On Poetry and Culture Shock

The Prisoner's Dilemma

Zifra told me yesterday "the prisoner's dilemma". According to him, it rules all human relationships. All of them. We used an example close to my own experience and he managed to convince me that yes, he was right.

This is the dilemma: you have two collaborating thieves. They get caught. They are put on isolated cells and each one is told that there is no evidence against them, so the police tries to get any of them to testify against the other one. Under these conditions:  

If no one betrays the other, both will go to prison for 6 months.
If both betray each other, both will go to prison for 6 years.
If one betrays and the other doesn't, the accusing one will go free and the other one will go to prison for 10 years.

What is best to do? Easy. The moral of the story is that cooperation in good faith is advantageous for both parties. Mutual hostility is disadvatageous -to some extent. If one party is hostile and the other is not, the hostile will win more and the cooperating one will lose more. This is not exactly like this all the time: in the situation from my own experience I referred to previously, mutual cooperation led to advantage, far greater than one-sided hostility.

What I as a writer and a reader find very interesting is that the prisoner's dilemma does not apply coherently to fiction. There is always a narrator with plans of his own.  

3 comentarios

Nia -

Fer, the benefits variable is interesting, true. But since I have just discovered the dilemma, and I'm such an idealistic baby, I'm more interested in how to make my partners-in-crime cooperate with me; cooperation will not take me as far as betrayal but it is less risky and it suits my personality better.

So, to me, the dilemma is neatly summarised as "How much can I trust you?"

maruja de pro -

mira akí...hace poco escribi de lo mismo...

Fer -

It is very interesting to play with the variables. Would you betray your partner to get yourself free if tighting your lips brings you almost no benefit? At which point (which threat) would you consider betraying your partner?