The Prisoner's Dilemma

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In a "game" researchers use to test personalities and winning strategies, they often employ the Prisoner's Dilemma, which is a hypothetical situation played between two people.

The Prisoner's Dilemma says "imagine you have two men who committed a crime together. They have been caught and the police are interrogating them separately. Both prisoners are offered the same deal: If you rat on your partner and if he keeps quiet, he'll get a life sentence and you'll go free. But if you both keep silent, we have enough evidence that you'll both get a year in prison. If he rats and you don't, you'll get life and he'll go free. If you both rat on each other, you'll each get twenty years in prison."

The dilemma is often played repeatedly with the same two people, who choose to cooperate or take advantage of the other through successive rounds of the game.

The Prisoner's Dilemma game is designed to parallel real life. If two people in real life cooperate with each other, it very often works to their mutual advantage. But if one person cooperates and the other takes advantage, it often works out very well for the selfish one and the good person gets screwed. But to go around preempting people — trying to take advantage of them before they take advantage of you — results in great loss all around. That's the dilemma. What is the best strategy?

The best strategy, it turns out, is "tit for tat." On the first round, be cooperative. After that, do whatever the other one does.

I didn't mean to go into so much detail, but I just wanted to make a point. Damien sent me a link to an article about the battle going on in Thailand between Buddhists and (guess who?) Muslims. Buddhism is truly a religion of peace. But when you are interacting with someone who will only take advantage of you and never cooperate with you, or who will kill you if you let them, you are left with one choice: Fight back or be eliminated.

The Buddhists are choosing life. They are fighting back. I never thought I'd see the day.

In 2004, revered Queen Sirikit bluntly urged people to defend themselves, and she sponsors arms training programs that cater almost exclusively to Buddhists. After the attack on the van (where 8 Buddhists were ambushed in their van and killed) her military aide, Gen. Napon Bunthap, quoted her as saying: “We have to help people there to survive. If they need to be trained, train them. If they need to be armed, arm them.”
I applaud the Queen. They have a new Prime Minister in Thailand. The previous Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was heavy-handed in his use of force, and he was, of course, criticized for it. "But Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont’s softer approach and offers of negotiation have also failed and the violence has worsened..." Duh. I could have told them that would happen.
The insurgency has claimed more than 2,000 deaths in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, which are 80 percent Muslim in the otherwise Buddhist-majority country. The rebels have never made public demands, but are believed to favor separation from Buddhist-dominated Thailand to form an Islamic state.
Of course they are. Everywhere they can they will infiltrate, raise their numbers, and agitate for political control or a separate state. This is the essence of jihad.

Islam is a ratchet. It only goes one way.


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