Speaker: Zhijun Wu, Iowa State
Title: Social Distancing Is a Social Dilemma Game Played by Every Individual against his/her Population
Abstract: Since the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing has been known to everyone and recommended almost everywhere every day. Social distancing has been and will be one of the most effective measures and sometimes, the only available one for fighting epidemics and saving lives. However, it has not been so clear how social distancing should be practiced or managed, especially when it comes to regulating everyone's otherwise normal social activities. The debate on how to implement social distancing often leads to a heated political argument, while research on the subject is lacking. In this talk, I discuss a theoretical framework for the understanding of the scientific nature of social distancing by considering social distancing as a social dilemma game played by every individual against his/her population. From this perspective, every individual needs to make decision on how to engage in social distancing, or risk being trapped into a dilemma either exposing to deadly diseases or getting no access to necessary social activities. As the players of the game, the individual's decisions depend on the population's actions and vice versa, and an optimal strategy can be found when the game reaches an equilibrium. I will show how an optimal strategy can be determined for a population with either closely related or completely separated social activities and with either single or multiple social groups, and how the collective behaviors of social distancing can be simulated by following every individual's actions as the distancing game progresses. The simulation results for populations of varying sizes and complexities will be presented, which not only justify the choices of the strategies based on the game theoretic analysis, but also demonstrate the convergence of the individual actions to an optimal distancing strategy in silico and possibly in natura as well, if every individual makes rational distancing decisions.