Smallhouse Log

Tuesday, sixth week after Pentecost

I've been reflecting recently on the subject of "playing to win" versus "playing not to lose". Most situations in real life aren't zero-sum and there are gains and losses to be garnered at an individual level asymmetric to the gains and losses of others. The "playing to win" strategy involves seeking the optimal, or above-threshold, result for yourself and partners; the "playing not to lose" strategy is more defensive, and focuses on minimizing penalties for yourself and partners. The problem with the first strategy is that it typically involves more risk — optimal outcomes are less likely and often share decision tree branches with higher-penalty outcomes. The problem with the second strategy is that sometimes a short-term penalty must be eaten to achieve a long-term gain. Rough map to the political concepts of 'progressive' and 'conservative' are trivial and left as an exercise for the reader. Bonus exercise, map to "cooperate" or "defect" in the prisoners' dilemma.

A entity of sufficient perspicacity and wisdom might well know when to switch between these modes, but most of gravitate towards one or the other and switch only under duress if at all; or so it seems to me. I find that I've adopted the second, defensive strategy more and more in my personal life. The results are not great, so far. A greater ability to conserve my personal resources (time, attention, composure, energy) but less opportunity to replenish them. I'm not sure if this needs to change but I've resolved to make the experiment. I hope for the best and will abandon preparing for the worst.

We'll see what happens.

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