This is a continuation of the topic in this blog entry.
In the June 17, 2009 issue of The New Republic, in an article called Plan of Attack, the term Prisoner's Dilemma was used and not explained. Does the public know what the term means? Are they supposed to learn what it means from context? I am asking these questions non-rhetorically. Here is the context and exact quote.
Context: Bob Woodward is going to do a book about the Obama White house. If you work in the White house, do you cooperate with him or not?
He (Bob Woodward) flashes a glimpse of what he knows, shaded in a largely negative light, with the hint of more to come, setting up a series of prisoner's dilemmas in which each prospective source faces a choice: Do you cooperate and elaborate in return for (you hope) learning more and earning a better portrayal-- for your boss and yourself? Or do you call his bluff by walking away in the hope that your reticence will make the final product less authoritative and therefore less damaging? If no one talks, there is no book. But if someone talks--- then everyone-- always talks.
- Do people who are not involved with game theory on some level know what The Prisoner's Dilemma is? Some do, but I wonder how many.
- Does it matter? Are writers freer to use terms the audience might not know since the writers know the readers can look it up easily. This is even more true if you are reading online and the writer provides links. However, in that case you may get distracted and not finish the article.
- Will writers do this more often and will this educate the public?
- I have also seen this on TV. If a show mentions some fact I didn't know, I might look it up. Sometimes its fictional, but sometimes its true. And sometimes you may get a skewed view of the issue: I once saw the 25th amendment used three times in one month of TV (West Wing, 24, and a repeat of 24) and always in a dramatic fashion. I looked it up and now know it; however, in real life, it has never been used in a dramatic fashion.
- The article right after the Woodward one was about what to do with the detainees at Gitmo. The name of the article: Prisoner's Dilemma