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.


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