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Learning Game Theory; Upcoming Events++ #11

++Anything Mentionable is Manageable

Quote of the Week

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, ‘You’re tearing up the grass’. ‘We’re not raising grass,’ Dad would reply. ‘We’re raising boys.’ –Harmon Killebrew- American Baseball Player

Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and collaborating on this.

In this week’s main post ‘Learning Game Theory’, GenWise mentor, Navin Kabra, shares his experience of teaching a course on this topic to young students. The post also provides a basic introduction to what game theory is about.

You are invited to be an early member and beta-tester of the GenWise Club (ages 13-90), a community of interested students, parents, and educators. Check out the upcoming events section on how to join the club. It is open to all in the current beta phase. 

Join this conversation on learning, by commenting on our posts, or joining our club community for more regular and closer interactions.


Learning Game Theory

Upcoming Events (Free & Paid; both external and GenWise events)

Parenting: Anything Mentionable is Manageable

Learning Game Theory

This post is written by GenWise mentor, Navin Kabra.

We have already spoken about Game Theory earlier (in my post about the Bhagavad Gita and a Game Theory simulation in our newsletter #6). In this post, I dwell further on what the domain of Game Theory is about and share experiences from my course for school students. This is a condensed version of this blog post.

Play, Motivation and Learning

Playing games is usually not associated with learning and education. Parents are more likely to view games as a waste of time rather than as something that can impart life-long skills. In fact, students also agree with this assessment, the only difference being that the students actually don’t mind the waste of time as much.

So it is not a surprise that the student feedback I receive for the Game Theory course I teach is commonly “The course could be 2 hours instead of 1. That way we could play more games.” What may come as a surprise though is that the feedback also includes comments like “The thing I liked most about the course was learning about payoff matrixes.”

What is Game Theory and what happens in this Course?

So what do we do in this course? We start with simple games, which are easy to understand and easy to analyse, and then understand the different strategies that could be used to play/win the game.

For example, consider this video clip from the movie Footloose:

The Game of Chicken shown in this video clip has been extensively studied by economists and helps determine strategies in fields as diverse and important as terrorist negotiations, workers’ strikes, and nuclear weapons deterrents.

This is the Game of Chicken. Try to think of what you would do, or not do, if forced to play this game. There aren’t too many possibilities or strategies. And yet, as you can see from the Wikipedia page for the Game of Chicken , there is lots of theory related to it, and it comes up in many different real life situations, and the strategies you learn in the simple version of this game can actually be applied in more complex real life situations.

For example, have you heard the phrase, “America does not negotiate with terrorists”? This is directly connected to the theory of the Game of Chicken, and the video you saw above (and the steering wheel which got stuck.)

There are more games and more real life scenarios that become easy to understand once seen from the point of view of Game Theory.

Should two students in the same class share class notes and study tips with each other, or should they keep them secret from each other?When two companies are selling complementary products to the same set of customers, should they collaborate with each other, or should they compete by introducing products in the others’ space?

In case of the students, if both students share notes and tips with each other the performance of both will improve. But if you share sincerely, while the other person only pretends to share, never sharing the important or useful stuff, then they will benefit but you will lose out. What should you do?

Questions like these come up all the time in life, in work as well as in personal relationships. Most people take such decisions intuitively, but there isn’t necessarily a deep thought process behind the decision, and often the decisions are suboptimal.

Economists and mathematicians have been studying situations like these for a long time, and have developed a science of decision-making (called game theory) where these are modelled as simple games that are easy to analyze, but at the same time give deep insights into how you can significantly improve on your instinct in actual messy real-life situations. 12 economists have won 7 Nobel Memorial Economics prizes in Game Theory (including John Nash, whose story is shown in the movie A Beautiful Mind).

The examples described so far are all instances of one particular game (called Iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma).

In this course the students play 3 or 4 different such games against each other, then discuss and compare their strategies/techniques with those of the other students, followed by a discussion of the theory of that game, variations and complexities, and a discussion of possible real-life scenarios where those theories are applicable. This is followed by homework where the concepts learnt have to be applied to new real-life situations.

