Game Theory – An Introduction

March 27, 2009

Game theory, as with most logical and mathematical disciplines has interested me for a long time but until recently I haven’t had time or the motivation to look in to it very far. On my reading list from Christmas I have a small introduction to Game Theory. So far it’s been really quite interesting, I’ve lost the plot a few times and not understand one of the very basic concepts because of some of the wording, but it’s got all the information and there are no hard to understand formula.

Game Theory then, from what I understand of it so far, is the maths that can be used to determine what a ‘rational’ thing (or things) would do in a given situation. It’s applied across the board from the decisions animals and insects make and why they should make one decision over another all the way to what I should do in a game of poker.

In a basic game like Matching Pennies you can explain the very basics of Game Theory. The game involves two players, each has to choose either Heads or Tails on a penny and when they reveal their choice the first player wins if both pennies are the same (Heads, Heads/Tails, Tails) and the second player wins if the pennies are missmatched (Heads, Tails/Tails, Heads). It is known as a Zero-Sum Game because one player wins and the other player loses, i.e both players ‘payoffs’ are balanced, I win, you lose, visa versa, or a draw occurs in which all players get 0 payoff. A Zero-Sum game is therefore a game of pure-conflict, to maximize my payoff I have to try and make you lose by winning and visa versa. You could change Matching Pennies so that it was no longer Zero-Sum by giving some of the options benefit for both parties or the opposite. If we say that anything with a Tail in it means that both players win then it might be beneficial, if you know your opposition will play Heads, to always play Tails.

Game Theory is used to demonstrate what the best strategy is for both players, should the first player always go Heads, choose Heads two-thirds, one-half, one-quarter of the time, or maybe not at all? A decision matrix can be drawn up for the Matching Pennies game whereby if you win you get 1 and if you lose you get -1, that way the payoffs are balanced at a round 0.

Player 1
Heads
Player 1
Tails
Player 2
Heads
+1
-1
-1
+1
Player 2
Tails
-1
+1
+1
-1

In the top left you can see that if both player choose Heads then player one gets +1 and player two gets -1. We can understand from simple common sense that there isn’t really a best strategy unless you know what the other player is going to do, so I’m best off choosing Heads/Tails with an equal probability of 50%. This is called a mixed strategy as opposed to a pure strategy which will determine what a rational person should do in any situation of a Game.

Game Theory seems like it could be very useful in lots of situations where one should make a decision, the more I think about it the more I believe I’m going to start pondering options I take in terms of Game Theory.

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Watchmen

March 17, 2009

I’ve been waiting for Watchmen to be released for quite some time. For those who don’t know, as most of you probably don’t, Watchmen is an adaptation of the brilliant (an understatement) graphic novel by Alan Moore. As with most adaptations, it’s not completely true to the original text. In fact, there are quite a lot of changes, but having said that, and having thought about it long and hard, I have to admit that the movie is very close to the original text. Far closer than most movies ever get and the movie is a good two and three quarter hours long.

For the movie to be completely true it would probably have to be released as a series of movies, maybe 6 or so, each being about 2 hours at least. This is because there are so many side plots, time jumps and things that are explained so well through the medium of comic but which are nigh on impossible to translate on to the big screen without creating a mammoth. An example of this is the psychologist who, in the movie, appears very briefly but in the comic the psychologist passes Rorschach daily. His plotline interacts with many of the other complex plotlines which eventually all come together at the end.

The psychologist goes through trials and tribulations in his marriage because of his apparent kindness and need to help other people.The movie introduces this character very briefly as a means to show you things about Rorschach, but then he’s gone. It’s almost as if he’s only there so as to make the movie feel more complete to fans of the comic book, which is something that annoyed me. There’s no real way of putting all of this into the movie without giving the psychologist character his own movie, or a large chunk of a movie and if you think that there are at least five of these characters you get to a story of about six hours or more. I don’t want this to become a rant on why I disliked the movie.

It’s obvious I’m a seething fanboy who wanted the completeness and quirkiness of the comic to come across in explicit detail and it’s just not something that’s ever going to happen. Either way, finally, I can say I’m pleased with the result, with things to be desired of course. However, something that was brought up with me was what your regular John Smith would think of it. They’re probably not going to get any of the references to the psychologist, or the journalists. They won’t see Rorschach pottering about because they just don’t know that they’re meant to be looking for a creepy fellow with a sign. It also, unfortunately, seems that they don’t get very much of anything else from the movie, or the people I have heard about don’t.

