Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Enthusiasm about the economics Nobel prize: Roth and Shapley

Related to games: CERN and Angry Birds, the world's most widely played (not only) iPhone game, will team up and create a game or games in which Angry Birds will teach quantum physics to the kids. Looking forward to see it. ;-)
The Nobel memorial prize for economics went to Lloyd Shapley, a Stanford emeritus professor, a mathematician residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts (I must have met him during a society dinner but I hadn't know him in advance so I probably didn't appreciate it as much as I should have), and a man who is considered to be nearly synonymous with game theory.

He shares the prize with Alvin E. Roth, a current Stanford professor, for "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design".

However, these two men are being admired for many other things, including the Gale-Shapley algorithm to optimally marry \(n\) men and \(n\) women (the recently deceased Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Grand Unification Church, was using a highly simplified version of this algorithm applied to \(n\sim O(1,000)\)). However, you see that this is also nothing else than "market allocation" with a romantic twist.

Gordon wrote me:
Finally, a good Nobel choice – Lloyd Shapley for economics.

He is a son of astrophysicist, Harlow Shapley, and is a fine mathematician.

He and John Nash were friends and competitors at Harvard and at the Rand Corp. He featured quite prominently in Sylvia Nasar's book, "A Beautiful Mind" – interesting book overlooking her unbalanced hatchet job on Yau in "Manifold Destiny".
In fact, John von Neumann who inspired Shapley thought that Shapley was brighter than Nash.

Many people consider Alvin Roth a genius as well although a Facebook contact of mine has been more critical:
It's interesting to not how the limelight on the economics nobel prize went squarely to a one mr. Alvin Roth – when in fact all he had done was utilize Lloyed Shapely's idea to solve a problem. Incidentally he was not the first person to use that idea - it was very disingenous reporting on the part of the NY Times.
Well, please feel free to publicly disagree if you know something about the issues.


  1. Brian, I heard some time ago that the generation of young people starting working have an incredible ability to switch quickly from a task to another completely different one... a thing older guys can't do.

  2. At least one news story mentioned Shapley's research on "wife swapping":


    Who says economics is dull?

  3. Brian G ValentineOct 17, 2012, 2:01:00 AM

    You're probably right, Shannon, and I am probably too old to do much else except rant!

  4. Oh I get it now: Dominique Strauss-Khan, our ex-future president and Economics expert, has applied Shapley's theory to the letter !

  5. if you don't like angry birds that's normal but i hope the comments are not for video games in general. the industry also employs many people that studied sciences. John Carmack from the game Doom has an aerospace company http://www.armadilloaerospace.com/n.x/Armadillo/Home

  6. Brian G ValentineOct 17, 2012, 2:04:00 AM

    Is this true about the "Angry Birds" thing? Or are you just joking? I didn't even know what that was, until I saw someone doing it on the Metro a couple of months ago and I looked it up on the Internet.

    These phones and the TV have contributed NOTHING to children's education except to DUMB them DOWN. I'm speaking about children in the US now - most of them speak no foreign language (whereas many children in other countries know English), even though they might have foreign language education in the schools.

    This has done nothing but make them susceptible to junk science hoaxes like "global warming" ...

    OK every generation since Socrates has been the prime example of unbridled stupidity, but phones and TV have accelerated this to a preposterous degree ...


  7. Your Facebook friend's comment encourages me to maintain my far from admiring attitude to "theoretical economists", generally (whether Nobel Prize-winning or not).

  8. Von Neumann comparing Shapley's intelligence to that of Nash should be viewed in the light of Von Neumann--founder of game theory--being unfairly dismissive of Nash's brilliant contributions, probably for not entirely rational reasons.

  9. Only loosely related: