There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

What cannot be overlooked as an essential part of “Game Theory” is that all the parties and players involved in the game are actually being molded by a “psychic mechanism” and a form of “psychological organization” which overarches everything. Yet, many of the most effective and important parties and players in a game are self-taught in spite of the molding which takes place. Therefore, given that at the heart of everything is a contradiction and a paradox, it follows that a great mind and a great thinker must contradict himself or herself at least once in the span of their careers. It was either Einstein or Freud who said that if a person does not contradict themselves at least once, it means they have never said anything meaningful or useful to begin with.

Also, due to the element of “converging expectations” in a game or scenario which combines both cooperation and conflict, a player will always be a prisoner or beneficiary to the expectations of others. As the saying goes: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Given that others are constantly seeking to make a prisoner and beneficiary out of other players through carrots, sweeteners, deceit, and so forth, the best way to play the game in response to what others are doing would be to create one’s own “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and then force everyone else to play it. That is essentially what highly intelligent people do, namely, to draw everyone into the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” which they themselves have contrived.

As mentioned before, games exist within a range or spectrum, from low-risk ones on one end of the spectrum to high-risk ones on the other end. And the higher the risk, the higher the reward. Another way to put it is that “fortune favors the brave.” If a courageous and risk-averse player actually succeeds in drawing everyone into the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” which they have contrived, the reward for succeeding in this dangerous and risky endeavor will be self-evident to the player himself or the player herself. No one outside of the player himself or herself can ascertain or define the reward that comes with assuming the dangers and risk associated with playing the game effectively. And for some players, failure is never an option.

One way to draw everyone into a “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and then force everyone to play it is by communicating to everyone, but to no one person specifically. The ability to paradoxically communicate to everyone yet to no one person specifically follows from the rare ability to burn bridges in order to reach a goal. Another contradiction and paradox is that individual behavior is actually “contingent behavior.” The fact is that what we perceive to be our independently chosen course of action is actually the “best response” or a “Nash Equilibrium” in response to what everyone else is doing from a game theory perspective. In turn, contingent behavior translates into a “convergence of expectations” due to the element of interdependence which is inherent in contingent or collective behavior. And as a result, conflict is actually set aside for the sake of cooperation, given the contingency and interdependence involved in both collective and individual behavior.

There is also a social aspect and dimension to game theory aside from the strategic aspect and dimension of game theory, which for one includes “gossip wars.” As a result, players must either learn to ignore the “gossip wars” or learn to deal with the “gossip wars” in a wise and effective manner. The social aspect of game theory also includes the phenomenon of one buyer or suitor for a particular thing or person generating a bunch of other buyers and suitors for that same thing or person. In turn, the accumulation of buyers and suitors generating from the initial buyer or suitor often times leads to the point where nothing or no one can be bought or sought out.

In the end, the role of truth cannot be overlooked or underestimated when it comes to the mutual accommodation resulting from the process of converging expectations which actually stems from a “psychic mechanism” and “psychological organization” that overarches everything else. Because of the sheer power of truth, it follows that the competition and struggle over who can be the loudest and most vocal ends up with peace and quiet winning the competition when all is said and done.

When I was a graduate student at American University, I took the opportunity to sit in on a guest lecture which the late Thomas Schelling gave on campus about a decade ago. For the most part — and due largely to my lack of experience and knowledge at that time — I could barely understand what Schelling was trying to argue or say during the course of his talk. All I could decipher from his appearance and from his demeanor was that he was an incredibly cute and funny old man. Fast forward a decade later, not only do I understand Schelling’s work to a certain extent, but I have also come to realize that his work resonates with me on a deeply personal level. Essentially, time makes all the difference, regardless of how hackneyed this idea may seem.

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