Game Theory: Winning the War (Pretty self-explanatory)

By Diamantis Papatsounis
September, 19 2018
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Is it pure luck?

Imagine being in a classic board game with some friends. You know the rules (at least you think so), you play every single round of it with passion and yet, as it seems, you keep losing the game due to your friend’s “pure luck”. You have also lost every game you have played with that fellow. (…)

In such a quagmire they find themselves quite a lot the United States of America. For about 19 years, they were trying to win the unjustified, according to the American people, Vietnam war. The Vietcong were fighting for their lives, for their homes. Russia against Afghanistan, same old story. The Russian army is fighting to win whilst the mujahideen are trying to survive. The Nazis in Russia, 1944, were the communists lost every battle but drove the SS soldiers to the death and the war to start facing the finishing line. Cold War, Ottomans vs the Greeks and so on, the history is packed with incidents like these. But what is the deal here, what is the purpose of the things written above?

Odd as it seems, all these facts have something in common. Math, or to be more specific, they conformed to the rules of the game theory. The exact formulae and types are not in the purpose of this article.

Finite or Infinite?

All games, according to the theory of games, can be either finite or infinite. A finite game is a game where all the players are known, the rules are agreed upon and the objective is also known. In an infinite game, however, the players are not known, the rules are changeable, and the purpose is to perpetuate the game.

A game like this, is the business game, new players arise every now and then, others withdraw and there are some who understand the infinity of the purpose.

In the examples given, the Vietcong were trying to stay alive, only their death would end the game, same with Afghanistan. Americans announced themselves the winners of the Cold War in 1953, but how can you win an infinite game? The answer is that you cannot.  You keep playing until either you withdraw from the war/ competition or you run out of the resources to keep the game alive.  The C.W. was an ideological war between Soviet style communism and the exporters of Democracy ( it was also a war over technology, space exploration, nuclear weapons just to name a few). There was never one objective, they were playing an infinite game all along. As it happens with infinite games, new players emerged, China, North Korea, Iran and so on.

Businesses Apply to the Game

To proceed to a more “peaceful” game theory-based fact, as stated above, the business game is also an infinite game. It is a war for parts of the market, for the very soul of the customers with companies trying to beat the quarter or the semester or the year, putting economical goals which are finite. The problem is, those who are trying to hit the numbers and lead for some time the technological advance have a shot-term existence. An example will clarify that even better. We are all familiar with the tech. companies named Apple and Samsung. In their managerial conferences, and that is a fact, of Samsung, 8 out of 10 managers made proposition about how to beat the competition with Apple. On the other hand, 10 out of 10 managers of Apple stated strategies to be followed, not only inside the company, but all over the world, regarding how to make teachers teach more efficiently and how to make students learn more effectively. It is clear now that one is playing the infinite game while the other a finite one and here is where the system becomes unstable. When an infinite player confronts an infinite player, the system is stable. When a finite meets a finite, the system is also stable. The unstable nature, however, of either conventional war or business competition is what leads us to today’s state of affairs. Ongoing wars which have been raging for years and have no plan of ending. They caused heavy casualties, economic casualties leading to poverty and corruption. Businesses and entrepreneurs focusing on outperforming the competition and not rebuilt the very foundation of learning and education. Politicians and governors not even understanding the nature of the game they are in, infinite or finite, trying only to beat the parties against them.

Decision-Making Process

The root of all misjudgment and evil though, is that we confuse the why, which is our values, with the what, which tend to be our interests. Values are in an infinite goal while interests a finite one, constantly changing. Ideally, all decision making should be made filtered firstly through our values and then through our interests. A quick example. The Greek government opened the boarders to the Syrian refugees because of compassion, it is the kind of thing done solely for the sake humanity- value filter. The natives suffered a great deal due to overpopulation, thievery and so on, because the infrastructures were non-excitant and the economy in an unstable state-interest filter conflicted. The reverse order, however, which is how most decisions are made, is through our interests first. There is no need for any different example than the one stated above. All the other European countries, closed the boarders or accepted very few refugees, having great knowledge of the for and against of their decision. They have put their interests first and that is the reason the value system is declining in the European Union. 

Give Peace a Chance

As seen, those are facts based on the simple idea of games. From the game with friends, to the game businesses play, to the game politicians are in. Every aspect of our lives that requires a second or more parties with conflicted interests, is subjected to the same rules. It is in our best interest to know the game we are in and to play accordingly, if we ever want to make a world more hopeful and prosperous for our children and our children’s children, than the one we received from our parents.