Game Theory And Moral Philosophy

  1. Level 1: Manipulate the conditions of the game such that the opponent chooses an outcome that is best for us, that they might not have chosen otherwise. We buy flowers, play soothing music in the background, or take our date to the amusement park after having read a Cosmo article saying something about cotton candy sticks reminding us of our fathers.
  2. Level 2: Manipulate the payoffs and costs such that the opponent considers them higher than they would have otherwise. The entire sales and marketing industry
  3. Level 3: Play your own game. You’d never call a chess player manipulative because he’s trying to predict everything his opponent will do and nudge him towards a favorable direction in a zero-sum game. The difference is that the opponent knows the rules and what he’s signed up for. There is total transparency. This is not at all clear in real life though. If you’re playing a game with someone who doesn’t know they’re in a game or have no idea what the rules are, I don’t love your chances of being normal.
  4. Level 4: Play to destroy. There is a sort of unsaid ethic in competitive games that are unequal. If you’re Real Madrid playing Barcelona, all bets are off, if you’re up 5–0 at halftime, you take a deep breath and gear up for another 5. But if you’re playing Osasuna in 20th place struggling to stave off relegation, you ease off at 3–0 and don’t crush their spirit. And if it’s a 6th division side, from the blind football league, playing with just 1 goalkeeper after the other 10 players died in a plane crash, in the plane you had sent to pick them up for the game, then you’d hope to let that goalkeeper save all your shots then dribble that ball through your team and score for a miraculous victory, all this is of course assuming Ronaldo is benched and not salivating at the prospect of wrapping up the Pichichi trophy in a single game.

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A novel insightful exercise to determine the pragmatic difference in intellectual payoff between a novel insight and an obvious fact mistaken for novel insight.

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