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'[OT] On greed'
2006\09\07@222656 by Russell McMahon

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This sounds like a good party game to play. It would be interesting to
try it with people of different (alleged) intelligence and education
levels.

There is in fact, IMHO, a fallacy in the implied criticism in the
following commentary, at least as far as playing the game is
concerned.

           "Have you ever contemplated paying $48,000 for a pen? Or
$300,000 for a wristwatch? There exists a parallel universe inhabited
by the super-rich, invisible to the rest of us. Julian Edney has
written a penetrating and thought-provoking essay entitled
"Greed"--online at http://www.g-r-e-e-d.com/GREED.htm--that explores some of
the contradictions and questionable beliefs underlying the economic
foundations of our society and the inherent conflict with the
political values that we say we believe in. Eventually, those with the
real, unmet needs are forced in desperation to resort to violence, and
the cycles repeat that form the mainstream of human history, to which
there appears to be no answer.
Or is there? At the end of his essay, Edney describes a game called
"Nuts." The players sit around a kitchen bowl containing some number
of nuts--or dimes, dollar bills, candies, or anything else suitable
that you like--and on a signal from the organizer begin playing to
acquire as many of the contents as they can amass. The organizer also
tells them that he will replenish the bowl every ten seconds by
doubling whatever number of objects remains at that time. A moment's
thought will show that the supply need never run out. If the players
hold off from taking anything out for a while, they can let the pot
grow very large indeed, doubling in size every ten seconds, then share
out an ample return and still leave a seed stock to initiate further
doubling. Or, alternatively, they might take a share each of just half
the bowl's content, leaving the other half to double and restore the
initial condition, which can be continued indefinitely. The game is a
lesson in miniature of how to manage a resource that will regenerate
itself, given time.

In reality, it seems that we don't trust each other. Edney reports
that sixty percent of the groups never make it to the first ten-second
replenishment cycle. Each would grab all they could as soon as they
could, leaving nothing in the bowl to be doubled. He has seen the bowl
knocked to the floor and fingernails broken in the scramble. A sad
indictment on those who would presume to run a planet."



From:        http://www.jamesphogan.com/homepage.shtml





           Russell



comment below



























He seems to have missed the point of the game. OR the players have.
The *implication* is that the object is to achieve a result *relative
to the other players*. ie

       " to acquire as many of the contents as they can amass ..."



is easily heard as "... compared with anyone else".

This then is or can be more a lesson in listening to instructions. And
the game organiser could pitch it that way, being very careful about
what they said and ensuring that everyone heard it clearly. You could
even get people to repeat the object back before play started. While
this may give some people some clue as to the object it would still be
lost on many. Also, telling people that the game had a finite time
limit, say 1 or 2 minutes, would make things realistic as doubling
would be possible over that period if nothing was taken. 10 seconds /
1 minute  = 64 times. 10 seconds / 2 minutes = 4096 times ! If
absolute amount is the aim (as instructions imply) then a balance
between waiting and striking would arise.

Scoring, if it existed, could be against what could be achieved in an
optimum game rather than against each other, but this would be pointed
out only after the game ended. eg 4 players 1 minute, 10 start would
get 320 items at the start of the last 10 second period to fight for
or share SO anything which gave you less than 80 each was a suboptimum
strategy. Arguably.

With a true open ended game a computer program would allow indefinite
increase. It could be played as a single player game where you play
against computerised opponents and use eg 0-9  keys to take N*10% of
the pot

Whatever.



















"



2006\09\08@015411 by Jinx

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> This sounds like a good party game to play. It would be
> interesting to try it with people of different (alleged)
> intelligence and education levels.

I've suggested that to a group who do meet to play games

Some comments from one of them :

--------------------------------------

This is yet another variation on the "Prisoner's dilemma".

The basis of these puzzles are as follows:

The best AVERAGE outcome is if everyone works together.
The best INDIVIDUAL outcome is if everyone except one person
works together; in this case the person who stays out will get a
(usually small) advantage, and everyone else gets a disadvantage.
The WORST AVERAGE outcome is if everyone works for themselves
only.
The WORST INDIVIDUAL outcome is if everyone works for themselves,
except you.
No matter what others do, working for yourself will allways give you
an advantage over working together.

