======================================================================== Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) -- Volume 2 Number 11, Nov. 2003 Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:abs@well.com ========================================================================

War Games, Money Games, New Games and Meta Games

"The successful people are the ones who can think up things for the rest of the world to keep busy at." -- Don Marquis

Report from the Annual Conference of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) in Orlando, Nov. 17-21, 2003

Joseph E. Persico, in 1994, wrote "The historian's silent partner is serendipity." Indeed, I have found it to be the silent partner of any good researcher. In its simplest form, this principle frequently enables me to find books pertinent to my research on the "re-shelve" carts of libraries; in its more profound manifestations, it has guided me to bonanzas of research materials, such as the happy coincidence that this year's IAAPA convention coincided with a family vacation I'd planned six months ago. It provides a great lead-in to the ideas of this month's e-Zine. ( iaapa.org/ ) The last time I attended IAAPA was in Los Angeles in 1993, and since then it has exploded in size and breadth. I took a few photos this year (see: www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/031119_05.jpg www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/031119_07.jpg for samples; also see: www.iaapaOrlando.com/picgallery1.htm for IAAPA's own gallery) but I found I couldn't capture my overwhelming sense of the show on film, so I retreated to written notes. Here is a list of some of the things I saw, in a modified alphabetical order: 3D UV murals 3D cups (drink cups with 3D pictures printed on them) "acid spitter" in a 55 gallon drum air hockey animated impaled vampire ($1,895) architects specializing in theme parks ATM machines audio-animatrons automatic organ grinders badging systems boat rides bounce houses theme bounce houses bubble machines bungee jumping cameras with your logo card keys card readers carnival rides carousels shark carousels change machines chewable toothbrushes (!) climbing walls climbing walls with waterfalls coconut drinking glasses (made from real coconuts) calliopes wireless calliopes compressors confetti shooters crate creature (*) dancing retail shelves Diet Vanilla Pepsi dinosaur skeletons dinosaurs domes drink dispensers "Dunk an Alien" game electric chair animatrons electric signs fake brick/stone fake coral fake fire real fire fake trees fences fireworks liquid fireworks (actually fountains with colored lights) food carts fountains controlled by your hands game prizes games of skill giant ice cream cones giant kid-eating clown giant plastic tubes go-carts go-cart track design services theme park design services water park design services haunted houses inflatable haunted houses hula hoops inflatables of all kinds kiddy rides kids' toilet seats laser tag liability insurance lifeguard uniforms and equipment lighting living angel statue lottery ball machines makeup Mardi Gras coins miniature golf miniatures misters mobile card readers mobile security watchtowers model trains money counters motion bases neon signs non-slip flooring other conventions outdoor furniture paddle boats paintball supplies photo booths 3D photo booths (?) pitching machines pinball games pizza makers pizza trailers plastic pony rides plastic sheet repair kits playgrounds polyurethane and epoxy products Pringles vending machines projecting onto waterfalls puppets queue fencing/railings redeemable coins refrigerators mobile refrigerators remote control models retail shelves rhinoceri and other jungle animals (statues and animatrons) robots searchlights shooting galleries sky flier rides slot machines soccer simulators Sponge Bob ride (in 3D) store fixtures stuffed animals stuffed animals table shuffleboards tele-operated raven theme carpets theme towels tickets tikis train rides trams tree suits (so you can impersonate a tree) underwater video ("the lifeguard's friend") video games water filters "Wheel of Death" knife throwing target wigs As I was briskly moving through the show (I only had a few hours and as it was I only saw about 75% of it) I found it tough to find flat surfaces to write on, to jot my notes before the impressions faded from memory. At one point I stopped at a booth that had some animatronic monsters, hosted by a pirate wench, to write on the top of a large crate that was chained to the ground. As soon as I leaned on it, the crate made a snarling noise and jumped at me, scaring the bejeezus out of me. The pirate wench smiled. I had been "fished in" by the creature crate (marked with * above). I was quite pleased to discover the announcement of "Don Bluth Presents Ultimate Dragon's Lair 20th Anniversary Edition" at a video game booth. ( www.dragonslair3d.com ) I had enjoyed the Dragon's lair arcade game when it first came out, and later got to know some of the developers, and also had a friend who bought a used arcade game as a home novelty. I spent some time in the IAAPA bookstore area perusing the new releases, and bought a copy of "Walt's Revolution by the Numbers" (2003) by Harrison "Buzz" Price. ( www.ripleys.com/cgi-bin/ripleys/store/commerce.cgi?product=book22&cart_id=9105570_9993 ) Walt Disney's original idea for Disneyland was for a small park called "Mickey Mouse Park" in an empty lot adjacent to his Burbank studio. ( www.bertino.com/blueprints/bpdlbbk.jpg ) But Walt's dream quickly outgrew the triangular lot, which today houses portions of the Los Angeles River channel, the Ventura (134) Freeway, and the Disney Animation Building -- including Roy E. Disney's office inside the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" wizard hat (until today, see below). So Walt hired the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) to pick a new site for Disneyland, and they ended up recommending an orange grove in Anaheim based on the shifting trend of the LA basin's population center south from downtown towards Orange County, as well as the proximity of the as-yet-uncompleted I-5 freeway. ( www.justdisney.com/images/Disneyland/pre-dl-land.jpg ) Harrison "Buzz" Price was at SRI azt the time and worked on this study, and later formed his own consulting company, Economic Research Associates (ERA), and did additional work for Walt, including site selection for Walt Disney World in Florida. I haven't read Buzz's book yet, but I ma looking forward to it, because he offers the first economic analysis I am aware of of the theme park industry. For a taste of Buzz's talent, see his article, "Theme Park CAPEX Management -- Searching for Predictability" (Autumn 2000) on the web site of Pannell Kerr Forster Consulting, Australia. ( www.pkfconsulting.com.au/pkfweb.nsf/0/2353ea73241ad0db4a256aa400401954/$FILE/Brave5.pdf ) It shows a wise balance of intuition and statistical tools applied to the question of how much reinvestment is right for a theme park. I have been a close watcher of the Walt Disney Company since my youth; someday I'll tell the story of my fascination in detail. In 1976 I worked for ten weeks as an employee at Walt Disney World; I like to say I took the job to get the employee training program, which is not available any other way. Also, on the day after the stockmarket crash of 1987 I bought one share of Disney stock, which has since split twice to become four shares. In this case I like to say I bought the stock to get a lifetime subscription to the annual report. ( https://www.oneshare.com/order/stock.asp?catagorycompanyid=5 ) While taking a break from writing this issue, I happened upon the news that Roy E. Disney, Walt's nephew, resigned from the company's board today, citing differences with chairman Michael Eisner. ( news.google.com/news?num=30&hl=en&edition=us&q=cluster:www%2enytimes%2ecom%2f2003%2f11%2f30%2fbusiness%2fmedia%2f30CND%2dDISN%2ehtml%3fex%3d1070859600%26amp%3ben%3d6221e5a0d3403ccb%26amp%3bei%3d5062%26amp%3bpartner%3dGOOGLE ) (If the above link fails, go to news.google.com and search for "Roy E. Disney" for a list of relevant news stories.) The complete text of his resignation letter is currently on the Drudge Report as a lead story. ( www.drudgereport.com/flash1a.htm ) I have "cached" a copy as well. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/roy_letter.txt ) Before I set aside this Disney mania (for now), let me recommend a science fiction book I first learned of from bloggers via the "Weblog Bookwatch" web site -- which scans "blogs" (web logs) for book links, counts them and produces a weekly top ten -- ( www.onfocus.com/bookwatch ) and enjoyed in advance of my trip to Orlando: "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" (2003) by Cory Doctorow. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0765304368/hip-20 ) It is the story of immortals in the far future who maintain the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World as a historic reconstruction. More on it in a later issue of this e-Zine. I'd say there are two pieces of news from IAAPA that may be of interest to cybernetics fans: #1, on the vendor side the amusement business is booming. Since general indicators are that tourist travel is on the rise, they must be anticipating a boom in theme parks very soon. #2, there is an incessant shift from "rides and shows" (a mainstay of theme parks and even the name of a group in Disney's "Imagineering" division) to games and interactive experiences. I would guess that the "Nintendo generation" is growing less and less enamored of the scripted, always-the-same-shows and rides, and that amusement parks are grasping for ways to pry them away from their Xboxes with something besides an arcade. Even Disney has made a big deal about the "every ride is different" feature of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" ride at Disneyland (the cars are without tracks, computer controlled, and make random choices), as well as the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" free-fall ride at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, which has been adding drops annually for a while, and now boasts a random set of drops for each ride. And of course "Innoventions" at Disneyland and at EPCOT in Orlando is all-interactive. I have even seen this trend at a local Halloween attraction in my area, the annual Pumpkin Patch at the Bates Nut Farm, ( www.batesnutfarm.biz/history.html ) which has always offered hayrides and country western music shows, but more recently has added a straw maze made of stacked bales, with a game to see who can be first to find the hidden mailboxes, each with a rubber stamp, and stamp a card with them all. An interesting observation from Orlando: we were advised by a friend who works for Walt Disney World that the best time of year to visit is in November, the week before Thanksgiving week. We confirmed this is a great time, and noticed that on our last full day, Sunday 23 November, the crowds swelled dramatically. We reasoned that many people would take off the first three days of Thanksgiving week in order to get a nine-day vacation while using up only three vacation days, and that Saturday 22 November would be a travel day for them, so the following day was their first day of fun-seeking. That final Sunday we had a hard time finding dinner -- the wait at the Rainforest Cafe was two hours by 7:00 PM. (We ended up dining at Olivia's Cafe at the little-known Disney's Old Key West Resort.) On the down side, we found several attractions we were looking forward to, the Jurassic Park Visitors Center, the Triceratops Encounter, and the flying Pteradon Ride, all at Universal Islands of Adventure, were closed on Saturday the 22nd (the day we visited) but were opening for the Thanksgiving/ Christmas holiday season on the following day. Before I leave the topic of Orlando I must put in my standard plug for the Adventurer's Club at Disney's Pleasure Island nightclub complex, ( www.etixland.com/ADVCLUB/ACMain/ACmain.htm ) the most innovative example of "interactive entertainment" I have ever experienced and a must-see attraction. I would have been there every night on our trip if there had been no constraints. Why? Because of (cyberneticists take note) all the FEEDBACK. As always, it was good to see some the actors I know there, who I once cajoled into speaking on a 1994 SIGGRAPH panel on interactive entertainment and "virtual actor" (VActor) technology, called "The VActor and the Human Factor." (One day I will tell this tale in detail.) I also was able to visit with one of my favorite puppets, Colonel Critchlow Suchbench, the Adventurer's Club's head of security and gleemeister, in his Boer War era "snowdrop" helmet and "redcoat" uniform. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/031123_06.jpg ) I was reminded him a few days later when for our weekly family video my ten-year-old daughter selected Shirley Temple's tale of a Boer War colonel and his apparently orphaned daughter, "The Little Princess" (1939). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005B1WQ/hip-20 )

Game Theory

The above material gleaned from IAAPA Orlando 2003 provides a fortuitous preface to the subject of this month's e-Zine: the theory of games. In high school I took Honors Algebra I in ninth grade from Mr. Donnelly. (It was he who, recognizing my interests in math, gave me a reprint of a Scientific American article on Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorem that year, and piqued my interest in advanced mathematical logic.) By twelfth grade I had found a way to skip a year of math curriculum and take calculus at the local community college, along with my classmate Bruce Webster. To my delight my instructor was once again Mr. Donnelly, who had moved on from high school to community college teaching. Bruce and I used to arrive early for class and sit in his office, which he graciously allowed us to do as long as we didn't disturb his last-minute preparations. We amused ourselves by browsing his bookshelf. One book I returned to repeatedly was "Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" (1944) by John Von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691003629/hip-20 ) Until that time, the fall of 1970, I was unaware that a field called "game theory" existed. I now see that it belonged to that unprestigous domain called (usually sneeringly) "applied mathematics," which lacked the classy uselessness of the "pure" variety. But I was fascinated. Von