Prisoner's Dilemma - Nash Equilibrium (2016)
Acrylic painting by Patrick Nikowitz


  • Acrylic painting, Canvas
  • One of a kind artwork
  • Size: 23.62 × 35.43 × 0.79 in (unframed) / 23.62 × 35.43 in (actual image size)
  • This artwork is sold unframed
  • Signed on the back
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Patrick Nikowitz


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Artist's description:

"Prisoner's Dilemma (Nash Equilibrium)" - 2016

This painting is about the mathematical work of John Nash.
Imagine two prisoners held in separate cells, interrogated simultaneously, and offered deals (lighter jail sentences) for betraying their fellow criminal. They can "cooperate" (with the other prisoner) by not snitching, or "defect" by betraying the other. However, there is a catch; if both players defect, then they both serve a longer sentence than if neither said anything.

The maximum reward for each player is obtained only when the players' decisions are different. Each player improves their own situation by switching from "cooperating" to "defecting", given knowledge that the other player's best decision is to "defect".

The prisoner's dilemma thus has a single Nash equilibrium: both players choosing to defect.
What has long made this an interesting case to study is the fact that this scenario is globally inferior to "both cooperating". That is, both players would be better off if they both chose to "cooperate" instead of both choosing to defect. However, each player could improve their own situation by breaking the mutual cooperation, no matter how the other player possibly (or certainly) changes their decision.
Signed and dated on the back. Shipped with a certificate of authenticity.

NOTE: The images in context are not to scale and are for display purposes only.

Materials used:

acrylics, spray paint

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