English to Thai: How Game Theory Can Help You Do a Better Job of Parenting General field: Social Sciences Detailed field: Psychology
Source text - English How Game Theory Can Help You Do a Better Job of Parenting
December 6, 2017 by PAUL RAEBURN
In 1944, the economist, physicist, mathematician and computer scientist John von Neumann published a book that became a sensation, at least among mathematicians – Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. Written with a colleague, Oskar Morgenstern, this volume of nearly biblical proportions is so dense and littered with mathematics that only a game-theory specialist could understand it – and some of them struggled.
Even so, game theory has spread far beyond the boundaries of mathematics to become a valuable tool for explaining human behaviour. It’s used by diplomats, biologists, psychologists, economists and many others in business, research and global politics.
Game theory can also be a useful tool for parents. Children can be tough negotiators, as parents know. And the stakes are high: the outcome of negotiations between parents and their children can affect a family’s happiness and the children’s futures.
Despite its sometimes complicated mathematics, game theory is simple to explain: it’s the science of strategic thinking. Game theory does not cover all games, but only those in which an opponent’s or negotiator’s strategy affects your next move. It has nothing to do with solitaire, in which your ‘opponent’ – a deck of cards – has no strategy. Chess, on the other hand, is a beautiful example of a game-theory game, where two crafty strategists are continually trying to anticipate and block the other’s likely moves.
Encouraging cooperation between children is a wonderful game-theory example. Some years ago, Robert Axelrod, a game theorist at the University of Michigan, asked the following question: when should a person cooperate, and when should a person be selfish, in an ongoing interaction with another? He set up a computer competition among game theorists, and he was astonished at what he found. The most sophisticated solutions failed to beat something called tit-for-tat, in which each player responds by doing what the other did. If the first cooperates, so does the second. And so on and so forth. If the first does not cooperate, neither does the second.
Auctions are yet another subject of game-theory research, and useful for parents. Suppose your children all want to control the TV remote. Set up what’s known as a sealed-bid, second-price auction. Each secretly writes down what he or she is willing to pay. When the papers are opened, the highest bidder wins the right to buy the remote at $1 plus the second-highest bid. It’s far superior to a coin flip because the person who most wanted the remote got it.
Game-theory deals depend upon fairness and, often, so do dealings between parents and children. Children are consumed with the idea of fairness. If a candy bar meant to be shared by two isn’t broken exactly in half, the one who gets the smaller piece will howl. Game theory offers parents a way around this.
Suppose you break the candy bar into two pieces that are almost the same size, but not quite. And your children can see that they are different. You could do something that seems eminently fair: toss a coin. Your children can recognise the fairness in tossing a coin; nobody controls the outcome. What could be simpler? You toss the coin into the air. The winner gets the slightly bigger piece of candy; the loser gets the other. But something changes when the coin hits the floor. The winner now believes the decision was completely fair; the loser demands that he get a do-over. To him, it doesn’t seem fair at all.
The problem here turns on the meaning of fairness. The coin toss is fair, as we usually understand that. So what is the problem? In game-theory terms, the outcome was not envy-free. The loser desperately envies the winner. It’s not a very satisfactory solution for you or for one of your two children.
Here’s a way to get a much better outcome. Suppose you have the remains of a birthday cake you want to divide between your two children. You have the same problem as you did with the candy: it’s difficult to cut two equal pieces. So you turn to the technique we call ‘I Cut, You Pick’: your daughter cuts the cake, and your son picks the half he wants.
Your daughter will be as careful as possible to cut the cake into identical halves, because if she doesn’t, she will get the smaller one. Because it might not be possible to cut the cake into two exact halves, you designate your son to make the cut the next time you have cake. And you continue to take turns. This is fair, and game theory shows that people will recognise it to be fair. It’s far superior to the brutal coin toss.
Now let’s make it a bit more difficult. The cake is half chocolate and half vanilla. Your son loves chocolate; your daughter prefers vanilla. If your daughter cuts the cake in a way that gives each of them half of the chocolate and half of the vanilla, the cut is fair. Each piece is the same size. But neither child is entirely happy, because each got some cake they didn’t want. Turn the cut the other way – and divide it into a chocolate half for your son and a vanilla half for your daughter, and both are far happier. Both cuts were fair, but the cut into chocolate and vanilla halves demonstrated what’s called Pareto optimality. Each was not only fairly treated, but also got the best possible outcome.
Game theory can also be used to help the family to decide where to go on vacation, what to have for dinner, how siblings can learn to cooperate without mum or dad’s intervention – and many other problems that routinely turn up in the family.
Game theory is a gift of evolution, which sculpted us to behave according to precise and illuminating mathematical rules. We use it all the time. Game-theory parenting is a way to help parents explicitly understand the rules and reflect on what the rules say about raising healthy and successful children. An understanding of game theory helps us become the parents we were meant to be. Parents and children might not be able to make their way through von Neumann’s often opaque book, but they don’t have to. They are all game theorists already. All they need are a few good rules. And that’s what game theory provides.
