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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.

January 1st

On Linus Rylander

###Note: This post is admittedly shitty. I wasn't going to post it. Reason why I did at the bottom. Enjoy! Or don't. Whatever. :)

It's a quarter to three in the afternoon, January 1st. Last night, the simultaneous sounds of fireworks and ambulance sirens made me laugh for some reason.

I just came home from walking the dog. Holy shit there were a lot of people on the running trail. Go figure. Most of them won't be there in a month.

Every year, billions of people see the new year as a chance to start over. Do it better. Achieve their goals, lose weight, make money, start meditating, whatever.

The only reason Jan 1st has any significance is because billions of people have universally agreed that it does. In other words, it's completely irrational. I know this, and at least in a rational sense, most other people do to. There's nothing inherently magical about January 1st. And yet... I feel it all the same. Like, wow, it's 2014. Let's do some epic shit this year!

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