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Looking at World Events Through the Prism of Game Theory

Game theory is an established branch of mathematics that presents the formal study of decision-making where several players make choices that can change the payoffs of the other players. The origins of game theory can be traced to the articles from the 1920s by mathematicians Emile Borel and John von Neumann and it emerged as a field with the publication in 1944 of the book “Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour” by von Neumann and Oskar Morgensteren.

Game theory is now applied to diverse areas including operations research, evolutionary biology, military-political strategic analysis, law, biblical studies, sports, international politics, and even moral philosophy.

Game theory is known to provide helpful insights into intriguing questions about human migration, assimilation, nationalism, and about inter-ethnic as well as intra-ethnic relations [1][2]. These are increasingly significant questions due to migration from politically disturbed nations across the world to destinations in several countries and especially because of the current European Migration Crisis, which is having major social and political consequences for several European capitals.

It is not unfair to state that the current European Migration Crisis can potentially redefine the concept of the European Union itself. Migration from the Middle East is witnessing a rapid rise in the popularity of several nationalist parties across Europe. This phenomenon asks fundamental questions about multiculturalism and whether it would really be successful in creating an environment that is conducive for social cohesion.

Approaching such questions using advanced mathematical, analytical and modelling tools, techniques, and solution concepts of game theory can provide helpful insights because it allows the distancing from the usual emotions that are brought on by the usual debates on this topic.

In particular, with this approach, a number of related questions can be addressed using ideas and methods of evolutionary game theory and that of the Malthusian or replicator dynamics in order to develop an improved understanding of the evolving relationship between migration, nationalism, and inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic relations.

An approach based on game theory can answer difficult questions about how migrant populations in a country evolve over time in relation to the strategic choices they make during their interaction with the host population. Taking the current migration crisis as an example, the ultimate objective would be the creation of a universally applied model, based on mathematical/analytic reasoning, and thus providing a rational perspective on this sensitive topic.

[1] Andre Barreira da Silva Rocha, Evolutionary Dynamics of Nationalism and Migration, Physica A 392, 3183-3197 (2013).
[2] James D. Fearson and David D. Laitin, Explaining Interethnic Cooperation, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 90, No. 4, pp. 715-735 (1996).

Author: Dr Azhar Iqbal

Dr. Azhar Iqbal is a SIA Associate and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide. He is a mathematician with research interests in Game Theory as a scientific approach and value-add to the analysis and research on critical International Relations issues.

***Views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of SAGE International Australia ***

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