"From optimizing our daily commute to choosing whether or not to purchase Apple’s latest gadget, our lives are filled with instances of strategic decision making. And while most of us are vaguely aware of the larger systems at work (the city’s transportation network; the marketplace for technology products), our main concern is to navigate the chaos of modern life.
Ehud Kalai, a professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School who recently delivered the prestigious 2015 Nancy L. Schwartz Memorial Lecture, has spent his career as a game theorist trying to model this type of chaos. He views commuters and smart-watch buyers as participants in “big games”—scenarios that involve the repeated interaction of many “players,” other examples of which include financial markets, healthcare management, and the education system. Kalai is especially interested in what game theorists call “rational learning”—in other words, how people learn to play. “Rational learning,” he says, “can ultimately lead to more stability.”