On 8/2/2012 3:55 PM, Russell Standish wrote:
On Wed, Aug 01, 2012 at 09:17:00AM -0700, meekerdb wrote:
 From the responses I've received on this list, I don't think people
are using the term rational in the same way it is used in
economics. Flipping a coin is never rational, although it may well be
the best thing to do.
Random moves are optimum in many games and provably so.  What meaning of 
'rational' are you using?


The usual one from philosophy and economics theory. See eg

Note partiularly the first sentence:

In philosophy, rationality is the characteristic of any action, belief, or 
desire, that makes their choice a necessity.

Hmm. A mother sees her house is on fire and her child is inside. Since the child is more important to her than anything else, she dashes into the house to save her child. This is an example of rationality!?

A rational agent is neither free, nor random.

Somewhat unstated in that article is that rational agents have
sufficient computing capacity to perform the reasoning necessary to
determine the optimum choice - there is no flipping of coins to
determine choices.

In economics, it is also assumed that agents have perfect knowledge of
the market. This would be public knowledge, of course, clairvoyance
would be ruled out. Each agent knows what every other agent has done
in the past, but not what they're planning to do next, for instance.

But then to compete with other agents it may well be optimum to adopt a random policy and flip a coin.

I can see that in other fields,

Economics, as described above, is just a game like poker. But even in a game is may be best to do something random.

the concept of rationality with
incomplete information is deployed, so I may have overstressed the
complete information bit.

But its all a load of rubbish anyway. Real agents cannot be rational -
they must have bounded reasoning capability, and real time decision
constraints. The leads to the conclusion that a certain amount of
irrationality is a good thing.

If you're interested, I can refer you to a nice little paper of mine
looking at a traditional toy model from economics:


Interesting. I wrote a similar paper in 1984 as a critique of a U.S. Air Force proposal to have competing contractors produce the same product.


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to everything-list@googlegroups.com.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to 
For more options, visit this group at 

Reply via email to