Perfect game theorists

…now I want to write a science fiction novel about a planet full of aliens who are perfect game theorists, but who always behave kindly and respectfully to one another. Then some idiot performs a census, and the whole place collapses into apocalyptic total war.

~ Scott Alexander

That pull quote is simply fun. The article is actually a serious attempt to pick apart an interesting philosophical question.

I’m not sure I agree with his conclusions… actually, I’m not even sure I understand the question he’s thinking about. But I find that the more I peek in the dark corners of the basement of my philosophical ideas, the more comfortable I sleep at night.

Treat people like human beings

In the end what he wanted wasn’t entitlement to other people’s money, or a pity job from someone who secretly didn’t like him. All he needed to keep going was to have people acknowledge there was a problem and treat him like a frickin’ human being.

~ Scott Alexander

I’ve heard that men tend to be quick to propose solutions. That fits perfectly with my self-perception: When someone complains, or voices a concern, or raises an issue, etc., my first instinct is to try to find the root cause (or at least, a major cause) and then immediately start proposing or brain-storming solutions, things to change, action items.

It took me a long time to understand that what everyone wants, first of all, it to be understood.

Rats? Moloch?

Like the rats, who gradually lose all values except sheer competition, so companies in an economic environment of sufficiently intense competition are forced to abandon all values except optimizing-for-profit or else be outcompeted by companies that optimized for profit better and so can sell the same service at a lower price.

From a god’s-eye-view, we can contrive a friendly industry where every company pays its workers a living wage. From within the system, there’s no way to enact it.

~ Scott Alexander

I confess to having had only the slightest awareness of Moloch in the biblical or general senses. So just skimming the WikiPedia article and then taking the time to read this piece from Slate Star Codex was like discovering a new window on the world from my mind-palace.


This is the problem. (With everything.) Individually, everyone acts according to their interests and beliefs. The result? …look at the world around you.

How could one go about changing the world? (That’s a rhetorical question.)