I’d love to hear what other people thought of it who had not read the comic book as, at a guess, I think everyone who has reviewed it would probably have done a bit of research on it and read the comic book.


Scientology, Tommy Davis and the Confederation (Xenu)

March 16, 2009

This interview with Tommy Davis one of Scientologies most aggressive higher ups is going to create quite a stir. It clearly shows Tommy Davis admitting the Xenu story of Scientology as true and that the reason so many people have been stopped from publishing it is because they don’t want other people to display their core beliefs, and perhaps screw them. In a ‘what is true for you is true for you’ belief system, if you try and publish something or change it you’re ostracized or perhaps worse.

What’s more, with this interview we clearly see Tommy Davis defending his belief by going on the offensive and saying that the interviewer is:

“What you’re doing right now and what it is you’re saying to me is an intent to ridicule religious beliefs. That’s really what we’re talking about. And you’re just forwarding an agenda of hate.”

I don’t think anyone is actually trying to ridicule any religious belief with this interview, what is happening, and what Scientology needs to understand about this is that people want to understand Scientology. They want, on the face of it, it all to be spelled out, so that we can either accept you, or leave you be. If we can’t do that then we’ll always be curious, and end up being what most Scientologists I’ve come across who I’ve spoken to about this called ‘Bigots’.

I’ve come into contact (over the internet) with a fair few Scientologists who are well spoken, kind, generous, aren’t advocates and won’t shun you if you happen to disagree with their belief. I’m happy to say I’ll like Scientologists, so long as they can give me the fair and square, x and y of what their religion is, without any of the “ok, you don’t agree, what’s true for you is true for you” or “you’re just a religious bigot, stop your hate crimes”.

What I really see coming from this interview is an interesting openness in future about what Scientology is and where it’s going. Hopefully some good can come from this from all sides of the Tetrahedron.


WIRED – Wall Street Netbooks and the Music Industry

March 15, 2009

I bought a copy of Wired, the American issue a few days ago and I must say I’m really rather impressed by it. I bought it because of an article it has called The Secret Formula that destroyed Wall Street. It’s all about a formula called the Gaussian copula formula which was, as far as I can make out, used to calculate risk on different kinds of loans from the high end loans only banks deal with to, and more importantly, your regular mortgage. However, I’m really loving my latest purchase of this magazine, it’s got quite a few really interesting articles in it, including one on Watchmen that I have yet to read.

Included in the articles are an article on music games like Rock Band and how the music industry in all its wisdom is pulling support from these games because they don’t give enough in the form of licensing fees and returns. What they’re doing I see as essentially opening up the market for independent music distribution and licensing, giving more variety and freedom to those who want to get their music out there. Think about creating a tune for a game like Rock Band specifically as a band and getting it known through the console, then, when popularity has increased, or even before, sell it over iTunes or some other internet distributer.

Recently I bought a netbook, a Samsung NC10 to be precise, it’s an absolutely fabulous piece of hardware, it runs everything I could really want on the move and I can even code some Assembly on it. I write most of my blog entries on it on my way too and from work and I feel quite proud of it when I pull it out on the tube on the way too or from work. However, there is a point to this, the WIRED issue has an article on Netbooks that really makes you think about the direction the hardware industry for computers is really going. Here, is a netbook, a low cost, low powered, device that can really do anything you want to do on it. If you have an internet connection you don’t even need to worry about installing a word processor on it. There really is no real need for most people to have high performance computers when you can just sit down snug on a char in Starbucks with a netbook and get on with whatever facebooking-myspacing-shenanigans you want. For ages coders have been taking advantage of high powered pcs by coding bloatware, sloware, bulkware, etc and now you have these low powered netbooks that are what we had maybe four years ago in high end laptops and if software developers really want to stay atop of the market they’re going to have to start shaping up and coding better. That’s just my personal opinion on how bad a lot of programs are coded these days though.

Finally, we have the article on the Gaussian Copula Function which I’ll probably write an article on as well as Watchmen. At the moment I’m so impressed with WIRED US that I want to subscribe but I’m going to be waiting to see if the next issue is any good.


Singled Out

March 14, 2009

Singled Out – Bella DePaulo

This book so far has been nothing but a spewing-forth of unreliable evidence, over-exaggerated to the extent of not just inducing boredom but annoyance. Generally it’s clear that single people seem to have less rights than married people, no tax breaks, etc, but to fill a whole chapter with the ripping apart of a book in a careless and neither witty nor constructive way isn’t good reading.

