Bluefield native Dr. John Nash - subject of the movie "A Beautiful Mind" - won a share of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in game theory, which analyzes how decision-makers compete or cooperate in a given situation.
Nash published papers on the subject in the early 1950s, but it wasn't until the late 1970s that his work finally gained recognition for its potential application in economics and even politics.
This political application of game theory could actually help us better understand the recent stalemate between Republicans and Democrats, which has once again created a great deal of uncertainty for the overall economic and business climate.
Earlier this week, political representatives from both parties fired off statements saying they opposed a federal government shutdown. Despite the universal desire to avoid it, neither party was able broker a compromise to avoid it.
During a prior fiscal crisis in 2011, antitrust attorney Jon Sallet penned a piece for The Hill invoking game theory to explain the partisan impasse.
"We are caught in a prisoners' dilemma of our own making," Sallet wrote.
The "Prisoners' Dilemma," is a classic game theory thought experiment that examines the costs and benefits of cooperation and competition in a given situation.
Imagine this over-simplified example: Police arrest two suspects for a crime. In an effort to build a stronger case, the police separate the two and try to get them to rat out the other.
The criminals could face three outcomes. In one, they could cooperate and refuse to testify against the other, earning each a one-month sentence for a smaller crime. If they rat the other out, the first one to talk goes free and the other gets a year in jail for the more severe crime. But if they both try to rat out the other, they could end up serving three months each.