Nobel Prize winner speaks at ORT Argentina school


11November 2009 Nobel Prize winner speaks at ORT Argentina school More than 400 people packed the Werthein Auditorium at the ORT Almagro High School campus in Buenos Aires last week to hear Nobel Prize winner Professor Robert Aumann discuss his work with Game Theory. The founder of the Centre for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem enthralled the audience of academics, communal leaders, students and teachers with his analysis of international issues based on his groundbreaking mathematical work. Professor Aumann is Orthodox, said Avi Gonen, Director of the Jewish Education Department at ORT Argentina. It is inspiring for our students to meet one of the worlds greatest minds and to appreciate that there need not be any problem between Jewish tradition and science. Professor Aumanns address was the latest in a series of monthly events designed to raise the standard of delivery of Jewish education in ORT Argentinas schools within the framework of the Nucleus of Jewish Culture curriculum. Previous speakers have included physicist and President of Bar Ilan University, Professor Moshe Kaveh and the number two at the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, Lior Ben Dor. Chemistry Professor Abraham Nudelman, an expert in nanotechnology at Bar Ilan University, is due to address ORT students in the near future. ORT Argentina National Director Adrian Moscovich (right) greets Professor Robert Aumann. ORT Argentina President Dr Hector Rosenzvit told the gathering: What I find most important regarding this meeting is that ORT Argentina students, together with students at other community schools, have the opportunity to listen to the words of such a prominent guest. Such opportunities are exceptional and should be treasured because of our countrys distance from the more important centres of knowledge. Professor Aumann was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics together with Professor Thomas Schelling in 2005 for enhancing the understanding of conflict and cooperation by extending and applying game theory a method used to analyse strategic information among different agents. The Nobel committee said their work had transformed the social sciences far beyond the boundaries of economics. At ORT Almagro, Professor Aumann explained that the rationality which he studied at Hebrew University concerned how individuals and organisations acted in accordance with their incentives and goals. It was a multidisciplinary exercise taking in areas as diverse as biology, law, computer science, international relations and economics. For example, the increasing use of plea bargains in criminal cases had led to a distortion of incentives by encouraging police to pursue confessions rather than gather evidence. This stood in contrast to Jewish religious law, Halacha, which does not allow an accused person to be convicted on the basis of a conviction and so places the onus on the authorities to find evidence sufficient for a successful prosecution. However, it was his views on the Middle East which attracted most scrutiny in the question and answer session following his presentation. Asked whether game theory could provide the answer to the Arab-Israeli conflict he replied succinctly, Yes. He said Israels policy down the years of offering concessions to its enemies and repeatedly calling for peace was undermining real progress towards peace. Theres an important verse in the Prophets, shalom, shalom vein shalom the more you shout peace the less you get it, Professor Aumann, who was brought to Argentina by Friends of the Hebrew University and the Menorah youth organisation, said. The reason is that when you try too hard, the other side gets the impression that this is very, very important to you and that you are willing to give up a lot for it. They then press you to give more and more and they withhold. In response to another question, on how to avoid war, Professor Aumann summarised his Nobel Prize address. He said that cooperation could be achieved by enforceable contracts or by a long term relationship, a game which is repeated many times. When people are impatient, when they want peace now, then the present is very important for them; when now is very important for you then the effect of the repetition, the effect of the long term relationship, is blunted you are not looking at the future but at the present and when you are looking at the present it is as if you have a short term relationship, he said. In a short term relationship cooperation is much more difficult to achieve. In conclusion, he felt that the world was becoming more cooperative. I hope that [the human race] can learn the lessons that are to be learned from the theory of repetitive games and apply them to our world, he said. I am not entirely sanguine; I think we have a very big threat from certain elements of the world But I would like to remain hopeful.