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September 2, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

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Loren King

AF101L: Conflict and Cooperation, Decisions and Games (Winter 2014)


Dr. L. King

published: 2014 | Teaching material | Course Syllabus

“Is it really worth my time to vote? (or recycle? or take public transit instead of driving?)”

“There's no way I'm letting that driver in, when the sign clearly said 'lane closed' ahead!”

“Does my donation to Oxfam really save a life, or is it a lost drop in a sea of human suffering?”

“I can't stay afloat with both my children, but if I let one go, maybe two of us could reach safety ...”

Most of these are choices people face every day. The last choice is horrible but real: during the devastating tsunami of 2004 an Australian mother, struggling to escape the torrent, faced exactly this tragic dilemma. What makes all of these scenarios similar is that they turn on difficult, emotional, and morally charged calculations. They are also, some of them, problems where conflict could be resolved into mutually beneficial cooperation, if only we could think through the problem in a different way.

This seminar is about these kinds of problems. Several are drawn from everyday life, others from life-and-death conflicts involving war, crime, and famine. In some of these cases, being clear on the math and thinking through experimental results can help clarify what is at conflict; in others, mathematical tools and simulation techniques may suggest a way to transform seemingly intractable conflict into the possibility of cooperation.

We will learn (gently, I promise!) a variety of mathematical techniques essential not only to the human sciences, but to science more generally, and we will do so through a series of very specific, sometimes seemingly mundane real-world problems. We will work through these problems together, through group simulations, sometimes mediated by computer programmes. Grading will be based on these problems and activities.

Download: PDF (188k)    games-winter2014.pdf

revised Jan 5/14

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