Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Prisoner's Dilemma

Economists created a game that was supposed to describe the workings of our society in the following way: Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies (defects from the other) for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent (cooperates with the other), the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act? (From Wikipedia)

The right answer is that both will betray the others if they are rational, so they will both end up in jail for 5 years. When I thought about this game I was suddenly reminded of our ego discussions. This is actually the game of the ego. I also love how we conclude that if the player is rational, non-cooperation will be the outcome. What do you think the outcome of this game would be if one of your parents or children would be sitting in the other room, or a dear friend?

The ego is insane and love is the way, yet we call the workings of the ego rational. I think spirituality is about recognizing our brothers and sisters in all interactions. This does not mean that you should be naive in your dealings with people (the ego's biggest fear) but simply connected. If you are following the script of the Tao your brother and sister will always cooperate. If you are trown into jail for 10 years instead, well, that probably means you overlooked something somewhere.

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