High signal digest #10
"Finite and Infinite Games" summary + things i read last week
Today at a glance:
Book summary of “Finite and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and probabilities” by James P. Carse. James explores different aspects of life (ex. society, nature, sex, our genius) from a perspective of a finite game (play to win) vs an infinite game (play for sake of play).
A mix of links from last week that you might enjoy: GPT3, SBF, Iran, content moderation and more
Why did I read this book?
I was exploring different ontology angles in 2018 and this book came up on Twitter and on Goodreads. Nobody recommended this, but I was interested and read it in 2019 after we sold Streamlabs. Then I re-read my notes from this book January 2022.
I’ve given this book as a gift to a few people because I think that everyone may see something different in it.
Raw notes from the book:
Good reminder that these are my notes via my biased lens on the world at that point in time. These notes are a mix of personal questions and quotes. The book is abstract. If this is interesting - you are better off thinking through this on your own.
Finite games = played for purpose of winning. Ends with a winner
Infinite games = played for the purpose of play = joy
Surprise is a key element in finite games
Winner of finite game gets a title = others acknowledged winner. Titles are public
Evil is termination of infinite play (ex. EU collonization of US)
Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains
Power vs strength: power is a feature in finite games and strength is a feature in infinite games. Power is about bringing the past to an outcome. Strength is about infinite possibilities in the future. Few can be powerful. Everyone can be strong. Unlike a powerful person, a strong person is strong not because of what they can force others to do, but because of what they can allow them to do. Evil can be forced expression of power.
Society is a finite game with many games and many prizes within it necessary to reinforce society and to protect from competition. Recursive.
Deepest conflict of the society is not with other societies. It is with itself. The powerful vs the original thinkers (poeitai).
Culture is an infinite game
Consumer = finite game with winners = we display success of what we have done, by not having to do anything = so wealth is performative?
Patriotism → desire to protect society → belligerent by nature because prizes only exist with existence of society → society without opponents → patriots must create enemies that require protection against them → patriotism can flourish when boundaries are clear
Each participant in culture enters into existing context + changes the context at same time → culture in society and at work
If a state has no enemies it has no boundaries
Under the danger of war - the people are more obedient. War veiled as self protection, but its just self identification
We are all different and we own all that we do → it is because i can not see what you see that I can see at all
Sexuality for infinite player has no private parts, no attention on climax or failure and nothing hidden. The point of finite sexual play is to bring itself to an end → move from play to body to closure.
Early in the game time is abundant and players feel free. Later - time is consumed and player choices become more important. Errors cost more (ex. poker tournament, negotiations, youth)
For finite player - freedom is a function of time. We must have time to be free!
For the infinite player - time is a function of freedom. We are free to have time -> put time into play
Nature is the realm of the unspeakable. It has no voice. It has nothing to say. It is indifferent to humans. Nature’s perfect silence. Source of metaphor. Our attempt to control nature are futile.
Finite speech ends when it is heard. Paradox of infinite speech is that it continues as a way to listen
Infinite games change the experience for the player and the end is the beginning
Desire to have power over nature is a facade. All we seek is power over each other. Science as means to societal games
The more power we attempt to exercise over nature - the more powerless we become
Using machines is giving up originality because we set ourselves aside when operating machines
Perfect machines are invisible
What is style?
To be at home everywhere is to neutralize space
How to encourage spontaneity in others?
Waste is unveiling of our society. Waste is the antiproperty → possession of the losers
A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing to play
The joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies in learning to start something we cannot finish
Titles are powerful. Those around them are expected to yield.
No one can play a game alone. One cannot be human by oneself.
The power in a society is guaranteed and enhanced by the power of a society…It is in the interest of a society therefore to encourage competition within itself, to establish the largest possible number of prizes, for the holders of prizes will be those most likely to defend the society as a whole against its competitors
Culture is an infinite game. Culture has no boundaries. Anyone can be a participant in a culture - anywhere and at any time.
The more powerful we expect the person to be, the less we expect them to do, for their power can only come from that which they have done.
Property must not only intrude on others, it must continue to intrude on others…It is the common goal of the rich to establish a mode of visibility that will extend itself over generations…It is apparent to infinite players that wealth is not so much possessed as it is performed.
Under the constant danger of war the people of a state are far more attentive and obedient to the finite structures of their society…War presents itself as necessary for self-protection, when in fact it is necessary for self-identification
The paradox of genius exposes us directly to the dynamic of open reciprocity, for if you are the genius of what you say to me, i am the genius of what i hear you say
We must have the time to be free. For the infinite player in us time is a function of freedom. We are free to have time. A finite player puts play into time. An infinite player puts time into play.
Infinite play remains invisible to the finite observer
Nature is the realm of the unspeakable. We experience the unspeakability of nature as its utter indifference to human culture
I will press my explanations on you because I need to show that I do not live in the error that I think others think I do…Knowledge is like property. It must be published, declared, or in some way so displayer that others can not but take account of it
What this example shows [nuclear bomb] is not that we can exercise power over nature, but that our attempt to do so masks our desire for power over each other
A culture can be no stronger than its strongest myths
Every activity in life from work to love to war to observing nature to our interactions can be seen as a game. There are finite and infinite games. Finite games have winners, losers, titles and other artifacts. Infinite games are played for the sake of play
I think I resented and still resent finite games. Why?
Infinite games are pure
Art for the sake of art. Building a company or a team for the sake of building rather than to exit.
I feel like I need to maneuver through finite games to have the “resources” to play the infinite games. Is that a real or a self-imposed fear?
Things I read last week that you might enjoy:
Apple moving ~40% of iPhone production from China to India
Beyond Meat is struggling and the plan-based meat industry is worried
Why hasn’t SBF been arrested yet?
Iran abolishes morality police
Elon let me help you speed run the content moderation learning curve
Instagram is over. The app’s original purpose has been lost in the era of “performance” media.