The Game Theory Of Love

(Written a year ago, now republished.)

Dedicated to Hung Tran, whose troubled heart has recently consulted my theory for a way to make sense of all the sudden agonies, unwarranted joy and bursting longing that now saturate his world. I know, man, I know. It’s like a lollipop, isn’t it? Sucks and sweet and the same time. (Picturing Hung Tran chúm chím mơ màng with a lollipop.)

Also in remembrance of Chú Toàn New Star, who, despite the fact that we met only once for two hours four years ago, has asserted his great sympathy for my wretched condition in Kí ở UPenn, and who has vowed to “gửi tặng một em gái sang nhé.” (whatever that means.)

Nhân đây, cháu xin lỗi chú vì đã vô tình học một buổi và cầm một quyến sách ở New Star mà không trả tiền 4 năm về trước. Thật tình cháu không cố ý :(, và đã cố tìm mọi cách để trả lại quyển sách mà không phải đến New Star đối mặt với chú. Nhưng chú cứ yên tâm, khi có ai hỏi bí quyết học SAT, nhất định cháu sẽ nói rằng đó là nhờ quyển sách của chú Toàn, (the one that I never read) 🙂

____________________________________

(Basic knowledge of Game Theory required.)

Assume that we have two game theory players, (preferably Korean to add a taste of a tragic romance.) Both fictional players will have to face two options: Love or Love not.

Scenario 1:

For both players:
– The benefit of being in a mutual love: 45 points
– The benefit of being loved: 30 points.
– The benefit of pursuing your true love: 10 points
– The opportunity cost of time spent on love: -20 points

Therefore, regardless of the other’s decision, one is better off not to love (the lower right quadrant). This is the dominant strategy. They’ll end up not in a relationship, although they’ll gain greater “lover surplus” (upper left quadrant) if decide otherwise.

Conclusion 1: Relationship is doomed.

Does that sound cynical enough? Here’s some hope.

Scenario 2:

Suppose that another player, U Suk, is very idealistic about true love, and embrace the joy of sacrifice and faith.

U Suk’s selfless love has a different evaluation of benefit and loss:
– The benefit of being in mutual love: 60 points (15 pts. higher)
– The benefit of being loved: 30 points (same)
– The benefit of pursuing your true love: 25 points (15 pts. higher)
– The opportunity cost of time spent on love: – 20 points (same)
(Loi Choi’s evaluation of benefit remains the same.)

Regardless of Loi Choi (the selfish ,or normal?, one), our selfless, idealistic U Suk’s dominant strategy is to love. Being well aware of U Suk’s decision to love, Loi Choi knows that she will not end up having zero lover surplus. Therefore, she’ll prefer the selfless U Suk than the selfish Jun Kim.

On the other hand, U Suk will not want to be in a relationship with Loi Choi, since her best choice is not loving him (and reap 30 pts of benefit.)
Conclusion 2:
He who has faith in love is always preferred. He who doesn’t never find true love.

Scenario 3:

For an analysis of the fate of relationship in post-modern era (which is characterized by the hectic pace of life), the benefits remain the same, except the opportunity cost of time spent on love increases to -30 points.
– The benefit of being in a mutual love: 45 points
– The benefit of being loved: 30 points.
– The benefit of pursuing your true love: 10 points
– The opportunity cost of time spent on love: -30 points (10 pts higher)

In comparison with the first scenario, people have even more incentive not to be in a relationship: the lover surplus in a love-love case is lower, while the loss in a love-love not case is higher.
Conclusion 3: Post-modern era relationship is doomed even more.

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