Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Game Theory and Naivety

Game theory can teach some very curious lessons.

Perhaps the most important is that the obvious solution is frequently the wrong solution.  In order to create an environment where cooperation is possible, you have to create an environment where profitable defection isn't.

The naive solution is always "Let's cooperate".  In an environment of people who -always- cooperate, defecting is a -very- powerful tool, and very attractive.  "Always cooperate" as a strategy rewards defection.

In order to foster a truly cooperative environment, you have to be willing to defect, and most specifically against those who have first defected.

Naive anarchism or communism is the belief that "Let's just work together" is a viable strategy, that you can rely upon goodwill.  Even I'd defect in that system, if for no other reason than resentment of a system that doesn't punish defection.

We can't reward cooperation enough to make defection unattractive - we have finite resources, and defection is, in any system, the gaming of the system to get disproportionate reward.  The only real option is to make defection less attractive.

Government is one mechanism of punishing defection; it is a universal agent, with whom cooperation is paramount, and whose defection is lethal.  There's just one issue with the use of government in this manner: It permits a grander scale of defection, that of false accusation.  Government becomes the arbiter of grudge, rather than law.  Coyote Blog comments on one example.  It's hardly the only.

Belief in government as a reliable arbiter isn't -quite- as naive as "Let's just work together", but still makes the same mistake: Assuming cooperation and defection can be made infallible.  They can't.  That's the metagame.  Then there's the third level of naivety - the belief in a solution to this mess.  There is no end solution - whatever rules you use, there's a metagame that will defeat them.

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