Evolutionary game theory is a branch of game theory that studies how populations evolve over time, as individuals interact with each other in repeated games. The theory has its roots in the work of several scholars, but it was John Maynard Smith who first introduced the concept in his 1982 book “Evolution and the Theory of Games.”
John Maynard Smith, a British evolutionary biologist, was one of the pioneers of modern evolutionary theory. He was interested in understanding how natural selection shapes the behavior of animals, and he realized that game theory could be a powerful tool for addressing this question. In his book, he applied game theory to biological problems and introduced the concept of evolutionary stable strategies (ESS), which are strategies that cannot be invaded by any mutant strategy.
Maynard Smith’s work on evolutionary game theory was groundbreaking because it showed how game theory could be used to study evolution. Prior to his work, game theory had been primarily focused on static situations where players make decisions based on fixed payoffs. Maynard Smith’s contribution was to show that game theory could also be used to study dynamic situations where players’ payoffs change over time as they interact with each other.
While Maynard Smith is often credited with introducing evolutionary game theory, there were other scholars who laid the groundwork for this field before him. One of them was George Price, an American mathematician who developed the mathematical framework for analyzing evolutionary games in the 1960s. Another key figure was John Nash, who introduced the concept of Nash equilibrium in his famous 1950 paper “Non-cooperative Games.”
The work of these scholars paved the way for Maynard Smith’s contributions and helped establish evolutionary game theory as a legitimate field of study.
In conclusion, John Maynard Smith is widely regarded as the founder of evolutionary game theory. His book “Evolution and the Theory of Games” introduced the concept of evolutionary stable strategies and showed how game theory could be used to study evolution.
However, it’s important to recognize the contributions of other scholars who laid the groundwork for this field, including George Price and John Nash. Together, their work has helped establish evolutionary game theory as a powerful tool for understanding how populations evolve over time.