English to Thai: Humanitarian Aid Is 'Broken,' Says Former U.N. Official General field: Social Sciences Detailed field: Social Science, Sociology, Ethics, etc.
Source text - English Humanitarian Aid Is 'Broken,' Says Former U.N. Official
June 22, 201710:25
The humanitarian aid system is broken.
That's the message of a new paper by Paul Spiegel, a former senior official at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The piece was part of a special series on health and humanitarian crises published by the British medical journal The Lancet in early June.
Today, more than 65 million people around the world have been forced from home due to violence, war or conflict. "The humanitarian system was not designed to address the types of complex conflicts that are happening at present," wrote Spiegel. "It is not simply overstretched; it is no longer fit for purpose."
Spiegel, a physician and a professor at Johns Hopkins University, explains what the humanitarian system needs to do to fix itself. He's aiming his remarks at U.N. agencies like UNICEF, international aid groups like Save the Children and national donors like the U.S. government.
In your paper for The Lancet, you say that the humanitarian system that responds to emergencies due to conflict is "broken." How so?
The humanitarian system was made for a simpler era, where conflicts and wars were shorter in nature and had an end. Its purpose was to bring much-needed money and care to people to address their immediate needs. The humanitarian system is based on premise that refugees are temporary. But the point is that refugees stay for a heck of a long time.
This Band-Aid approach made sense in the past, but it's not functioning anymore.
In Syria in particular, you have millions of people who need help inside [the country] and millions of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon [and Turkey]. We used to talk about acute emergencies lasting for a couple of months, but that hasn't happened in Syria. They've been in that state for the past six years. Their needs — shelter, clean water, protection against infectious diseases — are extraordinary. The humanitarian system cannot respond appropriately.
You outline a few big ways to fix humanitarian aid. For one, you're not a fan of refugee camps. Why?
In the past, it was easier to put refugees and displaced people in camps. You set up parallel services [for example, schools and clinics] to save lives quickly. But camps cost a huge amount of money, and in the long term, people become dependent on those services. There's no dignity.
Let's not do that. Let's not put people in camps.
If not camps, then what?
Let's put the money to [government-provided services like health care] to help displaced people.
When Disaster Strikes, Aid Groups Often Strike Out. Why?
The government of Iran, for example, has absorbed over a million Afghan refugees. They didn't put them in camps. They gave them work permits, allowed them into primary and secondary schools and even universities. Over a six-year-period, UNHCR [worked with Iran's health system to allow] refugees to access the national health insurance system. This is a bonus not just for refugees but for the Iranian government. It puts more money into their health systems.
You also call on big development agencies like the World Health Organization and the United Nations to let go of some of their power.
There needs to be a remaking of how we respond, coordinate, lead humanitarian crises. In the past you had international organizations come in because the governments were too weak to respond. But now governments are becoming stronger and they're saying: hold on, humanitarian system. You can't do whatever you want.
That will require some changes in the way the international system responds. That means the system will have less power and authority as the host governments deal with the humanitarian emergencies. For the U.N., for example, that means reducing their staff and budget. How that is done is unclear.
So where does that leave the humanitarian system?
Humanitarian principles — humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence — are essential in humanitarian action. We need to make sure that everyone regardless of nationality, ethnic group and religion person receives assistance according to these principles.
For example, we cannot rely on the Assad government to provide assistance throughout Syria. Clearly he would provide only to the people who support him. Same in South Sudan. Ethnic fighting is rife, and we cannot rely on Salva Kiir and his government to provide assistance throughout his country.
For that reason, governments that are directly part of a conflict cannot generally be relied upon to provide aid in an impartial and neutral manner. In these circumstances, neutral and independent parties are needed to ensure that assistance is provided according to humanitarian principles.
Has the humanitarian aid system made any changes for the better?
In the past, the U.S. would provide a tremendous amount of food aid that would come from America's excess stock and grain, distributed by American [air] carriers. Now technology is a game changer. For example, in Jordan and Lebanon, the most vulnerable refugees are getting ATM cards [with money to buy local foods from local markets]. We're not shipping food from abroad. We're giving refugees their own money to buy their own commodities.
Do refugees get much input into the way aid is handed out?
They're not being asked what their needs are. There have been times when the World Food Programme has not given the right type of grain to a population. For example, bulgur wheat as opposed to rice because rice is more expensive.
What happens when the people who want rice end up getting bulgur wheat?
The people who receive the bulgur wheat say: This is for the animals. So they sell it for rice — even if that means getting less of it — or for other needs like firewood.
A lot of your aid fixes have to do with preserving the dignity of refugees and displaced people.
These people have lost everything. Imagine yourself in their situation. You have nothing and you're dependent on people. As soon as you can, you'd want to become less dependent and take the future into your own hands.
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