I can see this book being for bitter, cynical singles who want to affirm their hatred of couples without actually delving in and looking at life and how they want to live theirs. The author comes across as bitter and angry, not ‘elegant’ or ‘witty’ as E. Kay Trimberger of The New Single Woman claims. In fact, I think it says a lot that the back cover has a snippet from The New Single Woman and not something more prestigious. Why not even have a quote from something a little less sexist like Single People (if such a thing even exists?). The book does have a quote from The Christian Science Magazine which makes one wonder how stretched they were to find quotes.

The book claims to debunk all the myths about marriage and being single and yet I haven’t seen one myth about single or married people be debunked. I’ve seen them be refuted, argued against, bitterly slammed, but certainly no kind of constructive debunking has occured. The first chapter is given to a detailed analysis of a study done called “The case of marriage: why married people are happier, healthier and better of financially” by Waite and Gallagher. They claim that married people live longer, are happier and, obviously, are better off financially than single people. The author’s opinion of the report can be summed up in one sentence: “The report was done using bad analysis and didn’t take into account the fact that Widowers and divorcees were also married at one point”. This for the most part is true. The report is based on bad statistics which completely ignore the fact that widowers and divercees were once married. Yet a whole chapter is taken up with what appears to be a vile vengeance against anything that might support people who are married. The very next chapter, after slating the report because it used bad statistics, comes up with some equally vague and mind-blowingly bad statistics on single people, percentages thereof being happy, sad, etc. All the while completely missing the point that the greater percentage is married/coupled and that there will be a percentage of singles who want to be married because they do feel alone.

The book should be given the catch-line “You’re single, you’re going to be miserable, these are the reasons why, deal with it.” And as you can probably see, it makes me quite angry reading it.


Comment – Pez

March 3, 2009

I’ve been meaning to reply to this comment by Pez (www.scientologytoday.org) for quite some time now as I still have some stuff to say on it and Scientology still interests me quite a bit. Pez’s comments are in Italics and mine are in standard type.

Picking apart what you perceive as contradictions in the religious beliefs of the Scientology system is as pointless as doing the same thing to Christianity, which is also filled with apparent contradictions.

I totally agree with this however, I feel that there is a lot of point in doing this, I’m currently looking to buy my own flat and I’m not going to jump in to a deal before I know about it, likewise, I’m not going to jump in and say something is founded and solid unless I truely feel it is. I pick apart Christianity and any other religion I happen to become interested in and I see lots of contradictions in Christianity and other belief systems. I in fact just finished reading a book which really shed light on some of the contradictions and ambiguity of Jewdaism and Christianity and where it can lead (Biblically posts 1, 2).

Although Scientology’s core tenets do indeed speak of us all being immortal spiritual beings, it is still possible to call yourself a Scientologist by believing in OTHER portions of its doctrine while still not going along with the entire Thetan concept. Many Christians pick and choose parts of the Bible they like, but ignore others. Unlike other religions, Scientology has a built-in allowance for this, and says “what is true is what is true for YOU.”

It appears that what you’re saying is that anyone can call themselves a Scientologist if they have heard about Scientology, there not being any definitive meaning to being a Scientologist. A Christian may pick and choose parts of the bible, but at the end of it they believe in Jesus,  God and the Holy Ghost. From what you say it seems like Scientology has none of these attributes if I do not have to believe anything that is written in the core of Scientology to be a Scientologist. It brings up a very clear question though, what does one have to resign themselves to to become clear? Clear is a state where one is free of what Hubbard called Engrams, which are unwanted experiences (Clear).

If you are genuinely serious about understanding Scientology better, I urge you to read the book “A New Slant On Life” which can be found for free in many libraries (although the Anonymous vandals at marcab.org are calling for people to steal them from libraries) or very cheap on eBay. I think it provides the best introduction to Scientology besides watching the videos on the main Scientology website.

I shall certainly try and find a copy of ‘A New Slant On Life’ and blog about my experience of it here. I have watched many videos on the Scientology website and I’m sad to say it seems like it’s coming across more as self-help than any serious religion for peoples wellbeing.

What makes Scientology a religion, why isn’t it just a self help program? I think is one of the main reasons I have such a hard time understanding Scientology. You do not have to believe in any kind of spirit, no god(s), in fact, you do not have to believe in anything to be a Scientologist. Finally, if ‘what is true is what is true for you’ then why are people rejected from the society for ‘squirrelling’ and believing slight differences in the writings ( see FreeZoners )?

I’ve had to remove commenting because of the large amount of spam this post has been getting.