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July 20, 2008


Thanks for the comment and trackback.

A key component of Prisoner's Dilemma is that the cell for {Cooperate, Cooperate} is Pareto Optimal over {Defect, Defect}. It's a dilemma as the Nash solution is the Pareto inferior choice. If players can solve the collective action problem, then society will be better off.

However, in the Ferry game the outcomes for both cells are identical in the way the Joker specified the game - if you cooperate, both ships explode (assuming no further refinements to the payoffs). So, even if the two actors could credibly commit to cooperation, there would be no gain from doing so.

I have come across a few blogs in the last day that just list the binary payouts (0/1 or death/survival) and call it prisoner's dilemma. As you correctly point out, the prisoner's dilemma stipulates 4 ordinal outcomes for each player. For the analogy to work, the player's must consider mutual defection to be superior to the sucker's payout (cooperate-defect) but inferior to mutual cooperation.

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