Robert J. Aumann

Interview

Interview, August 2008

Interview with Robert J. Aumann, recipient of the 2005 The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, at the 58th Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany, 20 August 2008. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Nobelprize.org.

Robert Aumann discusses his scientific beginnings and the creative appeal of geometry, his interest in number theory at City College (3:38), knot theory at MIT (7:59), and his stumble into Game Theory thereafter (15:27). He also explains his move to Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the theory in decision-making it demonstrates (17:41), gives an example of applied game theory (25:23), reviews the necessity for mathematical rigueur in economics (32:19), and describes the Center for Rationality he set up to explore various disciplines’ interaction with game theory (41:20). He closes by remembering his past collaborators and reflecting on the ways in which the Economics Prize has changed his life (51:37).


Interview, December 2005

Interview with the 2005 Laureates in Economics, Robert J. Aumann and Thomas C. Schelling, December 6, 2005. Interviewer is Rupini Bergström, journalist.

The Laureates talk about their experiences of Stockholm in wintertime, that they had met during the years but never collaborated (2:38), how the Prize has changed their lives (5:04), give advice to young students interested in economic sciences (13:50), and talk about practical applications of their theories (18:58).


Nobel Minds 2005

The Nobel Laureates of 2005 met at the Bernadotte Library in Stockholm in December 2005 for the traditional round-table discussion and TV show ‘Nobel Minds’. The programme presenter is Nik Gowing, principal programme anchor for the BBC’s international television news channel BBC World. Among other things the Laureates talk about competition versus co-operation and the need of mentoring in scientific research.


Interview, October 2005

Telephone interview with Professor Robert J. Aumann following the announcement of the 2005 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, 10 October 2005. The interviewer is Maria Ullsten, freelance journalist. (The interview is constantly interrupted by numerous cell phone calls.)

Interview transcript

– Hello?

– Yes, I’d like to speak to Robert Aumann, please.

– Yes, speaking.

– Hello. My name is Maria Ullsten. I am doing a recording for Nobelprize.org which is our official website.

– Okay.

– So I would like to wish you: Congratulations!

– Thank you.

– How did you find out that you had been awarded the Prize?

– Well, the Nobel Prize Foundation called me …

– And where were you?

– In my office; it’s just about an hour and a half ago. And they called me, and they told me. They told me … “Will you be in your office in fifteen minutes? We want to have a press conference.”

– Okay. During those fifteen minutes, what went through your mind?

– Well, I finished some letters that I was writing, and I thought … What went through my mind is that I was very glad.

– Did you call anyone?

– No.

– Did you tell anyone that you had won the Prize?

– Just a moment, there’s another … [cell-phone interference]

– I’ll wait.

– There’s another phone call.

– Okay.

[on other phone] /Hello? Hello? …/ Sorry. Yes?

– No problem. That’s all right. I realise you must have had a lot of people calling you today.

– Yes. I want to go home and change clothes and put on a suit, for this press conference that’s going to take place. But I don’t have the chance [cell phone signal], because every moment there’s a phone call.

– I understand.

– Here’s another phone …

– No problem. I’ll hold.

[on other phone] /Hello? …/ Hello.

– Yes. Hello!

– Yes, yes.

– I understand. You mentioned that you’d like to go home and put on a suit.

– Yes.

– Is there a ceremony or something planned?

– No. A press conference.

– A press conference.

– I really don’t know why I have to put on a suit for a press conference, but that’s what they told me.

– That’s what you were told. I understand. Have you had a chance to speak to your family yet?

– Just a moment. My boss wants to give me a kiss. Just a second. /…/ Hello?

– Yes, hello. Have you had a chance to speak to your family yet?

– Some of my family called me.

– So they know.

– Yes. Those who know, know. I didn’t tell anybody …

– Do you know how they found out that you got the Prize?

– I guess from the radio or the television, whatever.

– And did the Prize come as a complete surprise, or had it ever gone through your mind that you might get it one day?

– Has it ever gone through my mind that I might get the Prize? Well, yes it did.

– And have you been thinking about it at this time of year when the announcement is made?

– No, no, no, no no, no. No, no. Actually I gave up on it a long time ago.

– Okay. So who was the first person that you actually …?

– What? Excuse me?

– Who was the first person that you managed to tell about the Prize? Was it your …?

– I didn’t tell anybody. People came in, to me. I didn’t tell anybody.

– And have you had a chance to celebrate at all yet?

– No, no, no. It’s just the whole thing is an hour and a half old and people have been calling all the time.

– And in this hour and a half as a Prize-winner, how does it feel?

– It feels great.

– And could you also, in a few words, describe, for a young audience …? [cell phone signal]

– Could I tell …? Just a moment, please. /…/ Yes, excuse me?

– Yes, if you could describe, for a young audience, what exactly you have been awarded the Prize for.

– It’s for game theory, which is a … It’s a branch of science which studies situations where people interact and each person has a different goal. Each person wants to do the best that he can for himself, and … [cell phone signal]

[on other phone] /Hello? Hello? …/ Just a moment, please.

– Can I ask you – Thomas Schelling that you were awarded the Prize together with, have you had a chance to speak to him yet?

– No, I haven’t had a chance to speak to Tom, but … Certainly I’m delighted that he got it and I’m delighted to share it with him.

– And do you know each other very well, or …?

– Yes, we know each other fairly well.

– What will you …?

– We’ve known each other for many years.

– Getting this prize, what will it mean for your work? [cell phone signal]

– Just a moment, please. /…/ Yes.

– Yes. No problem. I understand it’s a hectic day. But, when you do get a chance, how will you celebrate the Prize?

– How will I celebrate?

– Yes.

– Oh, I don’t know. I guess we’ll go skiing.

– Okay. Where do you go skiing if you live in Israel?

– Just a moment, please.

[on other phone] /… Shalom …/ Hello?

– Yes. Hello. Are you still there?

– Just excuse me. /…/ I think we’d better … Because it’s impossible …

– I understand. I just really wanted to congratulate you on the Prize and we hope that we will see you in Stockholm then, in December.

– Thank you very, very much.

– Okay. Thank you.

– Okay. Bye!

– Bye-bye.

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