Oakland-born Nobel Laureate asked for his medal be auctioned off after his death

Lyanne Melendez Image
Friday, June 1, 2018
Local Nobel Laureate asked for his medal be auctioned off after his death
A man named Thomas Schelling who helped conceptualize the plot for "Dr. Strangelove" won a Nobel Prize that is expected have his medal auctioned off as he requested before he died.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- We've all heard the phrase collateral damage, which was coined by Oakland native Thomas Schelling who is also known for being a pioneer in game theory, which served as the inspiration for the 1964 movie "Dr. Strangelove."

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump raised the possibility of nuclear war with North Korea by being defiant. He tweeted this, which was intended for the North Korean leader: "I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works."

That's what Schelling described as the science of strategy or game theory. "And it's ultimately that, that you hope you get somebody to back out before disaster happens," explained UC Berkeley professor Robert Powell who worked with him.

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Schelling first wrote about this theory in a 1961 article, which was published in a London newspaper. At the time, it caught the attention of film director, Stanley Kubrick. "And Stanley Kubrick was in London making a movie and he read this newspaper and he said, 'sounds like a good show,'" said Schelling in a 2014 interview with the Harvard Kennedy School about that encounter with Kubirck.

Schelling sat down with Kubrick to help him conceptualize the plot for the movie "Dr. Strangelove." Who can forget that infamous line in the movie delivered by Dr. "Strangelove" himself? "Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy, the fear to attack."

Schelling argued that if you had a higher tolerance for risk and unpredictability, it would give you an upper hand in negotiations.

Schelling who was born in Oakland and graduated from UC Berkeley, went on to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2005. He died in 2016 at the age of 95 and made it clear that the medal was to be auctioned off after his death. "The opening bid is $150, 000. We have sold nobles north of $700,000," said Michael Kirk of Nate D. Sanders auctions.

The proceeds will go the the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit.

Those who knew him say it's a perfect match since he was always trying to improve the lives of others.

EDITOR'S NOTE: ABC7 News learned on Friday, June 1 the medal sold for $187,500. In a statement, SPLC President Richard Cohen said, "I'm a longtime admirer of Thomas Schelling and his intellect. My colleagues and I are deeply grateful to have his support and that of his wife in our work to end hate and bigotry."