Akimbo – Game Theory and the Infinite Game

Perhaps the most accessible look into James Carse’s excellent but challenging read.

Seth Godin makes a case for looking at the world or an industry or a business through the lens of a game, and then considering what that games rules are. There are many cases where major shifts have occurred when someone has applied this line of thinking:

“One of the ways to think about the future is to look at a game in the world today based on scarcity, and imagine what happens if one of the rules is changed. What happens if a computer costs $1,000 instead of $100,000? What if the world is pretty much the same except everyone has a supercomputer in her pocket that knows where she’s standing and where her friends are?”

So, when you want to try and make a change, do this:

“Relax one rule, and play a new game.”

This makes a lot of sense, and I think many people will find this line or thinking fairly commonplace. Yet where it gets more complex is when you consider the fact that everyone else is also playing a game, and they might all be relaxing different rules than you are.

So how do you play the game better than everyone else? You try and consider what the infinite game is, while everyone else is focused on a finite goal. I have always been a big fan of playing ‘the long game’, considering a ten or twenty or even a hundred year plan while everyone else is thinking of the short-term.

Seth Godin backs this up, and says that not only is this the best way of thinking, it’s also the most ethical. This is because when you’re thinking about a finite system, you’re often thinking about only yourself:

“The shorter your short run, the less you’re thinking about the world we have to live in. It’s the long run as we get closer and closer to infinity where the smartest game players are playing.”

I want to play the long game, in every area of my life.