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Covid-19 and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a classic example of a mathematical game, dating back to 1950. In brief, the problem goes as follows: Two criminal gang members are caught and imprisoned, each in solitary confinement with no means of mutual communication. The authorities do not possess sufficient evidence to convict them on the principal charge, but have enough to convict the duo on a lesser charge.

The prosecutors make each prisoner an offer: either betray their partner by testifying to the latter having committed the crime, or cooperate with each other and stay silent. If both betray each other, each serves two years in prison. If one betrays the other, but the latter remains silent, the former shall be set free, while the latter shall be sentenced to three years, and vice versa. If both opt to remain silent, they both shall serve only one year, for the lesser charge.

Remember that this a logical puzzle, and one need not take into account such factors as the possibility of post-betrayal revenge, or sentimentality of the convicts while considering it.

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