On May 23, 2015, Dr. John Nash and his wife, Alicia Nash, passed away as a result of a fatal car crash while riding in a taxi cab in New Jersey. While their death is a tragedy, it should pose a striking question as to whether our society should be built up around ‘mediocre’ individuals whom are scared at the existence of individuals brighter than ‘they’ are, individuals who act unconformably within today’s given norms.
As the below video says, “It takes an exceptional mind to cross the frontier between sanity and madness, at will.”
In “The Essential John Nash,” by Harold Kuhn and Sylvia Nasar, its introduction highlights the fascinating nature of Dr. Nash: “The eccentric West Virginian with the movie star looks and Olympian manner burst onto the mathematical scene in 1948. A one-line letter of recommendation [by Richard Duffin] – “This man is a genius.” – introduced the twenty-year-old to Princeton’s elite math department. A little more than a year later, Nash had written the twenty-seven-page thesis that would one day win him a Nobel [Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences].”
On the lighter side, the Guardian posted the biography “The Sum of a Man,” written by Nasar, highlights that “True, Nash was arrested in a police trap in a public lavatory in Santa Monica in 1954, at the height of the McCarthy hysteria. The military think-tank [Rand Corporation] where he was a consultant, stripped him of his top-secret security clearance and fired him, ignoring Nash’s flat denial and saying it “didn’t really matter whether the cops were telling the truth or not”. The charge – indecent exposure – was dropped.” Additionally, an offer made to Nash as full professor at MIT never came to fruit as Nash claimed that “I am scheduled to become the emperor of Antarctica.”
In the end, Dr. Nash began to rejoin society among the mediocre minds through “a diet of the mind.” In his biography on the Nobel Prize website, Nash describes his road to ‘recovery;’
- “Thus further time passed. Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort.
So at the present time I seem to be thinking rationally again in the style that is characteristic of scientists. However this is not entirely a matter of joy as if someone returned from physical disability to good physical health. One aspect of this is that rationality of thought imposes a limit on a person’s concept of his relation to the cosmos. For example, a non-Zoroastrian could think of Zarathustra as simply a madman who led millions of naive followers to adopt a cult of ritual fire worship. But without his “madness” Zarathustra would necessarily have been only another of the millions or billions of human individuals who have lived and then been forgotten.“
Nasar followed Nash for almost three years before publishing her biography of Nash, “A Beautiful Mind,” in 1998, and later adapted to screenplay in the 2001 film starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly that has won four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress. The title of both the book and film could stem from comments made by Lloyd Shapley, “What redeemed him was a clear, logical, and beautiful mind.” Furthermore, Shapley and Dr. Nash shared the same use of Cooperative Game Theory for their social science contributions.
While I have only briefly studied Game Theory and Nash Equilibrium (used in Prisoners’ Dilemma), I will dig up my old university notes on mathematical economics and try to piece together a laymen post on the mathematical economic contributions of Dr. Nash.
Dr. John Nash and Allicia Nash are survived by their son, Jonny Nash, his older son, John Stier, and his sister, Martha Nash.