Thursday, August 13, 2015

Game Theory

I'm so nearsighted and have worn glasses or contact lenses most of my life.  On Monday I had a 10-minute eye surgery (the prep and recovery was about 2 hours), removing the cataract in my left eye then implanting an intraocular lens replacement. During my post-op exam the next day, I marveled to my opthamologist that this was a miracle, not only could I see but colors were so vivid.  She deadpanned, "no miracle, just mathematics."  We both laughed and joked about everything being mathematical.  I went on to tell her how I have been looking for free on-line classes on game theory because understanding strategies and probability was so important to anticipate and predict social behavior, a realm the utility of the future has to master.

Coincidentally, on Saturday,  WNYC's RadioLab aired a show called, "The Good Show."  The first episode, "An Equation for Good," was a story about George Robert Price, who pioneered the application of game theory to evolutionary biology.  Although he committed suicide in 1975, his mathematical theory is still considered to be the best mathematical, biological and evolutionary representation of altruism.  The last episode, "One Good Deed Deserves Another," is the story about Robert Axelrod, who in the 1960's, during the Cold War arms race, was a math major tackling the prisoner's dilemma, "a classic thought experiment and [to] learn about a simple strategy to navigate the waters of cooperation and betrayal."

In my recent post "Hawaii's Energy Future is a Kakou Thing" it never occurred to me that the evolutionary biology and the altruistic adaptation of Hawaii's rainforest may involve mathematics. And, now I am even more convinced of the necessary application of game theory in Hawaii's energy transformation to achieve optimization of our energy system (both electricity and transportation sectors).

I hope readers can take away two things from this post.  First, I hope it is becoming more evident to all stakeholders that our new energy paradigm isn't just about rooftop solar, it's about a very complex system going through a major technical, economic and social overhaul.  Secondly, if rooftop solar dominates the course of our energy decisions what our country will be focused on are two superpowers duking it out, monolithic vertically integrated electric utilities versus monolithic vertically integrated solar companies vying for market share.  I don't foresee a promising future in that scenario. Much like the Cold War, too much money, time and energy is spent on fortifying superpower positions with an unknown outcome.

Hawaii's energy transformation can be a model for the rest of the world, however, it will require vision, the right leadership, cooperation and altruism.  That's what Aloha is, cooperation and altrusim.

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