The two convicted murderers who escaped from a prison in upstate New York have been on the loose since the weekend, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is offering a $100,000 reward for finding them—or $50,000 for finding one of the men.
That poses an interesting question: What if Richard Matt and David Sweat turned each other in? Would they each get $50,000?
Forget the legal reasons that would likely preclude them from the reward. The question itself is the advanced version of the "prisoner's dilemma," a classic of economics courses.
In the prisoner's dilemma question, two suspects are interviewed separately about a crime they possibly committed. If neither of them admit to doing it, they will both get off. If suspect A says that suspect B did it, then the rat (suspect A) will get off, while suspect B (who said nothing), will go down for the crime.
As a result, both suspects, afraid of what the other will do, rat out each other. And they end up both getting jail time—even though they would have both been better off keeping their mouths shut. This is the prisoner's dilemma—by acting in self-interest, each suspect ends up worse off.
Applying the current manhunt to this theoretical question, here are the possible scenarios:
1. Nobody rats out: they get no money and both keep their freedom.
2. One rats out the other, getting $50,000 and keeping his freedom.
3. Both rat each other out: both get $50,000 but lose their freedom.
Plus two new twists, not in the original game:
4. They both get caught anyway by others—meaning neither gets money or freedom.
5. One rats out the other guy—and himself—collecting $100,000 and losing his freedom.
What's ideal value for each fugitive? Do the two of them have different preferences for what they would want?