Subscribe to Rory Miller's Blog feed
The Dream is damned and Dreamer too if Dreaming's all that Dreamers do.
Updated: 4 hours 12 min ago

0/-0;+/- Part 2

Mon, 2014-01-06 20:19
Open and closed systems.
Let's go back to Monopoly.  It's a classic zero-sum game.  But it can absolutely be played in either a closed or open system. In a closed system, nothing exists beyond the game.  The other players are faceless, meaningless. You can play as ruthlessly as you want, you can cheat, and all that matters is who wins and who loses.

The game is completely different in an open system (and, in real life, almost everything is an open system).  You play this game with your friends.  They will continue to be your friends after the game... maybe.  Because if you cross certain lines in the game, it will affect your friendships.

Systems are open along the time line.  Things that happened before will affect how you deal with the present situation.  In a closed system you would not be able to watch videos of your opponent before a fight.  You would not know your friend's strengths and weaknesses before the Monopoly game.

At the other end of the time line, each fight alters your reputation, which affects all of your future fights.  The personality that comes out in a competitive game informs your friends how you deal with competition, lets them know if, in other areas of your life, you are a poor loser or a gracious winner.

In a closed system, gathering intelligence is quick, spur-of-moment stuff.  Spotting tells in a poker game with strangers. In an open system, gathering intelligence, especially reading people and relationships becomes a habit.  You cannot know in advance which details will be critical at crunch time, but you can pick up a lot.

Time is linear.  There is also a breadth (for want of a better word) to open/closed.  In the real world, things are rarely only one thing.  My third chess game with K was a flat-out seduction. (Hmmmm, the Czech mate puns). Ring fighting happens in a venue where if it's not exciting, people don't make money.  Self-defense happens in a world with laws and, more physically, in a context where almost everything also has social or relationship implications.  In other words, someone trying to get you to a secondary crime scene may be less of a physical problem (how do I take him out) than a social problem (how do I draw attention?). Social dynamics, communication, terrain, history... in complex systems, almost everything can be manipulated.

So how does strategy change? In a closed system, the 'win at all costs' mentality makes sense. Much of our ethics, sportsmanship for example, recognizes that this is an open system.  In a closed system, you can cheat (or not cheat but be a dick) and no one knows or reacts.  In an open system, either no one wants to play or people line up to teach you a lesson.

In a closed system, you only need to master one set of simple rules.  In an open system, the more variables you can see and manipulate, the more you can do. (The seduction chess match, btw, is the only time I've ever won a game against her.  She was playing a closed system, I wasn't.)

Just as some people mistakenly think things are zero-sum and play or fight accordingly a few live like it was a closed system.  Very few things are.  I find it most often in high functioning autistics.  The rules of Monopoly, as an example, are easy to grasp, clear-- but they don't realize it is a bonding experience as well.  So they stay within the rules but burn friends and honestly don't understand why performance at one thing affects the other.

Hmmm.  Come to think of it, I always thought budget meetings were a waste of time because it was just a number I could send by e-mail... that was probably a planned bonding experience as well.

0/-0;+/-Part 1

Sun, 2014-01-05 00:27
I've been wanting to write about this for some time.  Don't know if I can pull it off in a single post.  The note I left myself was, "write about strategy in zero-sum vs non-zero-sum and closed vs open."

Probably have to define those terms.  For my purposes, a zero-sum game is one in which the resources are limited and finite. Closed means that only the particular scenario is involved, there are no ramifications for for the future or impacting relationships with the world.

Monopoly (tm) is a zero-sum game.  There is only so much property, only so much play money and at the end of the game there will be one winner and everyone else is a loser.  Fighting is largely a zero-sum game-- one winner, one loser.  But not truly, because sometimes there are two losers.  Of the seven basic strategies, fighting is the only one that offers the possibility of a catastrophic win.

Momopoly can be either a closed or open game.  So can fighting.  More later.

In a zero-sum game, there is no win-win.  Every advantage for you is a disadvantage to others.  Every time you lose a little ground, your opponent gets stronger and your chances decrease.  When faced with this situation, there are two basic strategies-- you can play to win, or you can play not to lose.  Playing to win is trying to maximize your advantages and hurt the opponent as much as possible.  To increase your abilities and decrease his or hers.  Playing not to lose is the strategy of conserving your resources, not falling for traps, getting the opponent to waste energy and resources.

There's always a balance, of course.  And the more complex the game the more opportunities there are. So a defensive player can see a sweet opening and switch to offense and a generally offensive player can fortify and rest when they find a lull.  Sometimes the strategy is based on personality.  This is very much so in Monopoly, because the opponents start with equal resources.  Ideally, in competition fighting, weight classes and such are an attempt to balance out most things except for personality.

