them in some way, when really, they're just operating under some kind of game that forces their hand to make difficult decisions. By understanding a little game theory, a person might at least be able to better understand what's going on, if not even influence the odds in their favor.
Obviously, ordinary people might not want to play this game, but the game will still play with you.
This video is a good rundown of that for government, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7niR7gs
One analogy is shifting from a blame culture — why did that one person do that thing? — to a blameless postmortem: what is it about this system of individual actions that leads to this outcome? How did we get here? What mechanisms and incentives would repeat it? What would change it?
For a great introduction from this point of view, check out Thomas Schelling's Strategy of Conflict. No maths, just a great read from a Nobel prize winner.
But caution: game theory is not about winning games, but finding equilibria. You might be more interested in behavioral game theory (how people learn the games, k-level thinking etc) if you want to get a leg up.
This. However, if you understand the equilibrium for some behaviour, you can understand what would it take to change the behaviour.
I use this in my startup where we create an equilibrium for dentists to provide reliable dental care. And, it actually works.
Something you'd describe as being ordinary.
Though, I could be very wrong here, since it is definitely open for multiple interpretations.
Is there a shortage of groceries? Are people hoarding? Are they just 'bad people' or does a rational person change what they buy during a shortage? Why? Would you expect a Government saying "don't hoard" to have any effect?
> playing a musical instrument
Is there an orchestra you want to join? Will a particular instrument get you in the door easier than any other instrument?
Soccer. Why do you see so many obvious dives in professional soccer? Why do grown men hold their shins and cry when the replay shows they weren't hit?
Sumo. When a sumo wrestler is one win away from a promotion in a tournament, and he's facing an opponent who has already guaranteed his own promotion, what are the odds the first sumo wrestler will win?
It's like a lot of things, you need to know enough to know why its useful, so its a bit of a catch-22. And then there's when you should apply it - a lot of the times just because you can doesn't mean you should.
are you asking "would an ordinary person encounter events in which game theory would be applicable on a normal, day-to-day basis?"
or are you asking "would an ordinary person who has studied game theory (but is not especially well versed or practiced) be capable of using it when it comes to making decisions?"
also can you please specify what you mean by an "ordinary person". how good are they at linear algebra and probability?
And assume they are good at maths.