word of the day - Non Zero-Sum


Non Zero-Sum – In game theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s), so in every game there is an absolute winner and absolute loser. In a Non Zero-Sum game, both sides may win or both sides may lose (as in Nuclear War).

Use non zero-sum in a sentence:

It was a simple experiment, one Professor Hartwig had performed countless times before to demonstrate his Nobel Prize winning theory (in the category of Economics, oddly) on the application of Non Zero-Sum principles in game theory to global conflict scenarios. He divided the class into two groups and assigned to each group a leader. In the hand of each leader he placed a novelty palm zapper. He set the timer to one minute. Next to the timer, there was a platter of cookies, enough for every member of the class. If, at the end of one minute, neither leader pressed the button, everybody would get a cookie. If, however, one of the leaders pressed the button, all of the cookies for the opposing team would be destroyed, half the cookies of the “winning” team would be destroyed and the leader who pressed the button would receive a harmless shock from the novelty zapper. The cookies, of course, represented the lives of the players, and the destruction of a cookie represented a kind of metaphorical death. As in Nuclear War, the best outcome for both sides would be for neither leader to press the button. However, uncertainty over what the other side might do would, theoretically, in a rare case, result in one side pressing the button. These were university students—enlightened, civic minded--therefore the results were fairly predictable, but all theories had to be tested, no matter how much of a formality, so it came as somewhat of a surprise when notorious class clown Steve Romeo commandeered one of the zappers and pressed the button (to add a kind of symbolic rigor to the experiment Professor Hartwig had wired the basement with explosives that could be detonated by the novelty hand zappers) blowing 85% of the class (and 90% of the cookies) to kingdom come.


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