Great Minds Think Alike

If phenomenology had a theme, it would amount to the “painful and tumultuous journey of one’s consciousness and self towards both elevation and the shaping of one’s reality.” In turn, reality is shaped by perception, and perception is shaped by information. Hence, the liberation of the information ecosystem due to globalization and technology means the pain and tumult of the individual consciousness and individual self through the course of its elevation and transformation is then generalized and transposed onto a global level and global scope.

Paradoxically, the attainment of freedom and liberation means giving up freedom in certain cases. As a result, dictatorship ends up becoming an inherent feature or outcome of certain democracies, given the erratic nature of certain electorates. I was once told by a friend that if the American electorate were left to freely choose who they wanted as president, Ronald McDonald would be a serious contender in an American presidential election.

There are perhaps a few things left to mention about “Game Theory” which were absent from previous blog posts. For one, it is important to note that there is no such thing as “pure conflict” or perhaps even “pure cooperation” for that matter. As the late game theorist Thomas Schelling noted, the most common scenario – and the scenario which preoccupied much of Schelling’s thought – was the “mixed game” scenario, whereby conflict coincides with “tacit bargaining” on one hand and “tacit cooperation” on the other hand.

“Mob formation” is an example that is often used to demonstrate the “tacit cooperation” which occurs between individuals in a state of chaos and turmoil, without there being any apparent or clear communication or leadership structure amongst those individuals who are forming a mob. As a result, the spontaneous and unguided phenomenon of mob formation in a state of turmoil demonstrates that cooperation is the basic element of a “mixed game” scenario and is the “dominant need” in a state of conflict. In turn, the purpose of a “code of conduct” is to overcome the apprehension and the hesitancy which stands in the way of moving forward with an arrangement or agreement between two parties who are in a “mixed game” scenario.

As mentioned before, the condition of “tacit cooperation” coincides with “tacit bargaining” in a mixed-game scenario. Threats make up one particular component of the bargaining process which is embedded in a state of conflict. And as Schelling wrote, what makes a threat credible is not necessarily the threat in and of itself. Some threats amount to mere bluffing. Rather, it is the potential for the threat to be carried out which makes a threat credible.

And what overarches both conflict and cooperation and thus the “mixed game scenario” is a “psychic mechanism” or “psychological organization” which eventually prompts a “convergence of expectations” between all the parties or players involved. Data, numbers, mathematics, and individual roles are all determined by the “psychic mechanism” or “psychological organization” which brings about “convergent expectations” when all is said and done. This means “qualitative” rather than “quantitative” differences determine the “range of possibilities” that exist in a state of cooperation and conflict. In turn, poetry and humor may be more instrumental than data and reasoning when determining the “range of possibilities” in a given scenario.

The “psychic mechanism” and the “psychological organization” therefore dictates cooperation, even if the process which leads to cooperation is chaotic, drawn-out, and tumultuous. Also, while communication is important, communication is not a requirement for the process of coordinating or “converging” the expectations between different parties and players. As a result of intuition and the “psychic mechanism” or “psychic organization” underlying everything, Schelling wrote: “Something is perceived by both parties when communication is absent.” And even when communication is absent between the various parties and players, there is still a “common inability to keep their eyes off certain outcomes.” Schelling also wrote that communication, coordination, and negotiation do not have to be “reciprocal.” In fact, it is very much possible that “unilateral negotiation may provide the coordination that will save both parties.”

In sum, bargaining is for the most part “a dynamic process of mutual accommodation rather than pure communication culminating in a crystallized agreement.” And in terms of the communication aspect of bargaining, Schelling wrote: “Even with full verbal communication, the situation may not be greatly different; patterns of action speak louder than words.” After all, strategy is about the moves made towards the achievement of a goal, and the moves made by various players carry a kind of information that may not be found through mere words.

Another important issue is the issue of “focal points” during a bargaining scenario. Agreements can be made and expectations can converge only if a “focal point” of agreement is identifiable. In other words, an agreement or a convergence of expectations is possible only if there was an identifiable point by which the bargaining and conflict can be brought, whereby the agreement or convergence of expectations can then be made. And in terms of the Ukraine conflict, there is no such “focal point” between the West and Russia.

Given the absence of a “focal point” in the bargaining and conflict between the West and Russia, it follows that the Ukraine issue “develops an unintended symbolic significance, making compromise impossible.” Hence, it becomes all the more possible that the West may come to a meeting of the minds with non-Western parties in order to relieve itself of some of the stressors resulting from its perpetual conflict with Russia. After all, and as Schelling wrote, mutual accommodation and symmetry between different parties depend more on “visible context rather than underlying values.”

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