Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Game Theorist is Due?

The official Nobel Prizes have all been bestowed. What remains is the unofficial Nobel.

What is loosely termed the Nobel Prize in Economics is actually the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. It was not one of the prizes for which the old dynamiter provided in his will, althouh it has successfully ridden along on their coattails and established for itself an analogous eminence.

Regardless: tomorrow we will know the name of this year's winner(s) of this final 'Nobel.'

If we list the winners of the last five years, we can see that the committee has oscillated back and forth between general game-theoretic approaches to social science (inclusive of course of economics) on the one hand, and hardcore economics as an autonomous field on the other. This oscillation goes back to the Nash/Selten/Harsanyi award of 1995, immortalized by Hollywood but we'll stick to the more recent swerves.

2004 Finn E. Kydland and Edward C. Prescott. Kydland teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Prescott at Arizona State. They won for work on the business cycle.

2005 Robert J. Aumann and Thomas C. Schelling. Aumann is at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Israel. Schelling is retired, but is most closely associated with Harvard University. They won for game theory. This prize was interpreted by some as evidence the economics Award was morphing into a more general social-sciences award.

2006 Edmund S. Phelps. This was more hadcore economics, though. Phelps won for work on "intertemporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy." Specifically, he postulated a "natural rate of unemployment." The simple but depressing idea that government policies designed to push unemployment below this rate will have adverse consequences later sounds a little better if it is called an intertemporal trade-off, doesn't it?

2007 Leonid Hurwicz, Eric S. Maskin, Roger B. Myerson. Hurwicz is affiliated with the University of Minesota; Maskin with Princeton; Myerson with the University of Chicago. This was again an award for game theory, although the prize committee referred to it as "mechanism design theory."

2008 Paul Krugman. Economics in a strict sense again.

So I'm thinking 2009 will be a year for social science and game theory once again.

No comments: