[ by Charles Cameron — a paradox I’m currently chewing on, courtesy of Richard Landes]
I want to take something that Richard Landes has been saying, abstract it from those conflicts to which Richard applies it, simplify it by removing one technical term that’s part of his detailed breakdown, and present it in as bare-bones a manner as I can manasge. You can see two of Richard’s own versions of the issue below.
The basic question, as I understand it, is this:
How does a non-zero-sum move look to a zero-sum player, and vice versa?
Let’s suppose your entire background and upbringing revolves around the idea of zero-sum, you-win-I-lose games. If you see any sign of your adversary gaining an advantage in a negotiation, that’s proof positive that you’ve been bamboozled: somehow, you must have lost. Your job is to make no concessions — to be the winner in a winner-takes-all contest.
Now suppose your background and upbringing have revolved around the idea of non-zero-sum, win-win games, in which both sides of a negotiation make some concessions so that both can emerge as winners. You offer concessions in good faith, and in return you expect similar concessions.
What happens when a zero-sum game player and a non-zero-sum game player meet in play?
It’s Landes’ suggestion that any generosity on the part of a win-win player offering his winner-take-all opponent a concession will be taken as evidence of weakness,. and the opponent, far from making a corresponding compromise, will press on and demand more — making further nmoves which will offer so little that the win-win player will be at a loss to explain why such a promising start to bnegotiations fell apart so badly.
A further supposition: so-called honor-shame societies are geared for zero-sum, winner-takes-all gameplay, while societies which rely on an innocence-guilt reading of human behavior will be no less inclined toeards playing non-zero-sum, win-win games.
That’s the idea expressed in game-theoretic terms, as simply as I can put it. To my mind, these game considerations are worth thinking through in their own right, absent the specifics to which Richard Landes brings them.
Here is Landes making the same point, in the context of Israeli relations with the Palestinians, the Arab and Muslim worlds, and European liberalism –all of the above broadly speaking:
And a text version, Cognitive Egocentrism, for those who find words fly home faster in print…
Help me think this through.