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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.

Welcome to My New Blog

On No Status Quo

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog! As this is one of my first posts here I'd like to introduce myself and explain why I've called this blog No Status Quo.

My name is Emil and I'm a 21-year old student from Latvia. I've spent the last three years of my life studying in the United States and the Netherlands. I'm studying economics, psychology and mathematics. A strange combination, I know. I'm currently in my last semester, and I'm really looking forward to graduation.

Why? Well, I have some great plans after finishing college. But first let me start by explaining what I don't want to be doing after I graduate.

I no longer want to study at a university because all the world's knowledge is freely available on the Internet. If the world's greatest universities offer their lectures for free, why would I waste my time and money studying at an average institution? Sure, I might not get any credentials for what I learn online, but I want to live a life in which I'm rewarded for knowledge and hard work, not formal credentials.

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