Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Prisoner's Dilemma Of Life

Have you heard of the Prisoner's dilemma? In wikipedia it refers to:

the theory that demonstrates why two people might not cooperate even if it is in both their best interests to do so.

The classical prisoner's dilemma can be summarized thus:

Two prisoner's or robbers are interrogated because of the crime they committed together. In order to get at least one of them to confess. The police/interrogator gives an incentive to confess in the form letting the confessor free. A matrix below shows all possible outcome:

Prisoner B
Stays Silent
Prisoner B
Prisoner A
Stays Silent
Each serves 6 months Prisoner A: 10 years
Prisoner B: goes free
Prisoner A
Prisoner A: goes free
Prisoner B: 10 years
Each serves 5 years

In this game, regardless of what the opponent chooses, each player always receives a higher payoff (lesser sentence) by betraying; that is to say that betraying is the strictly dominant strategy. For instance, Prisoner A can accurately say, "No matter what Prisoner B does, I personally am better off betraying than staying silent. Therefore, for my own sake, I should betray." However, if the other player acts similarly, then they both betray and both get a lower payoff than they would get by staying silent. Rational self-interested decisions result in each prisoner being worse off than if each chose to lessen the sentence of the accomplice at the cost of staying a little longer in jail himself (hence the seeming dilemma).

Conclusion: If both prisoners betray each other, they're stupid. If they both keep quite, they're smart.

In life, we are also in a prisoner's dilemma. Have you heard of people saying, "If our corrupted politicians misuse funds & abuse power, why can't I do the same?!", "If everybody doing this bad stuff, why not me?". These are people who I describe as the 'stupid prisoners'.

Allow me to illustrate. Imagine you have a choice to do good or evil. For the sake of this example, to do good means to do things fairly, ethically, legally and morally right. And to do evil is the opposite.

And other people in the world also has that choice: To do Good or Evil. Here is the outcome matrix of the situation:

As you can see above, regardless who chose to do evil, it only brings short term advantage. After all, when you're 'evil' activities are known then people won't trust you. When that happens, no one will want to work with you or support you anymore, whether in business, politics or any other stuff as well. There is a Malay proverb that literally translates, "No matter how high the squirrel jumps, it will eventually fall onto the ground." Which means no matter skillful you are at jumping away in risky business, you always end up back on the ground.

But if everybody do good, everybody trusts each other, everybody respects each other and there will be no paranoia. The world will be at peace.

Conclusion: Our ability to trust each other and do good to each other regardless of who the 'other' person is, will make our world a better place.

I know that sometimes being good is not appreciated by others, you'll end up being exploited and pushed over. But understand that the reason you are doing this is not because of these as$h*les but it is for the other people who are good but became 'evil' because he/she have lost trust in the goodness from others.

Show kindness, love, trust and goodness, to all...

Be. You.

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