Acting rationally with irrational strategies

When the Parrondo effect was discovered a few years ago (Harmer and Abbott 1999a, 1999b), it was hailed as a possible mechanism whereby, in a kind of collaboration of failure, losing strategies could be combined to yield profit. The precise relevance of the Parrondo effect to natural and social phenomena is however still unclear. In this paper we give specific examples, first in the artificial setting of a gambling machine, and then in more natural applications to genetics and to environmental policies. This last example touches questions of rational behaviour and expected utility in a novel setting.
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