gray-large.pngEarlier this month I wrote a post titled Game Theory and the Art of Settlement. Well, this morning I took a few moments to open up the September 3rd – 9th 2011 paper edition of The Economist and discovered an article within “The Economist Technology Quarterly” called Game theory in practice on page 19 [of that insert].

After indicating how predictive some of the game theorists computer models have been. The article explains how game theory can be used to explain why settlements are thwarted. Using the Middle East as the arena of ultimate conflict – which coincidentally might also be considered the world’s preminent boundary dispute(s) – it indicates that the side that first offers its bottom line position, or anchor, generally loses leveraging power. So neither side seeks to make these types of disclosures and the process fails.

The thought is that if there is a trusted mediator, who is able to act on the benefit of both sides and independently gathers from each their bottom line, the mediator can identify the difference (i.e. spread) between their positions and then broker a middle compromise.

As an aside and despite the article’s failure to do so, I will here intuit the polarity of this type of negotiation. It is this. It would not likely be too long after this type of set-up was constructed -particularily if done so with computers as suggested by the article – before opponents would seek to “game the game.” What I mean to say here is that opponents may have a bottom line position which is not as off-set as that of their “opponent”, however they will want to indicate a position which is as off-set as possible without being rejected out of hand. If so, wouldn’t this bring us straight back to the “win/lose” types of negotiations under which most people already labor?

At any rate, in the article this set of intriguing quotes are offered:

Barry O’Neill, a game theorist at the University of California, Los Angeles, describes how [game theory software] can facilitate divorce settlements. A husband and wife are each given a number of points which they secretly allocate to household assets they desire. The wife may inform the software that her valuation of the family car is, say, 15 points. If the husband puts the car’s value at 10 points, he cannot later claim that he deserves more compensation for not getting the car than she would be entitled to. [And …]

Could software-based mediation spread from divorce settlements … to resolving political and military disputes? Game theorists, who consider all these to be variations of the same kind of problem, have developed an intriguing conceptual model of war. The “principle of convergence“, as it is known, holds that armed conflict is, in essence, an information-gathering exercise. Belligerents fight to determine the military strength and political resolve of their opponents; when all sides have “converged” on accurate and identical assessments, a surrender or peace deal can be hammered out. Each belligerent has a strong motivation to hit the enemy hard to show that it values victory very highly.”

Aha! So that explains why so many boundary dispute lawyers think that they should initiate their contact with their hapless opponents with puffed chests and Tarzan’s call.

Well guess what, this approach might work well until June 31, 2012. However afterward, for those that think that they will carry their adverse possesion case by economic force instead of legal reason, ESHB 1026 – which yours truly provided testimony at both Washington state’s House and Senate Judiciary Committees – will create a “convergence zone of misery”. Why? Because in addition to their own costs of “staging and waging war”, wrongful boundary dispute “belligerents” MAY just find their Court assessing costs and reasonable attorney fees against them too. Now, isn’t that SPE-CIAL!gray-small.png