History of Mathematics
Game TheoryBudapest, Hungary
Game theory is the study of mathematical models of strategic interactions among rational agents. It has applications in all fields of social science, as well as in logic, systems science and computer science. The concepts of game theory are used extensively in economics as well. The traditional methods of game theory addressed two-person zero-sum games, in which each participant's gains or losses are exactly balanced by the losses and gains of other participants. In the 21st century, the advanced game theories apply to a wider range of behavioral relations; it is now an umbrella term for the science of logical decision making in humans, animals, as well as computers.
Game theory did not exist as a unique field until John von Neumann published the paper On the Theory of Games of Strategy in 1928. Von Neumann's original proof used Brouwer's fixed-point theorem on continuous mappings into compact convex sets, which became a standard method in game theory and mathematical economics. His paper was followed by his 1944 book Theory of Games and Economic Behavior co-authored with Oskar Morgenstern. The second edition of this book provided an axiomatic theory of utility, which reincarnated Daniel Bernoulli's old theory of utility (of money) as an independent discipline. Von Neumann's work in game theory culminated in this 1944 book. This foundational work contains the method for finding mutually consistent solutions for two-person zero-sum games. Subsequent work focused primarily on cooperative game theory, which analyzes optimal strategies for groups of individuals, presuming that they can enforce agreements between them about proper strategies.