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A Game-Theoretic Interpretation of Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War'

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Niou, Emerson M. S.; Ordeshook, Peter C.
Date: 1990
Agency: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Series: Social Science Working Papers, no. 738
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/5836
Sector: Theory
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): game theory
conflict resolution
Abstract: "Over twenty five hundred years ago the Chinese scholar Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, attempted to codify the general strategic character of conflict and, in the process, offer practical advice about how to win military conflicts. His advice is credited with having greatly influenced both Japanese military and business practices, as well as Mao Tse-Tung's approach to conflict and revolution. The question, however, is whether or to what extent Sun Tzu anticipated the implications of the contemporary theory of conflict — game theory. The thesis of this essay is that he can be credited with having anticipated the concepts of dominant, minmax, and mixed strategies, but that he failed to intuit the full implications of the notion of equilibrium strategies. Thus, while he offers a partial resolution of 'he-thinks-that-I-think' regresses, his advice remains vulnerable to a more complete strategic analysis."

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