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Tag Archives: power differential

There is an experiment called Prisoner’s Dilemma Game, and if you have to learn one thing form it, this is:

Absurd situations lead to absurd behaviour.

Explanation: The game is one interaction between two players that choose either «cooperate» or «exploit». Both cooperate, both win big. Both exploit, both are screwed. But if just one exploits, he wins big and the guy gets even more screwed. It is a dilemma because you always want cooperate-cooperate, but if you know the other guy is exploiting, you’re better off exploiting too, but if you know he is cooperating, you are also better off exploiting, so you always get the worst outcome possible.

But another, different take on the thing, is that some situations are just outright completely screwed. There are some games that are unwinnable. If you put someone in a game like this, you have no idea what he will do.

The Wire has a tremendous scene where the bad boys at school get rounded up and put on a room just for themselves, and a teacher and a psych try to get to them. And the kids just don’t say anything. When they do speak it is just to comply to the expectation of speech, but there is no meaning. It is scary.

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