FIRST 2002: Prisoner's Dilemma

Posted by Kris Verdeyen at 04/30/2001 4:46 PM EST

Engineer on team #118, Robonauts, from CCISD and NASA - Johnson Space Center and Friends.

Here’s something to gnaw on:
In philosophy (and computer science) there is a concept called the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”. The story goes like this:

You are a criminal, and you and your partner (for whom you have no feelings one way or the other) have committed an crime. Unluckily, you’ve both been caught, and you’re being held in separate cells in a jail, with no way to talk to each other.

The district attorney comes to talk to you, and says he’s willing to make a deal with you. He’s also offering the same deal to your partner, and you both know that. He says, “We have some circumstantial evidence on both of you, and if neither of you tells me anything we can still get both of you a year in jail, the way things stand right now. But - if you confess, and admit your partner was with you, then we’ll let you off scot free because you were helpful, and he’ll get three years in jail. Of course, if he confesses and you don’t, then you’re the one who gets the three years and he walks free. Now, if you both confess, then we’ve got you both dead to rights and you both get two years in jail.”

The district attorney leaves and goes back to his office, after telling you he’ll be back in half an hour to get your answer. What do you do?

(courtesy of

How about this kind of setup as a basis for a first game? The best move, on average, is to cooperate, but you can get ahead temporarily by screwing your partners. Of course, then you would quickly get a reputation as a partner-screwer, and that would hurt you in the long run. At face value, it’s contrary to “The Spirit Of FIRST”, but it would at least make the picking for finals a lot more interesting.

Bear in mind, I’m not saying that this is a great idea, but a similar game construct was already in place in this year’s game (albeit in a much tamer form)
The 1.1 multiplier for the big ball’s color shared some of the aspects of this game.

Posted by colleen - T190 at 04/30/2001 7:13 PM EST

Engineer on team #190, Gompei, from Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science and WPI.

In Reply to: FIRST 2002: Prisoner’s Dilemma
Posted by Kris Verdeyen on 04/30/2001 4:46 PM EST:

I think Game Theory is the coooooolest thing… I was just looking up some books on it for the car ride to indiana…

It’s a very very cool field of study… even beyond the prisoner’s dilemma… :):slight_smile: