Month: September 2015

Don’t Rely on Information Dominance

Suppose I wanted to play a cooperative game with you.  If I wanted us to succeed, I would teach you all that I know about the rules of the game.  I would not withhold information about the rules from you, for our success would depend on both of us understanding how the game works.

Now suppose I wanted to play a competitive game against you.  If I wanted to beat you, would I teach you all of the rules of the game? Would I teach you the same as if we were playing a cooperative game?

I think so.  In fact, I think I should focus even more on teaching you in the competitive environment than in the cooperative environment.  I would probably beat you at chess if you didn’t know that knights move in an “L” shape or that pawns can take pieces diagonally in front of them.  But why would I be proud of that?

If I have more information about the rules of the game than you do, then why would I feel like I have accomplished anything special after beating you?  I can teach you all the rules of a game, but I can have the confidence that I will still be able to compete with you.  Shouldn’t I be proud if I were to teach you everything that I know about a game before we start playing, and then still beat you?

I should not have to rely on information dominance to win.

There are games where information is obtainable during playing of the game (e.g. Bridge: how many cards of a suit are left at a certain turn, Poker: what cards you hold in your hand), and it’s not this type of information I am referring to that should be divulged (although it would still be impressive to win while giving out all this information).  It’s the rules of the game, the mechanics of how the game works even before we start playing, that should be shared and discussed.  Shouldn’t we both have more fun competing if we know that we are starting with the same set of information about the game?

In the long run, it’s not the state of information dominance that truly differentiates you winning from you losing.  It’s the skills you use to collect, analyze, and act based on information that makes you a winner.  The internal thought processes and methods you use happen to be applied to a particular game at a particular time, but it’s those skills that would enhance your ability to beat someone else in a different game, even when they have information dominance over you.

And you should be proud of that.

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“Collaboration” is a Dirty Word

Individuals coming together to contribute towards a common purpose – “Collaboration”. What a beautiful concept! How can anyone be against that? How dare I call “collaboration” a dirty word! Why am I not simply applauding the term?

As an employee in a relatively large company I have to work frequently in collaboration with people inside and outside of my department.  I don’t mind the concept; in fact, I would embrace it, if we agreed upon what we mean by “collaboration”. What I have issue with is its common application and usage. What tends to actually occur in practice is that only one individual or a minority of the group performs the work of the entire group.

People within a team environment will probably contribute at different levels. This is fine if it is understood that this will be the case. One person who has so much limited resources will contribute X% of their effort to the group, but this achieves something that the others want contributed. This type of agreement is fine with me. What actually happens is that people abuse the fact that as long as the group gets it done they are “contributors” to the “collaboration”. Another common occurrence is that people are unaware of what it is they need to contribute to the collaboration, and end up contributing nothing without realizing it.

If one individual could have performed the work of the collaboration, there should be stated deliberate reasons why the collaboration is occurring. There are other benefits from a group activity such as peer review, implementation, and general buy-in. But those should be the primary reasons. It should not be a collaboration so that certain individuals do not have to contribute as much as other individuals.

I think we should Taboo the word “collaboration”. What do you actually mean when you use that word? Are we separate individuals coming together to contribute towards a common purpose because of a set of agreed upon reasons? Could we not complete the work on our own, or desire a group benefit, such that the collaboration is mutually beneficial?

I think that before individuals can actually consider collaboration, they need to be aware of what they can contribute on their own. As a single player, what am I good at and what do I need improvement in? What can I bring to a group setting? What do I lack, and who will be best to team up with to cover for each of our gaps?

As an individual, I can only win so much. But I must first have an idea of what I can win on my own, before considering what we can win together if we team up. If I have no idea, or if I have no intent of actually contributing, then we are a “collaboration” in name only. We may achieve a certain group output, but what exactly did I contribute? What did I learn? Where did I challenge myself? What skills of mine did I practice and test to see if they need honing?

“Collaboration” is a dirty word. But sometimes, collaboration is necessary. Be careful with how it’s used. Abuse it too much, and you may become over-reliant on it to do things which you could learn to do on your own. Accept it too much, and you may be doing a disservice to others by reducing their opportunities to learn on their own.

There is no team without me, or you, or the others. That’s how it should be for all of us collaborating. If the team could have performed just as well without me, and I am collaborating for the purpose of contributing (not just for a learning experience), then I am doing myself a disservice. I am lying to myself, convincing myself under false pretense of my ability. It is myself who will be lacking in the long run. In the process, I am also inconveniencing others, having them carry my weight.

Is this mindset that unreasonable for me to have? It it too much to expect that others have a similar mindset?

Up until now I have tried giving my collaborators the benefit of the doubt, but I can only allow so much benefit after experiencing first-hand so much doubt. So the next time I hear someone mention “collaboration”, please excuse me when I do not instantly start clapping.

Not Starving, Together

Don’t Starve Together is a game where players are tasked to not starve, to survive against the monsters and weather conditions, with themselves and their companions.

