What Game Theory Reveals About Life, The Universe, and Everything

Published 2023-12-23
This is a video about the most famous problem in Game Theory, the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Head to brilliant.org/veritasium to start your free 30-day trial, and the first 200 people get 20% off an annual premium subscription.

Special thanks to our Patreon supporters! Join the community to help us keep our videos free, forever:

If you’re looking for a molecular modeling kit, try Snatoms – a kit I invented where the atoms snap together magnetically – ve42.co/SnatomsV

A massive thank you to Prof. Robert Axelrod and Prof. Steven Strogatz for their expertise and time.

To read more about Prof. Axelrod’s Passion for Cooperation visit: ve42.co/Axelrod2023

A massive thanks to the wonderful Nicky Case. Nicky’s “The Evolution of Trust” game was a huge inspiration for this video. We highly recommend you play this excellent game yourself, over at: ncase.me/trust/

A huge thank you to those who helped us understand and fact check different parts of this topic - Dr. Christian Hilbe, Dr. Vincent Knight, Dr. Jelena Grujic, Prof. Andreas Diekmann, and Dr. Alexander Stewart.

Excellent game on the evolution of trust by Nicky Case - ve42.co/Case2023
Summary of Axelrod’s work by This Place -    • The Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma and T...  
How to outsmart the Prisoner’s Dilemma by TED-Ed -    • How to outsmart the Prisoner’s Dilemm...  
Tit for Tat by radiolab - ve42.co/T4T
The Golden Rule by radiolab - ve42.co/GoldenRule
Axelrod, R. (1984). The Evolution of Cooperation.
Dawkins, R. (2016). The selfish gene. Oxford university press.
Poundstone, W. (1992). Prisoner's Dilemma. William Poundstone.
Nowak, M. A., & Highfield, R. (2011). Supercooperators. Edinburgh: Canongate.
Binmore, K. (2007). Game theory: a very short introduction. OUP Oxford.
Northrup, L. & Rock, D. (1966). The Detection of Joe I. - ve42.co/JOE1
Prisoner’s dilemma, Wikipedia - ve42.co/WikiPD
Prisoner’s Dilemma, Stanford - ve42.co/StanfordPD
Flood, M. M. (1952). Some experimental games. - ve42.co/Flood1952
Historical nuclear weapons stockpiles, Wikipedia - ve42.co/WikiNWS
Goodwin, I. (1998). The Price of Victory in Cold War - ve42.co/Goodwin1998
Cold war: How it happened. - ve42.co/CW2014
Axelrod, R. (1980). Effective choice in the prisoner's dilemma. Journal of conflict resolution, 24(1), 3-25. - ve42.co/Axelrod1980a
Axelrod, R. (1980). More effective choice in the prisoner's dilemma. Journal of conflict resolution, 24(3), 379-403. - ve42.co/Axelrod1980b
Axelrod, R., & Hamilton, W. D. (1981). The evolution of cooperation. science, 211(4489), 1390-1396. ve42.co/Axelrod1981
Stanislav Petrov, Wikipedia - ve42.co/WikiSP
Wu, J., & Axelrod, R. (1995). How to cope with noise in the iterated prisoner's dilemma. Journal of Conflict resolution, 39(1), 183-189. - ve42.co/Wu1995
INF Treaty - ve42.co/INF
START Treaties - ve42.co/START
START I, Wikipedia - ve42.co/WikiSTART

Images & Video:
RAND Historical images via rand.org - ve42.co/RAND
Golden Balls -    • golden balls. the weirdest split or s...  
Zotti, G., et al. (2021). The Simulated Sky: Stellarium for Cultural Astronomy Research - ve42.co/Stellarium
Newspapers from 1980s via Newspapers.com – ve42.co/Newspapers
Decommisioned nuke image via The Moscow Times - ve42.co/MT2012
Soviet inspection image via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - ve42.co/Krzyzaniak2019
Decommissioning nuclear weapon via ShareAmerica - ve42.co/Kaufman2014

Special thanks to our Patreon supporters:
Adam Foreman, Amadeo Bee, Anton Ragin, Balkrishna Heroor, Bernard McGee, Bill Linder, Burt Humburg, Dave Kircher, Diffbot, Evgeny Skvortsov, Gnare, Jesse Brandsoy, John H. Austin, Jr., john kiehl, Josh Hibschman, Juan Benet, KeyWestr, Lee Redden, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Mario Bottion, Max Maladino, Meekay, meg noah, Michael Krugman, Paul Peijzel, Richard Sundvall, Sam Lutfi, Stephen Wilcox, Tj Steyn, TTST, Ubiquity Ventures

Directed by Casper Mebius
Written by Casper Mebius, Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev, and Ashley Hamer
Additional research and fact checking by Gregor Čavlović and Will Wood
Edited by Peter Nelson
Animated by Fabio Albertelli, Ivy Tello and Alondra Vitae
Illustrations by Jakub Misiek
Filmed by Derek Muller
Produced by Casper Mebius, Derek Muller, Gregor Čavlović and Han Evans

Additional video/photos supplied by Getty Images
Music from Epidemic Sound
Thumbnail by Peter Sheppard