Anatol Rapoport, from “Paradoxical
Effects of Social Behavior”, 1986.
Anatol Rapoport ( , born May
22, 1911- January 20, 2007) was a Russian-born
American Jewish mathematical
psychologist. He contributed to
general systems theory,
mathematical biology and to the
mathematical modeling of social interaction and
stochastic models of contagion.
Biography
Rapoport
was born in Lozоvaya, Russia. In
1922, he came to the United States, and in 1928 he became a
naturalized citizen.
He started
studying music in Chicago and
continued with piano, conducting and composition at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik where he
studied from 1929 to 1934. However, due to the rise of
Nazism, he found it impossible to make a
career as a pianist.
He shifted
his career into mathematics, getting a
Ph.D. degree in mathematics under Nicolas Rashevsky at the University of
Chicago in 1941. According to the
Toronto Globe
and Mail, he was a member of the
American Communist Party for three
years, but quit before enlisting in the U.S.
Army Air Corps in 1941, serving
in Alaska and India during
World War II.
After the war, he joined the Committee on Mathematical Biology at
the University of Chicago (1947-1954), publishing his first book,
Science and the Goals of Man, co-authored with semanticist
S. I.
Hayakawa in 1950.
He also received a
one-year fellowship at the prestigious Center for
Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford, California).
From 1955
to 1970 Rapoport was Professor of Mathematical Biology and Senior
Research Mathematician at the University of Michigan, as well as founding member, in 1955, of the Mental
Health Research Institute (MHRI) at the University of
Michigan. In 1970 Rapoport moved to Toronto to avoid the
war-making ways of the Vietnam-era United States. He was appointed professor of mathematics and
psychology at the University of Toronto, 1970-1979. He lived in bucolic
Wychwood Park overlooking downtown Toronto, a
neighbour of
Marshall McLuhan. On
his retirement from the University of Toronto, he became director
of the
Institute
of Advanced Studies until 1983.
In 1954, Anatol Rapoport cofounded the
Society for General Systems
Research, along with the researchers
Ludwig von Bertalanffy,
Ralph Gerard, and
Kenneth Boulding. He became president of
the
Society for
General Systems Research in 1965.
Anatol Rapoport died of pneumonia in Toronto. He is survived by his
wife Gwen, daughter Anya, and sons Alexander and Anthony.
Work
Rapoport contributed to
general
systems theory,
mathematical
biology and to the mathematical modeling of social interaction
and
stochastic models of contagion. He
combined his mathematical expertise with psychological insights
into the study of
game theory,
social networks and
semantics.
Rapoport extended these understandings into studies of
psychological conflict, dealing with
nuclear disarmament and international
politics. His autobiography,
Certainties and
Doubts: A Philosophy of Life, was published in 2001.
Game theory
Rapoport had a versatile mind, working in
mathematics,
psychology,
biology,
game theory,
social network analysis, and peace and
conflict studies. For example, he pioneered in the modeling of
parasitism and
symbiosis, researching
cybernetic theory. This went on to give
a conceptual basis for his lifelong work in conflict and
cooperation.
Among many other well-known books on fights, games, violence and
peace, Rapoport was the author of over 300 articles and of
Two-Person Game Theory (1966) and N-Person Game Theory (2001). He
analyzed contests in which there are more than two sets of
conflicting interests, such as war, diplomacy, poker or bargaining.
His work
led him to peace research (see below), including books on The
Origins of Violence' (1989) and 'Peace, An Idea Whose Time Has
Come (1993), both written at the University
of Toronto.
He won a computer tournament in the 1980s, based on
Robert Axelrod's
The Evolution of
Cooperation. This sought to understand how cooperation could
emerge through evolution. Rapoport's entry,
Tit-For-Tat
has only four lines of code. The program opens by cooperating with
its opponent. It then plays exactly as the other side played in the
previous game. If the other side defected in the previous game, the
program also defects; but only for one game. If the other side
cooperates, the program continues to cooperate. According to
Peace Magazine author/editor
Metta Spencer, the program "punished the other
player for selfish behaviour and rewarded her for cooperative
behaviour—but the punishment lasted only as long as the selfish
behaviour lasted. This proved to be an exceptionally effective
sanction, quickly showing the other side the advantages of
cooperating. It also set moral philosophers to proposing this as a
workable principle to use in real life interactions."
His children report that he was a strong chess player but a bad
poker player because he non-verbally revealed the strength of his
hands.
Social network analysis
Anatol Rapoport was an early developer of
social network analysis. His original work
showed that one can measure large networks by profiling traces of
flows through them. This enables learning about the speed of the
distribution of resources, including
information, and what speeds or impedes these
flows—such as
race,
gender,
socioeconomic
status,
proximity and
kinship. This work linked social networks to the
diffusion of innovation, and
by extension, to
epidemiology.
