Of Public Interest

I enjoy thinking about a wide variety of “games” played in the real world and, when the opportunity arises, using my game-theory expertise to make the world a better place.

Researching and writing “Game-Changer” (in 2012) intensified these applied interests, as I dove into several pressing real-world challenges [especially the opioid-abuse epidemic and antibiotic-resistance crisis] from a game-theory perspective, looking for ways to “change the game” for the better and engaging with leading experts to fine-tune and disseminate those ideas. Since writing the book, I have continued this work, engaging with leaders on the ground looking to address several of the most pressing strategic challenges facing our society, including inequitable vaccine access (prolonging the worst of the global pandemic), uncontrollable crop pests (threatening worldwide food production), irreproducibility of biomedical research (slowing life-saving biomedical advances), and lies and dysfunction in politics (threatening our democracy).


If you are visiting this page for the first time, here is a good place to start. (This is not my most important work, but following these links will give you a sense of the scope and style of my applied work. Then check out the more comprehensive list of my publicly-available work on matters of public interest.)

  • [podcast interviews] July 2014: Science for the People podcast, a fun and wide-ranging conversation about what game theory is with host Rachelle Saunders—best general-interest introduction to me and “the art of game theory”. May 2021: Game-Changer podcast, another fun conversation, focused on how to apply game theory wisely and well in practice. June 2022: unSiloed podcast, with a great interviewer who himself teaches strategy, probably the best of my podcast interviews in terms of depth and substance.

Game-Changer File Videos

In 2014 and 2015, I received funding from the Fuqua Dean’s office to create engaging animated videos highlighting some of the game-changing ideas that emerged from my MBA class in those years. (Each video is inspired by a student project but also includes ideas that I developed building on their work.) It’s an amazing class to teach, since great ideas like this bubble up every year!

  • February 2015: “Saving the Wild Rhino” [how to save the wild rhino from extinction by, strangely, embracing the corruption of the Vietnamese government]
  • September 2014: “A Better Best Buy” [how Best Buy can leverage customers’ physical presence in its stores to truly “kill” showrooming]
  • June 2014: “Instagram Commerce” [a wild ride, covering everything from Instagram drug-dealers to why Facebook paid billions for mobile-message platform WhatsApp]
  • March 2014: “Drug-Seeking in the Emergency Department” [how hospitals can save lives — and help address the ongoing crisis of widespread prescription-drug misuse and abuse — by changing how they use ED patient-satisfaction scores]

On Game Theory [generally]

  • January 2015: “What is Game Theory? and My Own Game-Theory Journey”, video clip from my Duke Forward talk on “Taming Superbugs” [full video here]
  • January 2014: “GAME-CHANGER: Game Theory and the Art of Transforming Strategic Situations”.  A fast-paced and fun introduction to game theory and how to apply it yourself to “change the game” to your own advantage.  Key ideas are illustrated through gripping strategic narratives, rather than equations, making “Game-Changer” a natural complement to a traditional game-theory textbook.
  • July 2014: Science for the People podcast featuring a fun and wide-ranging conversation about “Game-Changer” and game theory. Host Rachelle Saunders and I discuss several topics from the book, including:
    • why game theory does NOT assume rationality
    • ways to escape the Prisoners’ Dilemma
    • the dubious origins of the 1970s cigarette advertising ban
    • why diamonds AREN’T forever
    • changing the game of neglected diseases
    • changing the game of opioid misuse and abuse
  • December 2017: “Game Theory and Cooperation: How Putting Others First Can Help Everyone”. Frontiers for Young Minds, first-ever article in the Mathematics category of this journal for young people. Key point: “Game theory shows that people who are kind and trustworthy have a strategic advantage, as they can ‘change the game’ to escape the PD and make everyone better off, including themselves. So, truly, ‘nice guys finish first.'”
  • May 2014: “Economic Theory as Game-Changer”, on what rationality really means in economics, plus Game-Changers in catching cartels and fighting eBay fraud

On Great Challenges of Global Health

On Antibiotic Resistance

On Advancing Science & Technology

On Health Care

On Counter-Terrorism and Military

On Farming and Food / Resource Systems

  • October 2014: “The Future of Pest-Resistant Crops”, slides and audio from Thomas C. Sorensen Seminar talk presented at U. Nebraska Lincoln to a group of entomologists and plant scientists.
  • March 2016: “The Central Platte Groundwater Exchange Program: Untapping Farmers’ Water Wealth”. In the Fall of 2014 while visiting the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NE DNR) to give a speech on the game theory of crop pests, I conceived the idea for a new type of water market, the first of its kind in the world linking groundwater and surface-water users in a single marketplace. After much coalition-building and work with NE DNR, the Central Platte Natural Resource District (CPNRD), the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, and the market-design consultancy NERA, this marketplace became a reality in 2016. This video, created in the months before the first market event, explains how the Central Platte Groundwater Exchange Program works and why farmers can benefit by participating. (While executed on a small scale in Nebraska, the concept of linking groundwater and surface-water could revolutionize how we use and conserve water at the watershed level. I welcome inquiries from water managers and regulators.)

On Politics

On Prescription-Drug Abuse

On Commerce

On Market Design

On Finance

  • October 2014: “Confidence, Liquidity, and Financial Crises,” presentation to Fuqua Finance Club
  • April 2008: “Revival Of ARS [Auction Rate Security] Market May Require Change” by Steven D. Jones, April 10th 2008, Dow Jones Newswire. [subscription required]

On Sports

On Media