There are some people that will be deterred by the fact that we have nuclear weapons… But those people are the folks we can deal with anyway. — General Charles Horner

How about that Super Bowl? Sometimes it pays to be irrational, to do the unexpected like pass on 2nd and 1, to catch the defense by surprise and force them to defend the pass. By the numbers, Carroll should have been running out the clock, and Belichick should have been calling timeout to give Brady a chance for a long pass and field goal, if Seahawks scored quickly. But Belichick says he felt running time down to where Seahawks had to call a pass was the way to go. And when the Seahawks called it, the Patriots were prepared. On paper, the pass isn’t a terrible call if it keeps the opponent guessing, and you don’t have time for 3 running plays. But if one believes the evil genius of Belichick, he psyched Carroll into calling it, and it didn’t surprise anyone.

  • Game theory only works if you’re dealing with rational people. Not with dumb, ideological, or crazy people.
  • Most people are only rational about unimportant things. On the things that matter most, they’re usually emotional, ideological, stupid or crazy.
  • Therefore, game theory is only useful in dealing with unimportant things.
  • By being irrational, you get your opponent to throw out part of the toolkit, and have to consider and defend a lot of otherwise illogical actions. So ironically, in game theory it can be rational to be irrational. If you’re on a one-lane road and you want everyone else to get out of your way, slobbering at the mouth or just throwing the steering wheel out the window will do the trick nicely.
  • Which leads to the problem that you never know if your adversary is pretending to be crazy to get his way, or really is crazy.
  • On average, it’s more sensible and profitable to assume that the adversary is rational.
  • If you assume that your wartime adversary is insane, then really the only possible outcomes are 1) caving to their insanity or 2) their total destruction (or yours).
  • Always assuming their insanity is tactical rather than congenital therefore yields better results, and has the benefit of discouraging everyone from crazy behavior, since it isn’t taken too seriously.
  • Of course, every so often you run into someone who really is crazy, e.g. Hitler. And history hasn’t been kind to Neville Chamberlain, who people regard as a cowardly appeaser, when in fact he was a cold-eyed Conservative ‘realist’. (History can be so complicated… Edward VIII was pro-Nazi (along with Henry Ford and Joe Kennedy)…and George VI, if not pro-Nazi, gave Chamberlain an extraordinary photo-op and political endorsement by whisking him from the airport to Buckingham Palace to wave and prattle about ‘peace in our time.’)
  • We’re better off living in a world of rational people, who assume others are rational. Perhaps, giving the occasional Hitler a little too much leeway is the price to be paid for living in an world where most people act rationally most of the time and expect others to do so.
  • I certainly understand, if people whose ancestors were at Auschwitz don’t agree with that. But I wouldn’t run my foreign policy on what they think, or for that matter on what any other foreign power with their own interests happens to think. When you live like everyone is irrationally out to get you, you create a reality where a lot of people are quite rationally out to get you.