A reflection on fifty years of game theory in biology

Peter Hammerstein (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

December 3, 2021, 11:30–12:30


Room Auditorium 4


In the early 1970s biologists started to explore the conceptual links between neo-Darwinian evolution and the economics-related theory of games. We can now definitely say that this biological attempt to 'think outside the box' has spurred a plethora of theoretical research activities for half a century. Despite all these efforts it is debatable, however, to what extent they have had an impact on our current understanding of the real biological world. On one hand, biologists have discovered striking new phenomena when they exposed game-theoretic models to substantial empirical scrutiny. On the other hand, the seductive charm of game theory has not always been helpful with maintaining these high empirical standards. My talk, therefore, gives a biologist's eyewitness account of the long rise of evolutionary game theory and describes some exciting highlights as well as pitfalls of biological research in this field. The talk focuses on concrete empirical examples and explains conceptual advancements (e.g., biological markets) in light of these examples. Animals, bacteria, fungi, and plants are the agents considered and I investigate what insights have been gained about these living agents through the interplay between theoreticians and experimentalists.


Peter Hammerstein (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), A reflection on fifty years of game theory in biology, IAST General Seminar, Toulouse: IAST, December 3, 2021, 11:30–12:30, room Auditorium 4.