In spite of its name, "game theory" isn't just about games, but pertains to the strategies we use in our everyday interactions with other people in order to achieve our goals in the context of others, each of whom are acting to achieve their own goals that may be complementary, contradictory, or irrelevant to our own. You can see it in action in a sporting match, but also on a crowded sidewalk, in a shopping center, at a dinner party, in the workplace.

Game theory seeks to determine the parameters of human interaction, to see what's going on behind the behavior that people undertake especially in situations of conflict or competition. Game theory is of great interest to military conflict and sports completion - and not surprisingly, to the business world, which often adopts sports or military metaphors when formulating plans to achieve business goals.

And while the drama of conflict tends to take the spotlight, game theory also embraces the notion of cooperation and collaboration, and examines methods of achieving mutual success, critical to solving problems such as global warming, resource depletion, pollution, and civil strife. The goal of learning to cooperate with one another is as valid as, and potentially more valuable than, the goal of learning to dominate one another.

The notion of the "tragedy of the commons" plays out in a microcosm. Teaspoons disappear from an office break room because each employee who takes one believes that there are plenty left and it won't be missed. While it seems a bit frivolous, it is theoretically the same phenomenon that occurs in the depletion of natural resources or widespread pollution.

Even so, game theory attempts to avoid moral judgments: it accepts that self-interest is a human motivation, and cooperation is an option only when an actor sees it as being in his own self-interest. There's not much point in railing against that, as it's unlikely ever to change.

Success in a society requires learning to cooperate - not in contradiction to self-interest, but as a result of it: the recognition that cooperative effort has a benefit for all involved. (EN: I've seen this referred to as "enlightened self-interest" - granting a direct benefit to another party in exchange for an indirect benefit to self.) Recent studies in game theory have offered some new and promising hints as to how trust and cooperation might be achieved.

The author stresses that game theory is not a panacea - but it can serve to provide new insight into the way that cooperative strategies can be an effective alternative to conflict-based strategies.

In the nature of a disclaimer, the author admits that the book focuses largely on the basics for the sake of conciseness. To explore the scenarios more fully, examining various situations and complicating factors, would result in an encyclopedia of information, much of which is of only marginal interest.