Rapoport's empirical work traced the spread of information within a
school. It prefigured the study of
Six degrees of separation, by
showing the rapid spread of information in a population to almost
all—but not all—school members (see references below).
Conflict and peace studies
According to
Thomas Homer-Dixon
in the
Toronto Globe and Mail, Rapoport "became
anti-militarist quite soon after the war. [WWII]. The idea of
military values became anathema." He was a leading organizer of the
first
teach-ins against the
Vietnam War at the University of Michigan, a
model that spread rapidly throughout North America.
He told at a
teach-in: "By undertaking the war against Vietnam, the United States has undertaken a war against
humanity.... This war we shall not win." (
Ann Arbor
News, April 1967). He said he was an abolitionist, rather than
a total pacifist: "I'm for killing the institution of war".
Rapoport
returned to the University of Toronto to become the founding (and unpaid) Professor of
Peace and Conflict Studies programme, working
with George Ignatieff and Canada's
Science for Peace
organization. As its sole professor at the start, he used a
rigorous, interdisciplinary approach to the study of peace,
integrating mathematics, politics, psychology, philosophy, science
and sociology. His main concern was to legitimize peace studies as
a worthy academic pursuit. The
Trudeau Centre for
Peace and Conflict Studies continued to flourish at the
University of Toronto under the leadership of
Thomas Homer-Dixon, and, from 2008, under
Ron Levi. When Rapoport began, there were
one (unpaid) professor and twelve students. Now, there are three
(paid) professors and ninety students.
Rapoport's students report that he was an engaged and inspiring
professor who captured their attention, imagination and interest
with his wide-ranging knowledge, passion for the subject, good
humor, kind and generous spirit, attentiveness to student concerns
and animated teaching style.
In 1981, Rapoport co-founded the international
NGO Science for Peace, and in 1984 he
created the famous
tit for tat strategy
for the
iterated prisoner's
dilemma tournament held by
Robert
Axelrod that year. He was recognized in the 1980s for his
contribution to world peace through nuclear conflict restraint via
his game theoretic models of psychological
conflict resolution. He won the
Lenz International Peace
Research Prize in 1976.
Publications
Rapoport's books and articles include:
Books:
- 1975, Semantics, Crowell, 1975.
- 2000, Certainties and Doubts : A Philosophy of Life,
Black Rose Books, Montreal, 2000: His autobiography.
Articles, a selection:
- 1953, "Spread of information through a population with
sociostructural bias: I. Assumption of transitivity." in:
Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics, 15, 523-533.
- 1956, with Ralph W. Gerard and Clyde
Kluckhohn, "Biological and cultural evolution: Some analogies
and explorations". Behavioral Science 1: 6-34.
- 1957, "Contribution to the Theory of Random and Biased Nets."
in: Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 19:257-77.
- 1960 with W.J. Horvath, "The theoretical channel capacity of a
single neuron as determined by various coding systems", in:
Information and Control, 3(4):335-350.
- 1963, "Mathematical models of social interaction". In R. D.
Luce, R. R. Bush, & E. Galanter (Eds.), Handbook of
Mathematical Psychology (Vol. II, pp. 493–579). New York,
NY: John Wiley and Sons.
- 1966, Two-person game theory: the essential ideas. Ann
Arbor, University of Michigan Press.
- 1974, with Lawrence B.
Slobodkin, "An optimal
strategy of evolution". Q. Rev. Biol.
49:181-200
- 1979, "Some Problems Relating to Randomly Constructed Biased
Networks." Perspectives on Social Network
Research:119-164.
- 1989, with Y. Yuan, "Some Aspects of Epidemics and Social
Nets." Pp. 327–348 in The Small World, ed. by Manfred
Kochen. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
About Rapoport:
- Ron Csillag,"Anatol Rapoport, Academic 1911-2007." Toronto
Globe and Mail, January 31, 2007, p. S7
- Chesmak Farhoumand-Sims, "Memories of Anatol Rapoport."
Peace Magazine, April 2007, p. 14
- Alisa Ferguson, "Rapoport was Renowned Mathematical
Psychologist, Peace Activist." University of Toronto
Bulletin, February 20, 2007.
References
- Alisa Ferguson, "Rapoport was Renowned Mathematical
Psychologist, Peace Activist, University of Toronto
Bulletin, February 20, 2007
- Ron Csillag,"Anatol Rapoport, Academic 1911-2007." Toronto
Globe and Mail, January 31, 2007, p. S7
- Harrison White, Identity and Control, 2nd ed.,
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007
- Alisa Ferguson, "Rapoport was Renowned Mathematical
Psychologist, Peace Activist," University of Toronto
Bulletin, February 20, 2007
- Chesmak Farhoumand-Sims, "Memories of Anatol Rapoport,"
Peace Magazine, April 2007, p. 14
- This book about general semantics along the lines of
S.I.
Hayakawa's Language in Thought and Action and more
technical (mathematical and philosophical) material. A valuable
survey.
External links