Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Preliminary Thoughts on the Uses of "Strategy"

Communication and Opposition
Going back to Walton's example of the Dark Knight (I also immediately thought about this--thank you Utopia class), the dilemma really comes about by not knowing what the other person is going to do, but attempting to anticipate their actions. This situation means that the two (or three or four) people are completely isolated from one another and their interests are opposed. My first question is--how "isolated" are we in our fatal strategy? Do we need to anticipate an opposition? Must we act without the assumption of either a) iteration or b) communication? In one sense, we are isolated because our blogs will most likely circulate within our class and other people who will eventually interact with the CATTt and Heuretics. Furthermore, none of us are going to come up with a definite decision or plan of action and send it to the powers that be (that could change something) or find a way to change something materially on a mass scale. So, perhaps we need to "keep" the idea that we are prevented from communicating. But, I ask again, who is our 'opponent'? Do we have an opponent?

Volunteer's Dilemma

Part of the difficulty with understanding the contrast is going to be distinguishing between what Rebecca referred to as the "metaphysics" of game theory and the particular manifestation of Game Theory that Poundstone chooses to focus on: the prisoner's (and other) dilemmas. Is there one dilemma that will work better than the others as a model? Are these the essential situations of game theory? I believe Todd suggested either in blog post or an email that we can think about his e-waste problem as the "volunteer's dilemma". I'd like to second this emphasis because its our unawareness/ignorance/apathy of the world that I think we are trying to remedy--the attitude that "someone else will do it." This loss of affect (in all senses--not just 'emotional') is our postmodern condition (Jameson). Lynn Worsham in an essay on violence and composition argues that part of the task is to get students to feel like they have some sort of effect in the world--to get rid of the "someone else will do it" feeling. We have lost a sense of community and solidarity. When Ulmer came into one of my courses last year, he spoke of trying to develop a "sensus communis"--a term deriving from Kant who uses it to describe the aesthetic sense that presumably all humans have in common (Kant's claim is questionable, but I think the reference is appropriate). Anyway, this is all to say that I think the volunteer's dilemma is particularly interesting--but I could be wrong.

The necessity of Finitness in game theory

Ok, so that last paragraph was a bit of a deviation (but, to paraphrase Heidegger, to err is an essential part in the quest for truth). But I want to get back to the this instantaneous discussion. Poundstone defines strategy as "a complete description of how to play a game" --which he also moves on to say that this is usually not written down in the case of chess for instance (Poundstone 48). This is how one will find the "rational" ways of playing. This notion of strategy is tied up with the idea that (even a game like chess) is theoretically FINITE. Meaning, that in this sense, a game can be described as "a table of possible outcomes" (47). However, there are many different strategies that one can play; indeed the idea that game theory is outside of probabilility theory but still does not rely on chance is something we need to hang on to when we get to Baudrillard who will deny pure 'chance' exists if I remember correctly).

But lets dwell on this notion of "all" possible outcomes. I wrote in my notes, thinking Derridianly (yes, I just make an adverb out of Derrida's name) that this leaves no room for the (im)possible, which is the possible that is unexpected. Now, whether Derrida is relevant in this CATTt can be debated and I'd like to know now if I'm off track with this one. Still, game theories insistence of finiteness is a key part of its "metaphysics." Poundstone clearly points out that if bidding possiblities are indefinite there is NO WAY to work backwards in these games (270). The real world example is that there is no way to know hwo much a nation is willing to spend on defense (271).

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