Re: virus: The Prisoner's Dilemma

David McFadzean (
Sun, 21 Feb 1999 19:27:53 -0700

-----Original Message-----
From: Deron Stewart <>
Date: Friday, February 19, 1999 11:16 AM

>At the end of the day, the best strategy is "rational" almost by
>definition, right? This circularity of definition makes discussion

This isn't just a minor problem, this is a showstopper because you are correct: the best strategy is indeed rational by definition. But I think it points in a direction where the question can be recast in a useful way. Instead of asking which strategy is the best/rational one, assume that all strategies are best given *some* set of criteria. This is similar to a mailing list communication strategy I proposed quite awhile ago: instead of fighting over who's right and wrong, ask what would have to be true in order for your "opponent's" statement to be right, that is, assume they are right and work backwards. In the same way, assume a strategy is rational and work backwards from there, seeing what criteria are necessary for it to be true. This is sort like working out the implications of a strategy, but in the opposite direction. Maybe we could call it working out predicates?

>The point for me is that people who are steeped in math, science, logic,
>game theory and critical thinking tend to be blind to some of the
>"creative" strategies that aren't accessible to that way of thinking. Or at
>least I know that I have been (and probably continue to be).

I think this is an unfair generalization on two accounts. First it implies that the people you are referring to above are unfamiliar with knowledge outside their domain. Secondly, it implies (weakly, by association) that math, science, logic, game theory and critical thinking are not creative.

>Critical thinking is like a big heavy club. Very powerful tool, satisfying
>and easy to use, but it isn't the right tool for every job.

I hope you will forgive me if I also take exception to this metaphor. I see critical thinking is an infinitely complex, intricate and subtle skill which is not at all easy to learn or use. Sure you can pick up a couple fallacies and beat someone over the head with them, but isn't that like criticizing jazz after hearing a couple amateurs jam for the first time? Having said that, I agree entirely that it isn't the right tool for every job. Critical thinking is good for analysis (and maybe only analysis). It is not good for creating new ideas (it only provides the latter half of the variation/selection process), and it isn't good for motivating people to action (in general).