And the best part is that all this involves little or no math. In fact, most of it doesn’t look anything like studies, since it primarily involves playing games and thinking about games!

This link lists some resources if you would like to learn Game Theory.

Navin’s next Game Theory course starts on Monday, June 21. Check the links in the Upcoming Courses section for more details.

Upcoming Events

Events @GenWise Club Lounge

Harry Potter Quiz- Sat, Jun 19, 4 PM

Our first Quiz edition is a Harry Potter-themed one! While the first round has trivia from all the hidden nooks in the series, the second round is picture-based, encouraging students to analyse visuals and identify answers. There’s no shortage of fun as students explore their favourite books through quizzing and have a bit of healthy competition! GenWiser Sarayu is the quizmaster.

‘Psychology of Money’ Book Discussions- Session#2- Sun, Jun 20, 3 PM

The facilitator, Vishwesh (a GenWise parent) is covering one chapter every week. The upcoming discussion is on chapter 2 (Luck and Risk) which looks at how Bill Gates took care of his money to get rich.

Last Sunday’s discussion was fascinating, with both students and parents attending- we spoke about ‘what makes money grow’ and inflation. Chapter 1 ‘No One’s Crazy’ was discussed. The key takeaways were- 

We are all biased by our own experiences and there is a rationale for our financial decisions even if it may look crazy to others.

We all think we know how the world works but each of us has experienced only a tiny fraction of it.

Reading about history is not the same as having experienced it. So if someone had to struggle to meet basic needs as a child, they might look at money differently because of that.

The history of saving money is quite short- so we are still learning about this.

What explains the Rise of Humans? (Understanding Yuval Harari)- Sat, Jun 26, 11 AM

Tanish, Rehaan and Sinan started having a conversation about ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari with GenWise mentor Radha Gopalan in the #movies-books-music channel. To take this conversation forward, excerpts from this talk will be played and discussed.

How do I join the GenWise Club?

Check out this link for more about the club. To join-

Get an account for you and/ or your child on Discord

Use this invite (valid till June 24, 2021) to join the GenWise server. If the link doesn’t work, please send a whatsapp message to Vishnu on 9342247734 to receive the latest invite link. (Or email

Direct Message (DM) Vishnu with your full name and details (child/ parent, grade, school) once you slide into The GenWise Club!

External Events

Can We Learn From Insect Societies? is a talk by award winning scientist Dr. Raghavendra Gadagkar as part of the series ‘Kaapi with Curiosity’ by ICTS. The talk is on Sunday, 20 June 2021 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm. For more details and to register, click here.

Many insects organise themselves into societies with division of labour, communication, conflict, cooperation and altruism. Insect societies resemble human societies in many ways and are arguably more efficient than ours in some ways. So, can we humans learn anything from insect societies? In this talk Dr. Gadagkar will attempt to answer this question in the affirmative.

History of Neuroscience- the case of Phineas Gage is presented by Synapse Society on Tuesday, June 29. Click here to register your interest.

Upcoming Courses @GenWise

Details of at least 3 GenWise courses coming up (out of all the courses listed here), are shared below. Early registrations can avail an early bird discount.

Parenting: Anything Mentionable is Manageable

In this short article, a parent shares how naming difficult emotions and talking about them has helped her children grow emotionally and become braver. The parent shares her 5 year old daughter’s nighttime safety plan, and says-

“Once, during the third post-bedtime summons, she said: “Want to hear my nighttime safety plan? My music keeps me company, my blanket protects me from monsters and things that bite, my water helps me if I’m thirsty — and if that doesn’t work, I’ll yell for you!” And she does, a lot. And I come, every time.

Because life is scary, and she is brave. Brave enough to name her fears and share them with me. Brave enough to borrow my courage until she becomes more sure of her own.”

The parent also quotes Fred Rogers in this article.

If you haven’t watched the excellent movie ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ based loosely on Fred Rogers, do watch it. If your children are 13 or older, we strongly recommend watching the movie along with them.


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