How the game theory of John von Neumann transformed the 20th century

David Nirenberg in The Nation:

Unlike his much more famous colleague Albert Einstein, John von Neumann is not a household name these days, but his discoveries shape the possibilities of life for every creature on this planet. As a teenager, von Neumann provided mathematics with new foundations. He later helped teach the world how to build and detonate nuclear bombs. His invention of game theory furnished the conceptual tools with which superpowers today decide whether to wage war, economists model the behavior of markets, and biologists predict the evolution of viruses. The pioneering programmable computer that von Neumann and his employer, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., completed in 1951 established “von Neumann architecture” as the standard for computer design well into the 21st century, making first IBM and then many other corporations fabulously wealthy.

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