You have one choice. In front of you is a machine: if you put a coin in the machine, the other player gets three coins – and vice versa. You both can either choose to COOPERATE (put in coin), or CHEAT (don’t put in coin).
Exactly! Why let that moocher mooch off of you?
If you cooperate & they cheat, you lose a coin while they gain three. (score: -1 vs +3) However, if you both cheat, neither of you gain or lose anything. (score: 0 vs 0) Therefore: you should CHEAT.
Sure, seems like the right thing to do… OR IS IT?
Because if you both cooperate, you both give up a coin to gain three. (score: +2 vs +2) But if you cheat & they cooperate, you gain three coins at their cost of one. (score: +3 vs -1) Therefore: you “should” still CHEAT.
And that’s our dilemma. Trust is nice, but it can let others take advantage of you — or shoot you as you come unarmed out of a trench. Sometimes, distrust is rational! But now, what happens if we play this game…
They called it: the “live and let live” system. Basically, you don’t shoot me, I don’t shoot you. And this worked, in a lot of places!
COPYCAT! (Apologies to your bet, Always Cheat.)
Copycat goes by many names. The Golden Rule, reciprocal altruism, tit for tat, or… live and let live
That’s right: the Always Cheats became a victim of their own success! They exploited the naive Always Cooperators, but once they ran out of them, they had to face the Copycats: who are nice, but not naive.
By simply copying the other player’s moves, Copycats can play nice with each other, while Always Cheats just cheat themselves! Not only that, but it also means Copycat can give Always Cheat a taste of their own medicine.
…Copycat inherits the earth.
So, in the long run, you were right – Copycat wins! Always Cheat may have won in the short run, but its exploitativeness was its downfall. This reminds me of a quote:
“We are punished by our sins, not for them.”
~ Elbert Hubbard
The Golden Rule
The golden rule is a basic moral directive that generally is phrased as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Many similar variations on this phrase are used. Most interpret this rule to mean people should treat others with the kindness, respect and consideration most individuals tend to expect for themselves. The golden rule is the basic foundation for many human-rights philosophies, and is associated with many world religions.
The Silver Rule
The silver rule is a variation and somewhat an inversion of the golden rule. The silver rule states “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” The silver rule has its own deficiencies, as it only requires an individual not harm others, and does not ask that person to engage in positive behavior.
The golden rule is essential to many different world religions, and endorsed by and associated with various religious figures, including Jesus Christ, to whom the popular phrasing is attributed in the New Testament of the Bible. However, the golden rule predates Christ. According to Siegfried Morenz’s book “Egyptian Religion,” one of the earliest examples of the rule dates more than a thousand years prior to the existence of Jesus to an ancient-Egyptian concept called Maat.
Famous thinkers and critics such as writer George Bernard Shaw have publicly criticized the golden and silver rules for their oversimplified nature and somewhat problematic implications. Critics are dissatisfied with the second part of the golden and silver rules, which seemingly assume anyone can know exactly how others do and do not wish to be treated. As Shaw states in his work “Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy,” “Do not do unto others as you would that they would do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”
Maat or Ma’at (Egyptian mˤ3t) refers to both the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice, and the personification of these concepts as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Her ideological counterpart was Isfet.
“Non-zero-sum game”. This is when people make the hard effort to create a win-win solution! (or at least, avoid a lose-lose) Without the non-zero-sum game, trust cannot evolve.
This strategy is better known in game theory as Tit For Tat. It was created by Anatol Rapoport in 1980, for Robert Axelrod’s game theory tournament. I chose not to use the name “Tit For Tat” because 1) it sounds mean, although it’s a nice & fair strategy, and 2) a lot of the public have already heard about Tit For Tat, so if I used that name, players might just place their bets on this character because they’ve already heard of “Tit For Tat”.
Mistakes, miscommunication, misinterpretations — accidents happen all the time in real life.
The other player, being a Copycat, had to retaliate…
Good guess, but someone else took the prize — Copykitten wins this time! That’s surprising that with an even meaner starting population, Copykitten, a more forgiving version of Copycat, was the most successful! (note: Copykitten is so forgiving it doesn’t even entirely wipe out Copycat. it shares room)
In this case, a bit of “miscommunication” (5% chance of mistake each round) could lead to more forgiveness. But is this true for all levels…
from all of game theory, it’s this:
What the game is, defines what the players do.
Our problem today isn’t just that people are losing trust,
it’s that our environment acts against the evolution of trust.
That may seem cynical or naive — that we’re “merely” products of our environment — but as game theory reminds us, we are each others’ environment. In the short run, the game defines the players. But in the long run, it’s us players who define the game.
So, do what you can do, to create the conditions necessary to evolve trust. Build relationships. Find win-wins. Communicate clearly. Maybe then, we can stop firing at each other, get out of our own trenches, cross No Man’s Land to come together…
“We have fewer friends — period.”
Seriously, go read Robert Putnam’s 2000 book, Bowling Alone. Yeah it’s a bit outdated by now, 17 years later, but its core findings and lessons are still true as ever — probably even more so.
Also known as Pavlov, or Win-Stay-Lose-Shift.