The following material is flagged Green Level. It is intended to reflect material that the author believes to be a matter of consensus among experts in the field. This belief may be incorrect, however; and as the author is not an expert and does not have an expert fact-checking the article, errors may creep in.Let us revisit the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. We have seen that, eventually, the benefits of cooperation with retaliation against defectors outweigh the benefits of constant defection. But let us look at what happens when rational individuals are told that the game will be ending on the current turn.
Let us look at the reasons any such individual would have for cooperating throughout the game. Past cooperation does not apply, because it has already happened. Future cooperation does not apply, because there is no future. And there is no way to influence what one's partner will do on the current turn. Therefore, the rational way to play this turn is to treat the game as though it were the simple dilemma, and defect.
So, on the final turn (assuming both players know it is the final turn), both players will defect.
Now, let's see what happens if the players are told that the game will be ending after the next turn.
Both players know the proof above that the plays for next turn will be two defections. There is nothing that either player can do to prevent it. So, the rational thing to do is to ignore that turn, and treat this turn as though it were the last.
And we can carry this back to infinity. If both players know how long the game is going to last, or even that they will know when the game is going to end, from the start, neither player has any reason to cooperate with the other! Sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss.
Tune in... sometime... for a somewhat-unfair solution to this.