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Print Non- Fiction August 10, 1997
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William Poundstone
Prisoner's Dilemma
1992

This book follows the life and times of John von Neumann, father of the digital computer and a pioneer of the branch of mathematics known as "game theory." The dilemma of the title refers to a hypothetical "game" wherein two criminals are offered the chance to betray each other in return for lesser sentences. Sounds like a harmless brain-teaser? Well, von Neumann and the folks at RAND were crunching the numbers on these types of games in order to devise policies regarding nuclear war. The book is a fascinating glimpse into the U.S. scientific community at the beginning of the Cold War.


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