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Compositional game theory and climate microeconomics

Hi all

This is a post I've been putting off for a long time until I was sure I was ready. I am the "lead developer" of a thing called compositional game theory (CGT). It's an approach to game theory based on category theory, but we are now at the point where you don't need to know that anymore: it's an approach to game theory that has certain specific benefits over the traditional approach.

I would like to start a conversation about "using my powers for good". I am hoping particularly that it is possible to model microeconomic aspects of climate science. This seems to be a very small field and I'm not really hopeful that anyone on Azimuth will have the right background, but it's worth a shot. The kind of thing I'm imagining (possibly completely wrongly) is to create models that will suggest when a technically-feasible solution is not socially feasible. Social dilemmas and tragedies of the commons are at the heart of the climate crisis, and modelling instances of them is in scope.

I have a software tool (https://github.com/jules-hedges/open-games-hs) that is designed to be an assistant for game-theoretic modelling. This I can't emphasise enough: A human with expertise in game-theoretic modelling is the most important thing, CGT is merely an assistant. (Right now the tool also probably can't be used without me being in the loop, but that's not an inherent thing.)

To give an idea what sort of things CGT can do, my 2 current ongoing research collaborations are: (1) a social science project modelling examples of institution governance, and (2) a cryptoeconomics project modelling an attack against a protocol using bribes. On a technical level the best fit is for Bayesian games, which are finite-horizon, have common knowledge priors, and private knowledge with agents who do Bayesian updating.

A lot of the (believed) practical benefits of CGT come from the fact that the model is code (in a high level language designed specifically for expressing games) and thus the model can be structured according to existing wisdom for structuring code. Really stress-testing this claim is an ongoing research project. My tool does equilibrium-checking for all games (the technical term is "model checker"), and we've had some success doing other things by looping an equilibrium check over a parameter space. It makes no attempt to be an equilibrium solver, that is left for the human.

This is not me trying to push my pet project (I do that elsewhere) but me trying to find a niche where I can do some genuine good, even if small. If you are a microeconomist (or a social scientist who uses applied game theory) and share the goals of Azimuth, I would like to hear from you, even if it's just for some discussion.

Comments

  • 1.
    edited October 3

    human decision making, this year

    What computer science can teach economics

    “We have reasons to doubt any medical news that comes out of this White House.”

    —Brian Williams MSNBC

    Comment Source:![](https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EjUvhlUXYAAoxPf.png) human decision making, this year [What computer science can teach economics](https://news.mit.edu/2009/game-theory) >“We have reasons to doubt any medical news that comes out of this White House.” >—Brian Williams MSNBC
  • 2.

    Hi, Jules! Is it okay if I repost your post on the Azimuth Blog? It would get more readers there, and perhaps more helpful responses!

    I think it's great you're trying this.

    Comment Source:Hi, Jules! Is it okay if I repost your post on the Azimuth Blog? It would get more readers there, and perhaps more helpful responses! I think it's great you're trying this.
  • 3.

    In this article, Harry Crane argues that scientists may be gaming the research publication business to increase the likelihood of manuscript acceptance (I came across it from a recent Twitter thread of a couple days ago)

    https://researchers.one/articles/in-peer-review-we-dont-trust-how-peer-reviews-filtering-poses-a-systemic-risk-to-science/5f52699b36a3e45f17ae7d74

    "From this point of view, the current peer review process is about as impure and unscientific as could be, the intellectual equivalent of the selfie-stick in today’s navel-gazing academic culture [8]. Journals claim to make decisions on quality-based criteria but, in the end, almost every article is published in a “peer-reviewed journal,” with the only difference being the impact factor, prestige, and other career-oriented metrics that go a long way in determining the course of an individual scientist’s career but do little for the advancement of science. What we have is an embodiment of Goodhart’s law [9] from economics, When the measure becomes the target, it ceases to be a good measure. Indeed, when ‘publishing in peer reviewed journals’ became the bar for academic success, career-oriented researchers devised strategies to succeed within that system, and so it ceased to be a good metric for quality scholarship."

    Perhaps one way Goodhart's law of game theory is being applied in non-AGW climate science (imo AGW is solid) is that the research papers that point to chaotic mechanisms are more acceptable according to the consensus lines than those papers that address non-chaotic mechanisms. So the premise is that more authors will toe that line and reinforce the notion that natural climate change (e.g. El Nino) is chaotic. And furthermore, since chaotic mechanisms are thought to be largely intractable for prediction, all that these papers will accomplish is lead everyone down a scientific dead-end.