If everyone works together in the example below, they will leave the
organiser to replenish it all evening, sharing it out at the end.

Another example of this is security. If everyone works together, we
will save lots of money on not having to lock our doors. If everyone
except one person works together, then that one person will have a
huge advantage (there not being any locks...) with the average
advantage going down (as a few people get simple locks). The worst
situation for an individual is if they are honest, but still have to
pay for locks because everyone around them are dishonest (or enough).
And any person who is dishonest will allways have an advantage over
someone who is honest (though not much difference, if others in the
group are also dishonest).

Another example is driving on the shoulder. If no-one drives on the
shoulder, then anyone who needs it knows they can use it, and
emergency vehicles can use it. If a few people use it, it's hugely to
their advantage. The more people use it, the less effective it is, and
the more problems emergency vehicles will have.


2006\09\08@041000 by Howard Winter

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Jinx,

On Fri, 08 Sep 2006 17:42:35 +1200, Jinx wrote:

> This is yet another variation on the "Prisoner's dilemma".

Or "The Tragedy of the Commons".

A number of years ago I was on  leadership course, and we were in two teams and up to this point we'd always been in competition.  Then one
evening they sprung something on us, where there was to be a game of 5 x 5 "noughts & crosses".  Each team would nominate a player who would
actually play the game on the board at the front, on instructions given to them beforehand - no communication was allowed during the game.  We
had half an hour to work out our strategy and brief our player.

Each team had to put in a fixed amount of money, including the organisers, and the winning team would take the pot.  If the result was a draw the
pot went to the organisers.

Now if you're careful it's always a draw in the traditional 3 x 3 game, so with 5 x 5 there's no way to lose unless you're completely stupid - you can
always see a line building and block it, so a draw was inevitable.  I realised this fairly quickly and had to persuade my team that the only strategy
was to agree which team would win, and share out the winnings afterwards.  When I'd done that (took about 25 minutes!) I then had to go to the
other team and persuade them - and they were *very* sceptical!  I tried the tack that we needed to beat the organisers (I think I used the phrase
"those bastards" :-), and the only way to come out on top was for one team to win - we just needed to agree which team would win.  As one of the
organisers was counting down the last 30 seconds behind me, I decided I needed a trust-showing act to clinch it, so I took out a coin and threw it into
the air and said "call to see who's going to win" and stepped back and let it fall to the floor - their side won, so that was the deal.  With a great deal
of trepidation on both sides, the game went ahead, we let them win, and they shared out the booty afterwards - Job Done!  :-)))  It was one of my
proudest moments of the whole course - I had some dreadfully low moments too, but that's another story...

Cheers,


Howard Winter
St.Albans, England


2006\09\08@090322 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Jinx wrote:

> The basis of these puzzles are as follows:
>
> The best AVERAGE outcome is if everyone works together.
> The best INDIVIDUAL outcome is if everyone except one person
> works together; in this case the person who stays out will get a
> (usually small) advantage, and everyone else gets a disadvantage.
> The WORST AVERAGE outcome is if everyone works for themselves
> only.
> The WORST INDIVIDUAL outcome is if everyone works for themselves,
> except you.
> No matter what others do, working for yourself will allways give you
> an advantage over working together.

This may be a correct conclusion for a traditional game, where the only
thing that counts is how you stack up relative to the others. Reality is
quite a bit different, in that even if someone else has an advantage over
me (that is, if it were I game, I had lost), I still may be better off than
in the other alternatives (which in a game doesn't count, but in reality
does).

This difference is also why I think that Russell's fallacy is not really a
fallacy in the game. The overall problem with pretty much everything we do
as a group is that we don't work towards maximizing our absolute benefits,
we work towards maximizing our relative benefits, relative to the others
around us. (Not sure "benefits" is the right word here, but I'll stick with
it for now :) This in general leads to a quite sub-optimal situation as far
as our own benefits go -- see everything "common" (security, taxes,
politics, ...). And this seems to be what the game shows. So no fallacy; it
just shows this difficulty we're having with seeing our absolute benefit,
even if it comes with an even bigger (potential) benefit for someone else.

