I started listening to Sun Tzu's "Art of War" on audiobook recently. I'd tried to get through it before, but the translations I picked up were a little too dry, or I wasn't in the right state of mind for it.
Listening to the narrator speak out Sun Tzu's strategy made me realize something - the fundamental judgment errors people make are independent of any particular field. Going on tilt in poker or attacking immediately with exhausted troops after it's taken three months to build siege engines - are these not the same thing? Overpursuit past objectives in war, and deviating from core investment strategies after a short term win or loss - certainly, this is a similar judgment flaw.
This particular audio version includes commentary written by other Chinese military strategists, and one story is how one commander and his officers were at a neighboring kingdom trying to convince them to make an alliance against the barbarians they were fighting. After a week of great treatment, the neighboring king grew more cold and distant to the commander.
Being perceptive, the commander guessed that the barbarians might have also sent envoys, and now the king was choosing which side to support. The commander captured and interrogated one of the palace attendants, who said yes, the barbarians did send envoys.
The commander's party was less than 30 men, it was him and some of his officers. The barbarian envoy had over 100 men. But, in the cover of night they snuck to the barbarian camp, lit it on fire, played war drums to make their forces look larger than they were, and shot down barbarians with bow and arrow and crossbows, and completely destroyed the enemy forces.
The next day, they presented this to the king as a great victory for their new alliance, and seeing the boldness, the king chose to join the commander's side of the war. Isn't that sort of attraction to boldness the same thing that makes a woman choose a man, or a person choose a business partner?
It seems like the basic psychology and emotions that drive us to make decisions, rational and irrational, is the same for most people. With immense amounts of training, you can overcome your own psychology and emotions to an extent, and don't count on a well-trained person caving to their emotions. But the vast majority of people are not well-trained, and will likely follow normal patterns - whether is be on a battlefield, playing cards, investing, love, making alliances, or choosing business partners.
There is tremendous synergy - learning about human nature in a particular field must make it much faster to understand human nature in a second field, even faster in a third, until a quick overview of a field lets you make intelligent guesses as to how people will react.
Here's the version of Sun-Tzu I'm listening to, I quite like both the narrators:
The audio version is quite engaging and they're reading from Lionel Giles' translation which is good, very straightforward and not dry. Here's the paper version:
The year is 204 B.C., and Publius Cornelius Scipio stands, blade and standard in hand, over now-conquered Utica. The numerically superior forces of Hasdrubal and Syphax almost completely annihilated in a nighttime assault by the Romans, and the Carthaginian field forces were entirely out of commission in Northern Africa.
The Carthaginian Empire is the verge of ruin, with Scipio's forces clear to take the capital -
And lo! Envoys appear.
Not just any envoys, but 30 Members of Carthage's Council of Elders, the highest and most respected spokesmen for the state.
Some more pages read. Now the two distinct plots - the railway and the dwarves - has come together, setting the last third (two acts?) of the book up nicely.
Nice oblique reference to Cohen the Barbarian that would be missed if you hadn't read Interesting Times. I did think the second mention of Rincewind felt a little gratuitous though - perhaps one of these was supposed to be amended or removed during editing? I'd have kept the train one.