    So perhaps that is why Springer Nature is publishing Nature Scientific Reports as an alternative publishing path. There have been some stinker articles that have come out of this but they are being handled by http://PubPeer.com effectively and at least one climate science article has been retracted. But there have also been several very interesting climate science articles published in Scientific Reports that are bucking the tide of consensus.

    The Wikipedia entry for Goodhart's Law is interesting as well:

    "Other academics had similar insights during this time period. Jerome Ravetz's 1971 book Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems[8] also predates Goodhart, though it does not formulate the same law. He discusses how systems in general can be gamed, focuses on cases where the goals of a task are complex, sophisticated, or subtle. In such cases, the persons possessing the skills to execute the tasks properly are instead able to achieve their own goals to the detriment of the assigned tasks. When the goals are instantiated as metrics, this could be seen as equivalent to Goodhart and Campbell's claim."

    The premise is that the model of scientific publishing can be gamed and the result that we want -- the revolutionary insight and ideas -- may be inadvertently squashed in the process. So besides Scientific Reports, there are these outlets as well:

    from EGU, the journal ESD Ideas: https://www.earth-system-dynamics.net/about/news_and_press/2018-04-27_esd-launches-new-manuscript-type-esd-ideas.html

    from APS, the journal Physical Review Research: https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/updates/prresearch.cfm

    Comment Source:In this article, Harry Crane argues that scientists may be gaming the research publication business to increase the likelihood of manuscript acceptance (I came across it from a [recent Twitter thread](https://twitter.com/otrasenda_AC/status/1312222211902767104) of a couple days ago) https://researchers.one/articles/in-peer-review-we-dont-trust-how-peer-reviews-filtering-poses-a-systemic-risk-to-science/5f52699b36a3e45f17ae7d74 > "From this point of view, the current peer review process is about as impure and unscientific as could be, the intellectual equivalent of the selfie-stick in today’s navel-gazing academic culture [8]. Journals claim to make decisions on quality-based criteria but, in the end, almost every article is published in a “peer-reviewed journal,” with the only difference being the impact factor, prestige, and other career-oriented metrics that go a long way in determining the course of an individual scientist’s career but do little for the advancement of science. What we have is an embodiment of Goodhart’s law [9] from economics, *When the measure becomes the target, it ceases to be a good measure*. Indeed, when ‘publishing in peer reviewed journals’ became the bar for academic success, career-oriented researchers devised strategies to succeed within that system, and so it ceased to be a good metric for quality scholarship." Perhaps one way [Goodhart's law](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law) of game theory is being applied in non-AGW climate science (imo AGW is solid) is that the research papers that point to chaotic mechanisms are more acceptable according to the consensus lines than those papers that address non-chaotic mechanisms. So the premise is that more authors will toe that line and reinforce the notion that natural climate change (e.g. El Nino) is chaotic. And furthermore, since chaotic mechanisms are thought to be largely intractable for prediction, all that these papers will accomplish is lead everyone down a scientific dead-end. So perhaps that is why Springer Nature is publishing Nature Scientific Reports as an alternative publishing path. There have been some stinker articles that have come out of this but they are being handled by http://PubPeer.com effectively and at least one climate science article has been retracted. But there have also been several very interesting climate science articles published in Scientific Reports that are [bucking the tide](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-49678-w) of consensus. The Wikipedia entry for Goodhart's Law is interesting as well: >"Other academics had similar insights during this time period. Jerome Ravetz's 1971 book Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems[8] also predates Goodhart, though it does not formulate the same law. He discusses how systems in general can be gamed, focuses on cases where the goals of a task are complex, sophisticated, or subtle. In such cases, the persons possessing the skills to execute the tasks properly are instead able to achieve their own goals to the detriment of the assigned tasks. When the goals are instantiated as metrics, this could be seen as equivalent to Goodhart and Campbell's claim." The premise is that the model of scientific publishing can be gamed and the result that we want -- the revolutionary insight and ideas -- may be inadvertently squashed in the process. So besides Scientific Reports, there are these outlets as well: from EGU, the journal ESD Ideas: https://www.earth-system-dynamics.net/about/news_and_press/2018-04-27_esd-launches-new-manuscript-type-esd-ideas.html from APS, the journal Physical Review Research: https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/updates/prresearch.cfm
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