Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sylvia Nasar on John Nash in the Wash Po, and John Cassidy on Nash equilibrium in the New Yorker

The Washington Post has an interview with Sylvia Nasar: The author of ‘A Beautiful Mind’ on the life and death of John Nash

Here's one question and answer:

"ZG: How did he spend the last 21 years, since he won the Nobel?

SN: The first time I saw him was a few months after he won the Nobel, and he was going to a game theory conference in Israel. He was surrounded by other mathematicians, and he looked like someone who had been mentally ill. His clothes were mismatched. His front teeth were rotted down to the gums. He didn’t make eye contact. But, over time, he got his teeth fixed. He started wearing nice clothes that Alicia could afford to buy him. He got used to being around people.

He and Alicia spent a lot of their time taking care of their son, Johnny, and doing the things that are so ordinary that the rest of us don’t think about them. Once I asked him what difference the Nobel Prize money made, and he literally said, “Well, now I can go into Starbucks and buy a $2 cup of coffee. I couldn’t do that when I was poor.” He got a driver's license. He had lunch most days with other mathematicians, reintegrating into the one community that mattered to him most.

The last time I was with him was about a year ago when Alicia organized a really lovely dinner with us and two other couples. John was talking about all the invitations they’ve gotten and all the places they’ve planned to travel. Johnny was there. He was still very sick. They took him to a lot of the places they went and always tried to include him. Their life was a mix of glamour and celebrity – and the day-to-day which revolved around Johnny, who by then was in his 50s and was as sick as his father ever was and entirely dependent on them."

The New Yorker has an article by John Cassidy, on Nash equilibrium:
The Triumph (and Failure) of John Nash’s Game Theory

I was surprised to see the following, but I think it might be right--Nash's influence is ubiquitous, even when we're showing how hard it can be to reach Nash equilibrium:
"Indeed, in a 2004 article for the National Academy of Sciences that reviewed the genesis and development of Nash-based game theory, the economists Charles Holt and Alvin Roth noted, “Students in economics classes today probably hear John Nash’s name as much as or more than that of any economist.”"

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