In essence, you probably could say that our collective efforts usually are
more targeted towards reducing others' benefits than they are towards
increasing our own. Or, put in another way, we are willing to accept a
scenario in which we have 50% less, only to avoid that another might have
10% more than we do.

(Brazil is a living example of how this works. The dominating, rich class
has for a long time worked towards being the only top dogs in an otherwise
poor country. If they had spent only a small part of their fortune towards
the overall development, both they and the rest of the country could be
much better off than they are now -- but the difference would be smaller.)

This all makes sense in an evolution situation -- you want to be better off
compared to your peers, so that it's your genes that procreate. But
humanity is long past the traditional mechanisms of evolution, in terms of
individuals. Not as a species, though, and that transition looks like its
our current problem. As demonstrated by the game.

Gerhard

2006\09\08@094709 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Russell McMahon wrote:

> He seems to have missed the point of the game. OR the players have.
> The *implication* is that the object is to achieve a result *relative
> to the other players*. ie
>
>         " to acquire as many of the contents as they can amass ..."
>
> is easily heard as "... compared with anyone else".

Did you see this http://www.g-r-e-e-d.com/Nuts%20Game.htm ?

"An experimenter sits with the group and introduces the exercise as one
where the player¢s goal is to get as many of the nuts as possible."

"As many of the nuts as possible" doesn't sound too ambiguous, at least not
to me as a non-native speaker. If it does, that's probably what the game is
trying to show :)  It also makes the score obvious: the number of nuts. Not
compared to anything -- just the number of nuts.

Interesting what the groups come up with before playing it a second time.

Gerhard

2006\09\09@130537 by M. Adam Davis

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On 9/8/06, Gerhard Fiedler <spam_OUTlistsTakeThisOuTspamconnectionbrazil.com> wrote:
> "An experimenter sits with the group and introduces the exercise as one
> where the player's goal is to get as many of the nuts as possible."
>
> "As many of the nuts as possible" doesn't sound too ambiguous, at least not
> to me as a non-native speaker. If it does, that's probably what the game is
> trying to show :)  It also makes the score obvious: the number of nuts. Not
> compared to anything -- just the number of nuts.

It is obvious - its a game, therefore there is an implicit comparison.
Perhaps in other cultures this is different, but most of the US
teaches their children to be competitive.  The point of the game
(football, baseball, soccer, monopoly, etc) is to win.

The instruction says "as many as possible."  There is no winning
criteria, other than "many."  Due to the competitive concepts taught
as youth the winning criteria for everyone (as the game shows) is,
"more than the next player."

It's obvious to everyone here what the winning criteria is when none
is given, and given the minimal instructions.  It's an assumption,
yes, but it's pretty universally accepted.

-Adam

>
> Interesting what the groups come up with before playing it a second time.
>
> Gerhard
>
> -

2006\09\09@140353 by Gerhard Fiedler

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M. Adam Davis wrote:

> The instruction says "as many as possible."  There is no winning
> criteria, other than "many."  Due to the competitive concepts taught
> as youth the winning criteria for everyone (as the game shows) is,
> "more than the next player."
>
> It's obvious to everyone here what the winning criteria is when none
> is given, and given the minimal instructions.  It's an assumption,
> yes, but it's pretty universally accepted.

Which, and I guess I'm repeating myself, is IMO the point of the game. "As
many as possible" is different from "more than the others", and as long as
this sounds the same, there is a problem.

Gerhard

2006\09\09@200449 by M. Adam Davis

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On 9/9/06, Gerhard Fiedler <.....listsKILLspamspam@spam@connectionbrazil.com> wrote:
> and as long as
> this sounds the same, there is a problem.

I suppose I don't understand the problem.  This game merely points out
that everyone generally makes the same assumption.  We have to act on
incomplete information all the time, and it's the base set of
assumptions that we work from that allow us to make decisions when
information is incomplete.