In reality, though, the strategy chosen is almost never chosen based on personality, but on initial resources and stakes.  Those who have more tend to play not to lose. Sometimes, near the end of the Monopoly game, the smartest thing to do is to get sent to jail and just let other people land on your property and pay you. The more skilled fighter frequently waits for the rookie to make a mistake. There is always a chance, no matter your edge in skill or power, that the rookie will get lucky or you will get unlucky.  So the person with the edge tends to keep it.

Conversely, when you are behind the eight-ball, you have less to lose by taking chances.  Desperate people tend to be aggressive (or submissive, in an open system).

Stakes matter a lot.  Except for compulsives, people tend to gamble more when the stakes are low.  It is easier to roll dice for  betting 1 dollar to win 10 than to wager a paycheck at the same odds.  People buy a 2 dollar Powerball ticket with ridiculous odds who would think twice about risking their savings even if the odds were much better.  Even if, objectively, the odds were slightly in their favor.  There is a study on violence comparing chimps and hunter-gatherer humans.  Evidently, both like odds of 5-1 in their favor.  Less than that, they peacefully coexist.  At 5-1 they massacre.  When your own life is on the line, 5-1 odds in your favor seem like the minimum...

That's all zero-sum.  Very little in life is a zero-sum game.  Money isn't.  Wealth isn't. (That's one of the things that bugs me is how few people realize that and how many political arguments are based on the false assumption that economics is zero-sum.  Ahem.) Teaching isn't.  I can give you all of my knowledge and don't lose a bit of it (I'll lose that to age in time.) Not to get all wishy, but love isn't either.  No one needs to love you back.  Personal energy?  The more you give, the more you have.

In a non-zero-sum game, cooperation and synergy take center as strategies... but be careful.  If your opponent thinks it is a zero-sum game, these strategies make you vulnerable. Your attempts to build a trading partner might be used to build an army.

Find and Make

Thu, 2014-01-02 18:19
Welcome to 2014 everybody.
One of those thoughts that's so core it is rarely conscious, and one of the ones that crosses over all aspects of life and survival.  Beginners make things.  Skilled beginners are skilled at making things.  Lazy pros find things.

The most important principle of joint locks is the concept of 'gifts.' If you are strong enough and willing to get punched a lot, you can close on a threat, grab his hand, and try to force the one wristlock you've learned.  If you're strong enough and don't get too concussed, it might even work.

To try to set up the lock-- "If I flick at his eye his hand will come up and I'll just turn my hand, catch his..." is more advanced, but on the same scale. It's dependent on both being more clever than the opponent (which is rarely true under assault-- surprise and adrenaline tend to do wonky things to the tactical side of your brain) and the opponent following the script perfectly. That's why I use opponent instead of threat, because it only tends to work if both people are playing nice and following the same protocols.  In other words, combinations tend to work much better in martial arts studios than in the wild.

And someone who is really good just sees the lock (or strike or takedown) that is already set up in the threat's body and just finishes it.

Grappling is the easiest to see.  Beginners try to get through on muscle and, sometimes, speed or flexibility-- but they gas out. And lose.

Good grapplers are playing chess, knowing that the natural resistance to move X will be defense Y which sets up finish Z.

But the best aren't doing this anymore. They know that there is no way the opponent can move that doesn't have a gift.  Everything their opponent does is an opportunity.  The mind and body are both more relaxed (one of the keys, by the way if you want to run a line).

In striking arts, amateurs try to set up their favorite combinations and moves.  The best have a strike for whatever opening appears.

Everything.  Obviously I'm thinking of the jointlock video, but in the post on independence, Michael said that firecraft was a more important consideration in certain climates than shelter.  I've spent some time there, and occasionally needed a fire badly.  From relatively bitter experience I know you have to get out of the rain and the wind to have any hope of getting a fire started.  Do you make a shelter first? Nope, but you find shelter first.  And it's reflexive enough to anyone who has actually done it, that we don't think about it.

Even driving.  I know some crappy, dangerous, aggressive drivers.  They go for any gap they can, push to get a few car lengths ahead. It does take some skill to shoot for the gaps that they do.  Some skill, not much.  These guys are literally relying on the reflexes and good graces of others to stay alive.  But the best driver I know (a former rally driver) moves through traffic seamlessly.  He makes better gains faster than the aggressive drivers...and no one notices.  He doesn't tailgate to create gaps, he moves into available bubbles that are moving slightly faster that the aggressive drivers don't even see.

The more I get into this the more it seems that everything is about learning to see.