Friday, February 4, 2011



William Poundstone's Prisoner's Dilemma is the source for our CATTt Contrast.  This account of the passage from pure research (Von Neumann's invention of "game theory") to public policy formation (American foreign policy, specifically US nuclear strategy) during the Cold War, establishes that part of the problem for which fatal strategy is the alternative.  We retain public policy formation, choosing a specific disaster (accident) and its related policy options, while updating strategy for international relations and nuclear weapons in the new conditions of terrorism.  The first step in filling the Contrast slot is to inventory primary attributes of the source example.  We need to understand how Game Theory evolved into public policy, in order to locate opportunities for Fatal Games.  In keeping with the heuretic method, we identify one primary feature of the source to translate into an instruction for our CATTt.  That feature is the example of the variation on Prisoner's Dilemma known as Chicken.

Bertrand Russell is credited with identifying this model of human conflict in his book Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare (1959).  The relevant instruction comes from Russell's use of the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause (starring James Dean) as a metaphor for nuclear stalement.  "In the movie, spoiled Los Angeles teenagers drive stolen cars to a cliff and play a game they call a 'chicken run.' The game consists of two boys simultaneously driving their cars off the edge of the cliff, jumping out at the last possible moment. The boy who jumps out first is 'chicken' and loses" (Poundstone, 197).  Russell saw this game as an emblem for "brinksmanship."  The metaphor was picked up in subsequent discussion, and contributed to the discourse surrounding the Cuban Missile

Instruction:  select a pop film narrative to use as a metaphor or emblem for articulating or expressing the fatal strategy relevant to your disaster/accident.

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