Roads to Wisdom, Conversations with Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics
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Roads to Wisdom, Conversations with Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics

Karen Ilse Horn

Karen Horn’s remarkable interviews with ten Nobel Laureates explore the conditions required for scientific progress by navigating the ‘roads to wisdom’ in economic science.
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Chapter 9: Reinhard Selten

Karen Ilse Horn


Universität Bonn, Germany © Peter Badge/Typos1 in cooperation with the Foundation Lindau Nobelprizewinners Meetings at Lake Constance, all rights reserved. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1994 shared with John Harsanyi and John Nash, all three ‘for their pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games’. INTRODUCTION It’s not trivial to find Reinhard Selten’s office at the University of Bonn – but at least it’s easier than finding one’s way to his laboratory in experimental economics, hidden somewhere deep down in the basement. The ‘Juridicum’ – the law and economics building – is not only run-down and chaotic, notwithstanding its square shape, it also has a pretty complicated layout. Selten’s office itself is simple and functional, free of any traces of modernity. All the heavy computer equipment is downstairs in the lab, not here. Selten speaks with a soft, almost feeble voice, as if he doubts that anybody could truly be interested in his personal story. Most of the time, his sentences end with the formula ‘isn’t it’, asking for confirmation. While fully aware of the value of his own contributions, the first and only German Nobel Laureate in economics remains an extremely humble, polite and gentle character. He is more at ease talking about theory than about himself, but as time goes by 173 174 Roads to wisdom, conversations with ten Nobel Laureates in economics and as the conversation moves forward, he opens up a little. But research is his addiction.1 And so his...

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