Monthly Archives: July 2015

Game theory in Policing!

 I’m currently reading one extremely interesting book ‘Super Cooperators’ by Martin Novak. It’s about the mathematical thinking on cooperation as a successful evolutionary strategy for the human race. The Prisoner’s Dilemma, which is an interestingly simple depiction of the complicated choices to cooperate or squeal (compete), is a great model for understanding how cooperation is the best strategy for the two players taken together. Most interestingly, the book draws parallels with repeatedly played Prisoner’s Dilemma games, for showing cooperation as the best possible strategy in evolution of humans since that gives the greatest chances of a successful outcome for a large group like a species. 

Though self interest is inbuilt in any living creature, communities which use cooperation and generosity towards each other as a driving force in their interactions, can be mathematically shown to succeed in the evolutionary scale. The book goes on to describe how the repeatedly played game (a parallel for interpersonal and inter group interactions in an evolving species) shows breaking down of the success of cooperative strategies at some point in the game, by selfish interest, and after that again cooperative strategies start succeeding. These cyclical changes in the evolution of human race as described mathematically in the book through game theory are almost religious in their depiction! 

I was fascinated with the throw of thought in this book(still reading!). If cooperation is indeed a strategy for successful evolution of a species, it can surely have many advantages even as a short term strategy for us in one generation. It can also turn out to be a beneficial strategy in inter-nation conflicts, instead of escalation to competitive conflict. Maybe more mathematicians need to be employed to work on these problems in our Defence Ministries­čśŐ! 

For its applications in the field of policing, is there a significant payoff of better security if police promote activities for increasing the feeling of cooperation in conflicting communities? Also would we see something significantly beneficial if the same principle is extended to criminal or deviant individuals, and prisons can become ‘help and care’ centres for criminality?

Such strategies are seen as ‘soft’ and not deemed useful enough. Consequently, the few programs that may be built around these themes do not get too many champions and are also not supported with deserving funds. Clearly, fear, aggression and competitiveness will rule the roost if issues are seen in the perspective of the here and now, but cooperation, generosity and inclusiveness are strategies for long term success of communities. Can we then look at funding activities which promote cooperation- like community policing- for a more stable future ?