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We’re Optimizing Ourselves to Death

The Prisoner's Dilemma

The Prisoner's Dilemma

It is a famous thought experiment in Game Theory. Two prisoners in separate interrogation rooms have two options: to confess or to lie, and this can lead to three outcomes:

  1. If both confess, they both serve eight years in prison.
  2. If both lie, then they both serve one year in prison.
  3. If one of them confesses and one of them lies, then the liar gets maximum prison and the confessor goes free.

This thought experiment tells us that when we make decisions, the ones which are taken by others also factors in.

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We’re Optimizing Ourselves to Death

We’re Optimizing Ourselves to Death

https://medium.com/s/buy-yourself/were-optimizing-ourselves-to-death-d41a3e7cc25a

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Key Ideas

The Prisoner's Dilemma

It is a famous thought experiment in Game Theory. Two prisoners in separate interrogation rooms have two options: to confess or to lie, and this can lead to three outcomes:

  1. If both confess, they both serve eight years in prison.
  2. If both lie, then they both serve one year in prison.
  3. If one of them confesses and one of them lies, then the liar gets maximum prison and the confessor goes free.

This thought experiment tells us that when we make decisions, the ones which are taken by others also factors in.

The Millennials Dilemma

The Prisoners Dilemma can be reimagined as a life-optimization matrix. When two people have some free time due to a time-saving technique, they can spend it either on leisure or further work. This can have three outcomes:

  1. Both individuals choose to work harder in their free time, remaining in a constant state of acceleration
  2. Both individuals choose to relax and chill out.
  3. One of them works harder and gets ahead, while the other relaxes and is left behind in the acceleration.

The Burnout Generation

Millennials are fast becoming the burnout generation, due to them treating free time as not leisure time, when they can relax and unwind, but as bonus time for them to work harder and up their game.

The hyperproductive, work-obsessed world is hell-bent to automate every to-do list item so that you can work more and create more to-do lists.

Wage Stagnation

Tech companies optimize our lives by providing us services that save our time and money.

They earn absurdly well in the process, making the wages stagnant for the common man, increasing the disparity and inequality to earth-shattering levels.

The Domino Effect

Our past luxuries just end up being necessities in a blink of an eye, once people get used to them.

This also creates new obligations and the domino effect of a further set of expenses and tasks, leading to new kinds of services and optimizations.

Everyone’s Depressed

New kinds of exotic mental illnesses, which almost everyone has, make burnout and the falling health conditions normal to millennials.

The never-ending rat race is a rigged game, with the Millennials Dilemma being played out indefinitely, leading to co-operation. We keep on playing the rigged game, optimizing and working even more.

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Preserving optionality

Preserving optionality means avoiding limiting choices or dependencies. It means staying open to opportunities and always having a backup plan.
The more options we have, the bet...

Having options

We are faced with options all the time, but life-altering ones often come up during times of great change. These options are the ones we have the hardest time capitalizing on.
If we’ve specialized too much, change is a threat, not an opportunity. Thus, if we aren’t certain where the opportunities are going to be (and we never are), then we need to make choices to keep our options open.

Navigating difficult times

When times are hard is when many investors make their fortunes and when entrepreneurs innovate. They have to see the opportunity in chaos.

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Creating quantitative models
Creating quantitative models

Most of the psychological theories are verbal, but words can be imprecise. If "cooperation is intuitive", it needs to state when. And what does "intuitive" mean?

In order to solve this, compu...

The Sims computer simulation

These models represent collections of individual people described by computer algorithms that capture a specific set of traits, such as a tendency to cooperate or not.

  • You can give them new personalities to see how they would behave.
  • You can observe social processes in action.
  • You can observe time scales, from seconds to generations.
  • You can watch the spread of certain behaviors throughout a population and you can see how certain behaviors influence other behaviors.

The patterns that emerge can tell you things about large-scale social interaction that lab experiments and real people never could.

The human instinct to cooperate

There seems to be evolutionary logic to the human ability to cooperate but adjust if necessary. To trust, but verify. 

We generally collaborate with other people because it benefits us. Our rational minds let us work out when we might occasionally gain by acting selfishly instead.

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Surviving Screens In Isolation

There are many people self-isolating due to the escalating pandemic, with their phones being the essential link to the outside world. Technology becomes a double-edged sword, connecting and isol...

The Distraction Spiral

Technology, just like the mind, is a very good slave, but a bad master. The technologies by itself are life-giving and useful, but if we are spending the whole day on Twitter, fighting with whoever we don’t agree with, we are ruining our psychological health.

We tend to spiral into the news black hole for hours, but just looking at the front page of the New York Times or Washington Post once or twice a day should be enough.

Accidental Benefits Of Technology

Technology is neutral by itself, and how we use that tool matters. 

  • An email is a great tool, which completely transformed how an office works, though it wasn’t designed for offices.
  • Similarly, the Facebook Like button was designed as a shortcut to writing a good comment, but it unexpectedly turned out to be a tool to measure the popularity of a post.

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