Are you saying this assumption is problematic?  If so, what should we
replace it with?  Would your new assumption work in the cases where
others do not change their assumptions to match?

-Adam

2006\09\09@213915 by Gerhard Fiedler

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M. Adam Davis wrote:

>> and as long as this sounds the same, there is a problem.
>
> I suppose I don't understand the problem.  This game merely points out
> that everyone generally makes the same assumption.  We have to act on
> incomplete information all the time, and it's the base set of
> assumptions that we work from that allow us to make decisions when
> information is incomplete.

The information in this case is not incomplete. It is just wrongly
interpreted. It sounds very specific and clear and unambiguous to me.

> Are you saying this assumption is problematic?  If so, what should we
> replace it with?  Would your new assumption work in the cases where
> others do not change their assumptions to match?

This depends on what you mean with "work", and a bit on the cases, too :)


Did you read the article at http://www.g-r-e-e-d.com/GREED.htm ? It
explains the point in more detail for which the game is an illustration. If
you have read it, then we have something to discuss. If not, it probably
doesn't make sense that I re-phrase his arguments...

I think that acting on a base rule "more than the others" may have brought
an evolutionary advantage during a phase in our development -- especially
when individual "fitness" driven evolution was important --, but it seems
to me that this is not a base rule that optimizes very well anything that
is of importance in our current phase. We, as a species, may be at a point
where it is important to know the difference between "as much as possible"
and "more than the others".

Gerhard

2006\09\10@011955 by Russell McMahon

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>> "As many of the nuts as possible" doesn't sound too ambiguous, at
>> least not
>> to me as a non-native speaker. If it does, that's probably what the
>> game is
>> trying to show :)  It also makes the score obvious: the number of
>> nuts. Not
>> compared to anything -- just the number of nuts.

I agree with your analysis BUT it makes my point.
You as a "non-native speaker" may just possibly get the point which is
lost on the natives.

It says one thing but almost everyone who plays games anything like
this will assume something different, as is exampled below -

> It is obvious - its a game, therefore there is an implicit
> comparison.

Indeed. BUT the comparison in this case is intnded to be with "anyone
who ever plays the game" and NOT with "the people who are playing the
game this time. SO if someone sweeps the bowl clean in one swoop at
the start they score badly.

This is not trickery or cheating, it is people being given VERY clear
instructions and not listening to wjat they are told and overlaying
assumptions that are not valid.

> Perhaps in other cultures this is different, but most of the US
> teaches their children to be competitive.  The point of the game
> (football, baseball, soccer, monopoly, etc) is to win.

Yes. But winning here is getting the most POSSIBLE not the most
relative to the others playing at present. If we do the former in
life, and has been ponted out, many cultures do, then we lose. Being
king of the trash heap is a poor win if you could have been king of
something far better.

> The instruction says "as many as possible."  There is no winning
> criteria, other than "many."

Absolutely.
So, people scrambling to empty the bowl are going to lose and casue
everyone else to lose as well.

> Due to the competitive concepts taught
> as youth the winning criteria for everyone (as the game shows) is,
> "more than the next player."

My point exactly.
The WRONG criteria to "win" this game is adopted by assuming the
competitive concepts taught since youth. And these also cause loss in
'real life' as aell for much the same reasons. A real world example is
depletion of a renewable resource which has a finite replenishment
rate. In my country we for many years fished Orange Roughy at as fast
a rate as possible. After a while it was discivered that they live to
about 300 years old (!). Despite the implications of this
fisherpeoples stil agitated and tend to agitate for resource damaging
fishing rates that might ensure a fw more $ long term but which would
harm them and everyone else long term. Not to mention the fish.


> It's obvious to everyone here what the winning criteria is when none
> is given, and given the minimal instructions.  It's an assumption,
> yes, but it's pretty universally accepted.

Criteria were given.
Very simple.
Very straight forwards.
Very ignored.
Very wrong outcome.

In such cases unisversal acceptance just helps hurry the disasterous
outcome on its way.


   Russell

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