- File Size: 2720 KB
- Print Length: 162 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (October 11, 2011)
- Publication Date: October 11, 2011
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004W3FM4A
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#84,752 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
- #113 in Philosophy Metaphysics
- #90 in Social Philosophy
- #29 in Metaphysics (Kindle Store)
Finite and Infinite Games Kindle Edition
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157 customer reviews
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The book is basically about competition (finite games) vs cooperation (infinite games), written in aphorisms without any mathematics or reference to game theory. Carse is a theologist, not a mathematician, so I'm guessing he discovered patterns of interaction that he didn't have the mathematical tools to explain and this is the result - a long list of fortune cookie style descriptions.
If you want to get the math that drives it, look up game theory, in particular Axelrod's work on Cooperation. Axelrod found that lengthening time in the form of allowing multiple iterations (which in Carse's terms means going from finite to infinite), causes people to cooperate and pursue win/win situations instead of the standard win/lose inherent in competition.
The genius in this as well as Carse's descriptions is that every interaction can fall into one of these categories and there are a ton of implications for adopting the wrong approach. This is especially relevant in the age of tribalism when we have politicians/groups/countries who are in it to win at any cost, even at the expense of burning bridges with people/groups/countries they're still gonna have to deal with in the future. Maybe they should have played the Infinite Game instead of the Finite one?
Anyway, if you read this, just think competition vs cooperation (game theory) instead of finite vs infinite and everything will start to make sense. And to quote Venkat Rao, this book pays back your thinking many times fold
As the title suggests, this is a work on finite and infinite games that purports "a vision of life as play and possibility." So if life is a game you should play it and if you play it you should follow the rules. Right, but what are the rules. Well, here enters Carse, who in seven chapters defines the game and unfolds and explains the rules.
The seven chapters are named in a very sportive (and even poetic) manner: There are at least to kind of games; No one can play a game alone; I am the genius of myself; A finite game occurs within a world; Nature is the realm of the unspeakable; We control nature for societal reasons; Myth provokes explanation but accepts none of it.
And there you are. As I said, the book is written in an aphoristic mode, as in Also sprach Zarathustra/Thus Spoke Zarathustra: German/English Bilingual Text (German Edition), but with much more sense than that Nietzsche's brick. "Finite and Infinite..." is not a wanton sum of sayings more or less wise. So please do not confound games with lightness or pastime. At least not in this book. So you have to keep in mind, as long as you read, that this is a book about life ("A vision of life..."), not about playing games as a part of your life.
Then, what are the rules? The rules are simple but full of derivatives or branches that have no limit. Like life itself that starts with a very simple origin and grows up in complexity and variety. That's why the first paragraph says that "There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite; the other infinite." As long as this rule begins to increase in complexity is very helpful to keep that definition in mind. Carse says that a game can be won, so the game ends, which is the finite case. Or the game is playing continuously because the purpose is not winning but to follow up the game, which is the infinite case.
Let's quote Carse: "Infinite players cannot say when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game in not bounded by time. Indeed, the only purpose of the game is to prevent it from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play." Sounds mysterious? It is. We play infinite games as long as we live, and the finite games we play are there not only to compensate (or to maintain under control the anxiety and) our ignorance of who wins at last in the infinite version, but also to be prepared against, and to be educated for the surprises and twists that life put in front of us: "To be prepared against surprise is to be 'trained.' To be prepared for surprise is to be 'educated.'"
The probe of this work descends very deep. That's the reason why the last chapter is dedicated to the myth issue. For several years I've been studying the singularities of a myth, the purpose they have, why they appeared, why they are here with us in spite of the exponential growing of knowledge through science and the technological development associated with it. And Carse offers here one of the most astounding answers to my search, which is presented in the very title of the chapter: "Myth provokes explanations but accepts none of it." It is as if finite and infinite games collide in this final movement of the play, remembering us what the author told us at the beginning of the book: "Infinite players cannot say when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game is not bounded by time. Indeed the only purpose of the game is to prevent it from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play." If that is not the very source of a myth, then what.
Insofar as this book (a very brief book indeed, with 149 pages) is about games, we as a readers are players also, so maybe there are as many readings as readers. Or almost. Yet, it remains (or let) something that to me is unequivocal: life can be seen as a game so it has rules. This book propose that rules in a temporal basis (finite vs. infinite). If you look for, you could find others, but to me this book offers the most amazing explanation to the philosophical question that beats under our skins all the time: what is life?
A game. "There are at least to kind of games..."