Prisoner’s dilemma is a fundamental problem as a part of game theory. According to it, rational individuals won’t always cooperate with each other even if they all will benefit from such cooperation. A player (prisoner) will try to maximize his own advantage without any regard to the benefits of others.
According to William Poundstone (Prisoner’s Dilemma,1992), in 1950 two RAND scientists Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher devised a mathematical model of cooperation and conflict. Princeton mathematician Albert W. Tucker formalized the theory and named it Prisoner’s Dilemma because of the story he used to illustrate the behavior in a conflict situation – two prisoners isolated from each other and interrogated by the police in order to make them confess. Both prisoners will choose to.
According to Douglas Hofstadter, people understand a problem like Prisoner’s dilemma better if it is represented as a game or a trade process. For example, two men meet and exchange sealed bags. They know that one bag contains product and the other contains money. Each man can either respect the deal or not. Deceiving is the best scenario even if it means that nobody shall profit from the deal.
In political sciences, the Prisoner’s Dilemma is used to illustrate a conflict between countries that are involved in the arms race. Both will state that they have only two options: either to increase military spendings or to decrease the number of armaments. None of the sides are sure that the opposite side is respecting the agreements, so they both are seeking military expansion.
Poundstone, William. Prisoner’s Dilemma: John von Neumann, Game Theory, and the Puzzle of the Bomb. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Rapoport, A. & Chammah, A. Prisoner’s Dilemma: A Study in Conflict and Cooperation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1965.
Hofstadter R.D. Metamagical Themas: questing for the essence of mind and pattern. Bantam Dell Pub Group, 1985.