probablytom

A library of thoughts and things worth sharing.

Winning Is For Losers

— Sourced from Jacob Falkovich, Ribbonfarm

A lot of fantastic content gets mined out of the minds of Ribbonfarm. Jacob Falkovich's "Winning is for Losers" is a perfect example, analysing modern life through game theory and arguing that cooperation — or just not trying to "win" by ordinary metrics — is often the best strategy in life's game.

We have started building a framework of competitive and cooperative situations. Competition stems from zero-sum contests over a fixed pie, where additional players are never welcome. Cooperation comes from an opportunity to bake a pie collaboratively, and strong players are welcome if they contribute. Ending up in the latter situation requires being more capable than anyone else, or really different from everyone else.

This foundation is enough to survive in Harvard or the NBA, but it’s insufficient for a real challenge like OkCupid. For a strategy that works in online dating we need to dig deeper into game theory...

The article's long, but it's well worth a read. Sit somewhere comfortable and make time to enjoy it like you might a nice meal.

In particular, I'm a fan of the use of real-world examples — often taken from the writer's actual life, complete with photos — to explain how his point isn't just correct, but is applicable in our own day-to-day lives. In a subject like game theory, real-world applicability is such an important part of getting ideas understood, and actually used as a result. You can read "Winning is for Losers" at Ribbonfarm, linked here.