Game theory: Indecision as strategy or even applied theology?

Why taking your time syncs up with with a foundational concept in negotiation.  (It is also a great management strategy when dealing with too many decisions and issues.)

This is analogous to a lot of real-life situations. Usually, we’re faced with a number of options we might pursue, and we may be more or less indifferent to which of them we end up with. If we are making the choice within a group (a company, a set of friends, a family), we may find that others have the power to block whatever option we select. Indeed, we may find that other group members tend, in a dialogic reflex, to react to our preference for one option by vocally supporting a different one. Someone who recognises this tendency may react by making sure they keep several viable choices open, so that they will still be satisfied with whichever option the opponent decides not to block. Or they may delay statements of preference until the opponent has committed to blocking one option. Fortunately, once an opponent has blocked an option, they tend to be stuck with their block; it is usually hard for an opponent who has just resolutely committed to striking down option A to turn around and blast option B a moment later.

Indeed, the most effective tactic of all may be to ensure one has several equally good (or bad) options and to tentatively hint at a preference without formally committing to it, and then to let it dangle for some time, hoping that the opponent decides to use up their “block” and leave the other options freely available. It may even be a good idea to provoke the opponent’s antagonism, making it appear that a block on this choice would be a severe defeat. The objective is to get the opponent to limit their freedom of movement by committing to a block, while maintaining one’s own freedom of manoeuvre by refraining from commitment.

via Game theory: Indecision as strategy | The Economist.

And now for something completely different…a Mormon doctrine take on applying game theory and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a good starting point for understanding negotiation strategy:

The biggest breakthrough in the iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma came in the early 1980s when political scientist Robert Axelrod sponsored a series of Prisoner’s Dilemma tournaments in the early 1980s. The setup was very simple: a bunch of computer programs were to be matched against each other in a series of repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma games, and the winner would be the program that garnered the most total points over the span of all the games. A wide variety of incredibly sophisticated and complex strategies were submitted, many of which relied on attempting to learn the strategy of the other computer programs to subsequently exploit it. What stunned the researchers, however, was that the very simplest programs (comprising just 4 lines of code) was also the most successful. The program was called simply tit-for-tat. All it did was this: start out by cooperating and then, on every subsequent game, simply repeat whatever the opponent had played in the previous game. The explanation for exactly why this simple strategy was so successful is complex, and it basically launched the study of evolutionary cooperation, but it boils down to this: be nice but provocable.

via A Game Theoretic View of the Atonement | Times & Seasons


2 thoughts on “Game theory: Indecision as strategy or even applied theology?”

  1. I thought this article pointed out some really good pros and cons to Game Theory. I liked the comparison used between using strategy in chess and life. When up against an opponent, one can pretend to make a decision a curtain way to distract the opponent, yet use a different strategy in the end. I think this can definitely also be applied to International Relations as a strategy against foreign enemies. However, as the article also mentions, such strategy can be seen as indecision by team members. Thus, countries using Game Theory in this way should weigh pros and cons of the impact of using such a strategy, as other allied countries could be confused by the use of the Game Theory strategy.

  2. I thought this article was great in the sense that the author made up his own Game Theory. I think it is important to apply Game theory in real life situations, especially for Model UN. For example, states run by the military can be seen in a “battle of the sexes game,” in the sense that within the military some leaders enjoy being in power while others prefer to stay in the barracks; however neither groups of military leaders want to be alone. This situation will develop, I’m sure, in Egypt within the next decade or so. Overall, this article has led me to believe that in order to be successful at diplomacy, we must learn the different types of games and how to apply them to get what we want.

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