Friday, October 16, 2009

The hidden pleasure of Zero-Sum Games

As Soccer World Cup finals are rounding up, it's this great time of the year when Uruguayans get together to suffer one more time on the hope of being able to re-enact those glorious years of 1930's and 1950's Soccer World Cup.

Living outside the country gave me the opportunity to look at the spectacle of the last Uruguay-Argentina qualifier round from a different perspective. My sister on skype described for me a country where every person was glued to the TV, nobody in the streets, no exceptions! At that time it hit me! Argentina being very similar to Uruguay, was for sure doing the same exact thing at the same exact time. I could picture the two countries following this one event that would define the country that would have an opportunity at the World Cup. It downed to me how sad it was that no matter what, that night, one of those two nations would be massively happy and the other would be massively sad. There was no way around it. Of course there was not! Soccer is a Zero-Sum Game and as the name proclaims the outcome for the total system will inevitably be Zero.

Oh well, as Argentina has approximately 11 times more population than Uruguay, I guess more people were happy than sad in the end that day ... Thinking deeper, if you tried to take away this game from either Uruguayans or Argentinians might as well kill them ... so I started realizing that even in a game where the score is definitely a Zero-Sum Game, the experience must be positive in some ways that are hard for me to understand, both because I'm ADD and can't follow the ball in a TV screen and because I'm hopelessly geek (if your definition of geek doesn't include nerd, please add nerd here).

Anyway, I really hoped that someone had explained to me this Zero-Sum Game concept when I was 4 (even when I wouldn't understand negative numbers by that time, the concept is graspable I think). It did have a great impact in my life understanding this.

Also, wanted to share some Non-Zero-Sum Games that I enjoyed lately:

[via Diana in FB]

[via Enrique in FB]

[via Andres in real life]

In addition, I found this TED video by Robert Wright (author of Non-Zero, The Logic of Human Destiny). Very interesting acid humored video with a great recount of evolution and makes a point regarding cultural evolution and the arrowed evolution of morality which I totally agree too. Even more, he states that technology has a positive role and effect in the direction of morality's evolution, a question I asked myself before and couldn't quite dig.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Conversations we have

Some time ago, I started paying attention to the conversations that I have with other people. Sort of a pattern started arising at some point. Eventually I realized there are three types of conversations people have:

1. Casual conversations. These are the conversations about the weather, local or global headline news, about things that are happening around us now, about things we've done, are doing in the present or we want to do in the future. It's a very healthy level of conversation to have with people that we don't know: street, elevator, bus, train, market. The main subject of these type of conversations are things.

2. Personal conversations. These are conversations about what is happening on my life and my close ones. It's more appropriate to have these type of conversations with people that know each other. The main subject of these type of conversations are people and things that are happening to people. There are different levels of personal conversations. There's the lower side of it where people are talking mostly about facts of what's going on their lives and going up in the pyramid there's the ones in which people are talking about how they feel about things that are happening to them and their closest ones, to finally the upper level in which people are analyzing the reasons behind things and trying to draw conclusions, mirror the other person's situation or identify patterns and relationships among those personal experiences.

3. Conceptual conversations. Conceptual conversations are about ideas, concepts. They're abstract representations or interpretations of reality or fantasy, inventions or any other type of creations. These type of conversations are more scarce and they are the basis/responsible for human advances in different areas. Some examples of this type of conversation would be when you're talking about religion, politics, science, social issues, projects, inventions, theories, laws, principles, etc.

There's not a right or wrong way to have your conversations, although there's probably a trend. There seem to be a strong correlation between these conversations pyramid and Maslow's pyramid of human needs. I believe as people go up in Maslow's pyramid they also go up on the conversations they have.

It's a great experiment to start observing what type of conversations we have and how we feel about them. I think part of what actually got me thinking on all of this was that I was starting to feel very frustrated when people I know would spend all of our encounter's time on casual conversations or barely brushing on personal ones.

I personally love casual conversations as they allow me to interact with unknown people around the world which is a very basic need for me as well as for the other party. I choose to spend most of my time with people I know talking personal or conceptual conversations. Usually when I meet a friend I like to move fairly quickly from casual to personal, cover all the basis, and if everything is pretty clear on the personal side for both me and my friend I often love to indulge myself as well into conceptual conversations.

It's probably arguable that there is more meaning going up on the pyramid, and it's also probably not really showing proportions very accurately as maybe the pyramid we should be drawing would be more like the creators, synthesizers and consumers pyramid than the one pictured here.