Rationalising life is ignoring the facts

By Silas Sachs posted on 19.11.2012

John Nashes Game Theory

Betrayal, distrust and self centeredness gives individuals the biggest freedom possible. That's according to the theories of John Forbes Nash, Jr.. He is the guy known from the movie "A beautiful mind". In the 1950ies the mathematician applied game theory to human behaviour, in his theory the rationally safest way of living and the one with the biggest outcome for everyone was betrayal and distrust. So we're all free if we acted purely self interested.

These principles infiltrated society more and more and came to a high in the nineties. Britain's New Labour for example supported this new freedom and brought in into the management of public service. Saying that when everyone acts in his personal interest seeking only the best for himself we reach a state of equilibrium, the perfect balance, fairness and equality. Eventually New Labour's ideas of rationalising public service didn't work out. In full extent this theory means that we lived distrustful lives constantly monitoring and analysing each other. There is no space for emotion towards fellow humans.

Rationalising life is ignoring the facts

Nash went mentally ill after a while, thinking that there where secret organisations which weren't there. He spent lots of years in hospitals and apparently got cured. He is still alive and researching math.

In interviews he later talks about his theories looking back to when he was a young man. He somewhat changed his mind about his own ideas and said something like: "Humans are way more complex than just self interested. Game Theory only works when individuals are purely self interested."

A merciless game with no end

If one starts playing by Nashes rules everyone around can do the same or be in disadvantage. In a society of performance and competition you don't have space for disadvantages and the game becomes a virus. And this is the reason why we – though even Nash realised the problem in his theory – still play this cruel game, try to avoid it, be forced to play it again, get betrayed and live in constant state of alert.

In the end our pursuit of freedom led us to a system of betrayal and distrust. Maybe it's time for the good old way of playing fair again.

Photograph by Peter Badge

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