There is yet another company utilizing game theory in the making. The company, still in its early stage, is called Strategic Machine and aims to help private companies instead of operators in the public sector.
‘Business strategies today certainly don’t optimize strategies in a game-theoretical way but are based on heuristics. Industries, where for example pricing and product portfolio are optimized, do not consider the answers of competitors. This means that there is quite a lot of work in terms of making things better and in a completely new way,’ Sandholm says.
Industrial engineering and artificial intelligence
Sandholm studied industrial engineering in the 1980s at the Helsinki University of Technology, which later became part of the current Aalto University. He liked being in Otaniemi and made friendships that have even lasted until this day.
Already back then, Sandholm had an interest in combining business economics with computer science. In his studies, he delved into corporate strategy, international marketing, system analysis and operational research as well as artificial intelligence.
The technicality of applied mathematics courses appealed to him. ‘Later, at the end of the 1990s when the study of artificial research became internationally more mathematical, it was good that I had taken applied mathematics seriously.’
Sandholm graduated as a Master of Science in Engineering in 1991 and set off for doctoral studies in the United States immediately after that. Currently, he works as a Professor of Computer Science at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and publishes in the fields of artificial intelligence and applied mathematics.
Everyone benefits from studying artificial technology and applied mathematics
For current students, Sandholm’s advice is that whatever you do study, the basics need to be in order. ‘I see it as a pyramid of knowledge. If you do high-level research at the top, you need a strong foundation – the pyramid won’t hold without a broad and strong base.'
Sandholm recommends for all adolescents to get to know artificial intelligence and applied mathematics, at least on some level. ‘After ten years, there will probably not be many industries where you can carry out research without understanding artificial intelligence to some extent.’
Those interested in a doctoral thesis should focus on things that are new and relevant and boldly apply for research groups carrying out the best research in their field. ‘For students of industrial engineering and business, I would say that it’s helpful to have expertise in a certain field, not just management. A career can be more satisfying once you truly understand the field you work in.’
In terms of his own career, Sandholm hopes that he will get to witness the game theory being incorporated widely into applications and products, through Strategy Robot and Strategic Machine, for instance. He also hopes that the theory he has developed could somehow be used in the fight against climate change. ‘I’ve commissioned a couple of market studies on how our technologies could help prevent climate crisis. Yet we still haven’t found a so-called killer application.’