Playing this game, first I must learn how to not starve on my own. I do this with my own time, figuring out what the rules of the game are, internalizing them, figuring out what it is I need to do, what buttons I need to press, and what it is I am good at and would be able to contribute to a group.  Then after that, maybe I can play with others and come together so we can thrive, beat the giant bosses, build a settlement, practice job specializations, research new technologies, or impose artificial challenges on ourselves to test our limits.  These kind of survival games are at their core very simple, but in their practice can represent a more complicated society.  Within an electronic game, failure is more tenable.  But the game called life is played with more critical stakes.

In general, I shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not you are feeding yourself.  I think people are their own keepers, and it’s with myself first I entrust my own survival.  There may be cases where groups of people come together to contribute to their group’s survival, such as a family taking care of a newborn child.  But this is agreed upon or understood normally at the onset of the group.

I don’t part ways with friends, worrying whether or not they will feed themselves.  Even if I had the most benevolent (or even selfish) reasons to worry, I would soon become overwhelmed with worry about you and Wilson and Wigfrid and Willow not starving.  I feel that I am giving you the most respect when by default I recognize that you are capable of at least what I am capable of, that you can take care of yourself as I can take care of myself.  There may be cases where this default is not actuality, and this is where I get a little confused.

I do admit that there may be certain people who require more concern for than others, where my hands-off kind of attitude may be more detrimental than empowering. But I have an inkling feeling that there are other ways I can show my concern for those in genuine starvation besides trying to hand-spoon them some nutrition.  I should be able to do better, right?

It’s when faced with this kind of question that my social morality gets tested.  What action is it that I am proposing and suggesting being put into practice?  Am I just making up a complicated argument so I don’t actually have to do anything?

When I say that individuals should watch out for themselves, what about those individuals who end up not being able to?  Does it matter if those individuals had the opportunity and failed, or if they never had the opportunity at all?

I am not quite happy with the sentiment that we should all just drop everything and take care of those who need taking care of.  But I am also not quite happy with the extreme opposite, a free-for-all survival of the fittest.  I want to see each of us all striving to succeed on our own, but this is always at a risk of failure.  What happens to those that do fail? What does my social morality say happens next?  Do we live in a society to prevent at all costs against the results of failure, even so much as removing the exposure to failure (and exposure to challenges to overcome, learn, and grow)?  It feels like there should be some kind of mechanism to help those that tried their best but still failed.  Should there also be a mechanism to save those that did not even try at all?

I can try to teach others skills to help watch out for themselves.  But not everyone is going to read this.  Not everyone is going to find this helpful.  Not everyone is going to succeed.  Someday, maybe I too will fail.  What happens to us then?

I am still thinking about this.  I am still figuring out what action it is that I will take when faced with someone asking for money, for food, for shelter.  I can say that I will not be able to help everyone I meet, but what it is that I am doing to help?

But even faced with this confusion, I still weigh pretty heavily the idea of self-reliance.  I don’t see a society being able to succeed without first each individual contributing to their own survival, their own success, their own victory, their own winning.

It’s with this confusion in mind that I write.  I write of how I think we could all be better winners on our own.  I write of how we should all be better winners on our own, first.  It’s after we all learn how to win on our own, that maybe we can win more together, and win more to help those that lost.  Don’t ask me to play for you, at least not first without playing for yourself.  If you tried, and you failed, well… I’m still thinking about how to best respond to that one.  But in the meantime, as I collect my thoughts, I will write.

From the Start

I like to play games. I think there are a lot of things I learned and developed through my exposure to games. Games offer a variety of challenges which I can face. Some of these challenges I wouldn’t be able to tackle in “normal everyday living”, and the quantity and variety of challenges over the same time period would also be hard to match. Games offer an entertaining medium through which I can develop new skills, practice them, and learn where I thrive and where I need improvement.

I think I learned the most from single player games. It’s not that I don’t play or don’t recommend multiplayer games; I recognize that there are skills you can pick up from those too. But it’s in a single player game where you alone are faced with challenges. You can figure out pretty quickly what you can and cannot do. In multiplayer games, the struggle can be skipped, missed, or diverted to others. That too can be a useful skill, but that’s not what I think should be a primary mode for approaching challenges. At least for me, it’s through single player games that I’ve acquired a certain degree of self-reliance. There may be certain challenges which can only be faced with multiple players, but first I need to know what my own limitations are. If I don’t know what I could have done on my own, then I may become over-reliant on other players and miss out on the experience I could have gained on my own.

I just talked a lot about games. But this blog isn’t really going to be about games. Unless you consider life just a game. Then maybe we’re on the same level.

I plan on focusing on the idea that people should first learn to live and win more on their own. In a world where people are physically and digitally getting closer and more crowded, it will become even more important to emphasize this idea of first learning to win on your own.

If we each learn how to win on our own, then together we can win even more.