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Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People

Related to: Rationalists Should Win, Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate, Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?, Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic, Paul Graham's "Why Nerds Are Unpopular"

The "Prisoner's Dilemma" refers to a game theory problem developed in the 1950's. Two prisoners are taken and interrogated separately. If either of them confesses and betrays the other person - "defecting" - they'll receive a reduced sentence, and their partner will get a greater sentence. However, if both defect, then they'll both receive higher sentences than if neither of them confessed.

This brings the prisoner to a strange problem. The best solution individually is to defect. But if both take the individually best solution, then they'll be worst off overall. This has wide ranging implications for international relations, negotiation, politics, and many other fields.

Members of LessWrong are incredibly smart people who tend to like game theory, and debate and explore and try to understand problems like this. But, does knowing game theory actually make you more effective in real life?

I think the answer is yes, with a caveat - you need the basic social skills to implement your game theory solution. The worst-case scenario in an interrogation would be to "defect by accident" - meaning that you'd just blurt out something stupidly because you didn't think it through before speaking. This might result in you and your partner both receiving higher sentences... a very bad situation. Game theory doesn't take over until basic skill conditions are met, so that you could actually execute any plan you come up with.

Early On a Sunday Morning

On Where Pianos Roam

It's a chilly Nashville morning as I write this even as soft sunlight pours through my window.  As I've mentioned in several of my recent posts, I've been doing a whole bit of de-cluttering in my life.  This has mostly applied to various physical spaces like my closet, bedroom, car, and so forth; however, I've also been trying to do so in the way I carry out my day.

For most of my life, I've been the kind of person who has had a gargantuan to-do list.  It would be an endless stream of tasks connected to multiple facets of my existence.  After one item would be completed, another one would roll right on in.  I've been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks, and I've decided that, in spite of the productiveness, it is still not all that gratifying.  

It feels no different than doing the same thing over and over again.  The actual tasks might all be different from each other, but the intention is all the same--just to get something done.  For me, this has become monotonous especially because, in my own life, there is no end to all of the things I could be doing.  

So, I've decided that from now one, excluding (and occasionally including) time-sensitive tasks or ones that affect other people, I am only going to focus on getting two or three important things done each day.  I've actually been doing this now over the last two weeks, and I really love it. 

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