Stanford’s Free Online Course on ‘Game Theory’ (Beginning August)

a beautiful mind
Academy Award winning biopic, ‘A Beautiful Mind’

A memorable scene from ‘A Beautiful Mind’ is the bar scene when Professor John Nash (the protagonist) realizes that if all his friends hit on the most pretty girl, he should hit on the second-most pretty one, which Nash later explains as ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ (an example of game theory).

[Watch the bar scene here:

Recently, I used game theory to explain smartphone wars involving SEPs may be resolved. Game theory is one of the most fundamental theories in economics and Stanford recently announced a free online course for beginners on Coursera. Details as follows:

Level: Beginner

About this course: Popularized by movies such as “A Beautiful Mind,” game theory is the mathematical modeling of strategic interaction among rational (and irrational) agents. Beyond what we call `games’ in common language, such as chess, poker, soccer, etc., it includes the modeling of conflict among nations, political campaigns, competition among firms, and trading behavior in markets such as the NYSE. How could you begin to model keyword auctions, and peer to peer file-sharing networks, without accounting for the incentives of the people using them? The course will provide the basics: representing games and strategies, the extensive form (which computer scientists call game trees), Bayesian games (modeling things like auctions), repeated and stochastic games, and more. We’ll include a variety of examples including classic games and a few applications. You can find a full syllabus and description of the course here: There is also an advanced follow-up course to this one, for people already familiar with game theory: You can find an introductory video here:

Who is this class for: This course is aimed at students, researchers, and practitioners who wish to understand more about strategic interactions. You must be comfortable with mathematical thinking and rigorous arguments. Relatively little specific math is required; but you should be familiar with basic probability theory (for example, you should know what a conditional probability is), and some very light calculus would be helpful.

Created by:   Stanford University
Matthew O. Jackson
Taught by:    Matthew O. Jackson, Professor (Economics) 

Kevin Leyton-Brown

Taught by:    Kevin Leyton-Brown, Professor (Computer Science)

Yoav Shoham

Taught by:    Yoav Shoham, Professor (Computer Science)