Neumann and Morgenstern set out to explain the behavior of people engaged in various types of competition for resources, whenever the outcome was determined by tactical decisions and limited by lack of knowledge of the opponent's tactics, without chance playing a factor. Their fundamental tool was the "payoff matrix" showing what each competitor won or lost by making each tactical choice in the face of their opponent's choices. For example, in a sealed auction for a painting worth $100 in which all bidding is in $40 increments, and a tie means no sale, each of two bidders has the option of bidding low ($40) or high ($80) or not bidding. If they don't bid or bid low when the other bids high they gain nothing. If they don't bid when the other bids low they also gain nothing. If they bid high when the other bids high, or low when the other bids low, they still gain nothing. But if they bid high when the other bids low they gain $20, and if they bid low when the other doesn't bid they gain $60. So the payoff matrix for each player is: this player bid | | v n $40 $80 <-- other player bid +---+---+---+ n | $0| $0| $0| +---+---+---+ $40 |$60| $0| $0| +---+---+---+ $80 |$20|$20| $0| +---+---+---+ The other player's matrix looks the same. Combining the two into one matrix (leaving off the dollar signs) gives: this player bid | | v n 40 80 <-- other player bid +------+------+------+ n | 0/ 0| 0/60| 0/20| +------+------+------+ 40 | 60/ 0| 0/ 0| 0/20| +------+------+------+ 80 | 20/ 0| 20/ 0| 0/ 0| +------+------+------+ Since the pairs of numbers inside each box do not add to zero (which only possible if one loses as much as the other wins, as in most gambling games) this is called a "non-zero sum game." Here is the matrix for a "zero-sum game," the familiar "matching pennies" contest in which each player secretly makes a coin heads or tails, and then when they are simultaneously revealed, if they both match one player wins the coins, while if they don't match the other player wins the coins: this player selects | | v H T <-- other player selects +-----+-----+ H | 2/-2|-2/ 2| +-----+-----+ T |-2/ 2| 2/-2| +-----+-----+ Using the payout matrix and a few simple but powerful theorems, game theory provides winning strategies for a wide variety of games, ASSUMING RATIONAL PLAY (MAXIMIZING GAIN) BY BOTH PLAYERS. One of the most useful concepts in game theory is the "dominant choice," which is a choice that maximizes a player's gain no matter what choice the other player makes. Not every payoff matrix has a dominant choice, but when one exists it establishes the so-called winning strategy. Is is not my intention here to teach the intricacies of game theory; for that see "Interactive Tutorials in Game Theory" hosted by the Economics Centre of the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN). ( www.economics.ltsn.ac.uk/teaching/interactive/gametheory.htm ) Instead, what I want to explore briefly here is how and why game theory sometimes fails. The two most widely-known failures of game theory are in "games" known as The Tragedy of the Commons and The Prisoner's Dilemma. The canonical example of the Tragedy of the Commons is a village with a central "green" where any villager may graze sheep. If each villager uses game theory to decide how much to graze their own sheep, they will each graze as much as possible, since individual gain outweighs their share of collective loss, and so the common village green will be overgrazed down to bare dirt, to the loss of all. This paradox was well-described in the 1968 essay "The Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin. ( dieoff.com/page95.htm ) He takes his title from a phrase in "a little-known Pamphlet in 1833 by a mathematical amateur named William Forster Lloyd." Hardin suggests that the solution to this problem is "mutual coercion mutually agreed upon." (The above link also contains the 1969 essay "The Tragedy of the Common Revisited" by Beryl Crowe which sort of rebuts this idea.) The Prisoner's Dilemma involves the "thought experiment" of two suspects being interrogated separately about their involvement in the same crime. Both are guilty, and each is offered immunity and a reward for confessing, as long as the other does not. Here is an example from Charles Earl, a graduate student at the University of Chicago. ( people.cs.uchicago.edu/~earl/cs115/prisoner/node5.html ) (I would have chosen the payoff values differently, but this example works to illustrate the concept.) C = cooperates D = defects player A | | v C D <-- other player selects +-----+-----+ C | 3/3 | 0/5 | +-----+-----+ D | 5/0 | 1/1 | +-----+-----+ In this case, Players A and B both have a dominant choice -- namely, defection. No matter what Player B does, Player A improves his own score by defecting, and vice versa. However, there is something odd about this game. It seems as though the two players would benefit by choosing to cooperate. Instead of winning only one point each, they could win three points each. So the "rational" choice of mutual defection has a puzzling self-destructive flavor. This paradox had been studied extensively, and there have even been "Prisoner's Dilemma" tournaments, between both humans and computer programs. A very erudite discussion of both of these paradoxes appears in "Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution" (2002) by Howard Rheingold, in the context of social changes brought about by new cheap and easy communication technologies such as Instant Messaging (IM). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0738206083/hip-20 ) As Rheingold points out, these quandaries are not mathematical oddities; they bear on important social problems such as pollution and email "spam" (Tragedies of the Commons) as well as adultery and embezzlement (Prisoners' Dilemmas). My own analysis of the emergence of these paradoxes is as follows: Game theory makes two assumptions that aren't always true of human "games," that each player acts always and only to maximize their own personal economic gain, and that each game can be considered distinct in time, and analyzed for maximum payoff based on one play, and then these plays can be strung together indefinitely without impacting the strategy. Analysis of both the Tragedy of the Commons and the Prisoner's Dilemma with EITHER of these assumptions removed causes the paradoxes to vanish. This matches the data from real life, in which many villages have had healthy village greens with only moderate grazing, and many cabals of criminals (or terrorists, or freedom fighters) have maintained silence when offered immunity under interrogation. Another way of challenging these assumptions is to ask, what is the unit of "self" that "gains" economically? In writing on the problems of Darwinian evolutionary theory Gregory Bateson pointed out that "survival of the fittest" is often taken to be a meaningless tautology -- if "it" survives, it must be "fit" by definition -- but then becomes non-trivial when we ask, "The fittest what? What is the unit of evolution?" If we assume that the individual, the population, the ecosystem, the biosphere, or for the matter the cell or the gene, are the unit of evolution, we get vastly different answers. If we assume they ALL are units of evolution we begin to comprehend the tangled hierarchy of values involved in evolution. Applying this to game theory, we see that we will get different results if we assume the village, or the pair of criminals, each constitute a single "player" in a "game."

War Games

"The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton." -- attributed to the Duke of Wellington "More war toys." -- Stewart Brand's plan for ending war War games have been with us for a long time. The Olympics began as a kind of war game, bolstering the strength of Athens' youth in peacetime through competition. The familiar carousel of wooden horses and a brass ring to grab began as a military simulator, to teach knights to hit a target (the ring) with a lance while riding a galloping horse. When I began a stint of consulting on visualizing bio-terrorism threats in the fall of 2001, I felt a need to learn more about the antecedent events that created a world in which suicide bombers could and would threaten the only remaining superpower with the largest slaying of citizens (military or civilian) in its history. I first went to the Middle East history, rereading the encylopedic but brief "Near East: 10,0000 Years of History" (1968) by Isaac Asimov. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0395065623/hip-20 ) It reminded me that parts of this conflict go back to before there were people that we now identify ethnically as either Arabs or Semites, let alone religiously as Moslems or Jews. Then I got to thinking, and remembered that a roommate of mine once suggested, that since I was a "smart guy" and liked complicated things, I might enjoy researching the so-called "Eastern Question" in British foreign policy in the 1870s. Almost 30 years later I decided to take that advice. (Another roommate offered an identical argument when he recommended I read "Finnegan's Wake" by James Joyce; it's advice I also decided to take almost 30 years later, but that's another story.) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0141181265/hip-20 ) I also remember watching a movie -- I think it was the Peter Sellers comedy classic "The Mouse That Roared" (1959) -- ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00009MEKJ/hip-20 ) with the same "Eastern Question" roommate and there being a scene in which a group of diplomats is waiting outside a Duchess' castle for an audience, and they amuse themselves in their chauffeur-driven car by playing the board game "Diplomacy." ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005EBA0/hip-20 ) In this game exactly seven players, representing the nations England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Turkey, re-negotiate the volatile conditions leading up to World War One in Europe, and then set to fighting. Unlike the similar board game "Risk" about global war, this game incorporates diplomatic strategy into the play of an otherwise military war game. My roommate laughed, and told me the game dealt with the "Eastern Question" he'd mentioned. More recently I've learned that this "Eastern Question" dealt with the planned division of the Middle East and the Balkans among European powers following the anticipated breakup of the Ottoman Empire of Turkey, which had ruled those regions for a millennium. At last I have dived into the subject matter, begin a read of the turgid history "Disraeli, Gladstone, and the Eastern Question; A Study in Diplomacy and Party Politics" (1935) by Robert William Seton-Watson. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393005941/hip-20 ) The author looks back with the hindsight gained from having personal papers from leaders of the several sides available for study. One thing I am learning is that in London, Disraeli believed that keeping Turkey strong and Serbia in the hands of the Turks (along with the rest of the Balkans) would prevent Russia from overrunning the region (and gaining a Mediterranean military port), while his political rival Gladstone believed that the Serbs and other Balkan nations could defend themselves from Russia (with the help of British allies) if they became self-governing, and would be loyal and stable allies as well. Nearly everone in British foreign policy underestimated the loyalty and aid (by way of espionage) given to Russia by Christians in the Ottoman Empire, who were persecuted by the Turks and often helped by the Tzar of Russia, sometimes at a great sacrifice. This all came to a head in 1875, when the Serbs revolted and later that year a Sultan sold to Britain his minority stake in the otherwise- French-owned Suez canal in Egypt, which connected the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. (When the text gets too dense for me to bear, I imagine it being read aloud by Colonel Critchlow Suchbench.) And that's as far as I've read. My roommate was right, it is fascinating. (Did you know that in 1956 the Egyptians nationalized the Suez Canal, and the French and British sent in paratroopers to take it back, until the Americans made them stop? I didn't until 2002 when I stumbled upon this fact in an old encyclopedia.) Of course I do know that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sofia of Austria by a Serbian anarchist while they were in a parade in Sarajevo triggered the events that lead to World War One (or, as it was called before they knew there's be a number two, "the Great War"). Historians have picked apart the "July Crisis" which followed, and lead to a chain reaction of mobilization of war, much of which occurred between 3:00 and 7:00 PM on the 1st of August 1914. ( www.firstworldwar.com/origins/julycrisis.htm ) The hour-by-hour events of that day have been scrutinized by historians and strategists (both diplomatic and military) in extreme detail, much like the post-mortem analysis following the northeastern blackouts of 1965 and 2003, and the southern California firestorms of a few weeks ago, the latter captured in a by-the-hours burn map I saw last week in the town of Julian, California. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/031126_02.jpg ) The war, which was expected to be over by Christmas, took an unexpected turn at the Battle of Marne at which the French halted the German advance, creating a three-and-a-half year stalemate. ( www.firstworldwar.com/battles/marne1.htm ) Of course, even though the mistakes of leaders then could send millions of soldiers to their deaths, the scale of folly pales in comparison to the near-annihilation of civilization which occurred during the Cuban missile crisis. In 1992 and again in 2002 many of the participants in that crisis from both sides got together at historical conferences to compare notes and figure out what really happened. At the 40th anniversary conference in Havana, October 2002, Robert McNamara, the American secretary of defense during the crisis, said "I conclude from this discussion that we're damn lucky to be here." The hindsight of history has revealed that if the advice of Air Force General Curtis Lemay -- who "knew" the Soviets would back down -- had been taken, and US President Kennedy had ordered the bombing of the Soviet missile silos in Cuba, the Soviet military leadership would have responded with a nuclear strike, even without Premier Kruschev's authorization. ( www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/ ) We know now that, even if Kennedy had not responded in kind (which is hard to conceive), nuclear winter would have ravaged humanity. Luckily, at that point human beings were still making the decisions, and they usually had days or hours, not minutes or seconds, in which to respond to events. While I was his student Gregory Bateson pointed out that there was a very real danger that our military experts, and those of our opponents, would analyze our nuclear "game theory" strategies AS THEY UNDERSTOOD THEM and then program these assumptions into computers, thereby transforming their perceptions into an inflexible reality. Serendipity has once again aided my research. My daughter had requested that I bring the DVD of the movie "WarGames" (1983) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0792838467/hip-20 ) with us to Orlando, so she could watch it on my laptop on the plane, and she did so on the return trip. Peeking over her shoulder, I was reminded of the movie's relevance to this column. In this extrapolation of then-current events, control the US nuclear arsenal is turned over to a supercomputer after missile silo crews prove unreliable in tests. A teenage boy with a modem hacks into the computer, exploiting a backdoor left open by the now-retired designer of the system. By accessing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program left in the computer, modeled after the designer's dead son, the teenager inadvertently triggers a "war game" that looks likely to culminate in World War Three. In the gripping climax the teenager and the designer manage to cajole the AI into playing a game of tic-tac-toe. The ranking military officer, unable to stop thinking in game-theory terms of finding a winning strategy, blurts out "Take the center square!" After a few games, they get the computer to play itself, and at CPU speeds it quickly determines the game is unwinnable. Following the analogy, the computer attempts to play out all possible nuclear war strategies, and ends up concluding: what a strange game the only winning move is not to play (Of course, if we ever hook up our missiles directly to computers I don't think we can count on an Artificial Intelligence with that much curiosity and wisdom saving us from ourselves.)

Money Games

The stock markets, bond markets, commodities markets, and indeed the entire domain of business in the global economy can be viewed as a set of interlocking Von Neumann "games" that allocate and sometimes redistribute resources and "wealth." It is a legitimate function of government (and in my extreme libertarian views, one of the few legitimate functions of government) to ensure that rules of the money games are fair. Much research has shown that the growth of material abundance in a nation is highly correlated with property rights which are codified in written law, stable, and justly enforced. For example, in the first graph in this paper from the website of the MacArthur Foundation, the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley: globetrotter.berkeley.edu/macarthur/inequality/papers/HoffPostCom-f.pdf economic growth for a number of nations is shown correlated with the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance (BEEPS) index, a measure of property rights and other governance factors by the World Bank Group. ( www.worldbank.org/wbi/governance/beepsinteractive.htm ) Once property rights are assured, the next step is closing loopholes and preventing fraud. The awesome "raw economic power" of the United States, and to lesser degree most of the developed nations, depends on this type of fairness. Insider trading, board packing, accounting scandals, antitrust violations, and many other recent headline-grabbing business misdeeds at companies like Enron, Worldcom, Global Crossing, Peregrine and Merrill Lynch are all about unfairness in the ways the money games are played. Even the criticisms of Michael Eisner and his current board of directors by just-resigned vice-chairman Roy E. Disney fall into this category. (As I write this Stanley Gold has also resigned the Disney board in protest!)

Simulation Games

As a teenager in the Presbyterian Church I attended weekly youth program meetings and three-times-a-year youth retreats. If memory served our retreats were held at Camp Wynola in Julian, California, ( www.campwynola.com ) which was threatened but ultimately not harmed by the catastrophic Cedars Fire last month. It was there that I first got a taste of "simulation games," educational experiences in game form. One of these was a game about discrimination and social injustice. We were formed into teams that competed at a simple negotiating game in which it was easier to win tokens if you already had more tokens than your opponent. (It was also easier to win if you lied.) After a few rounds referees reorganized the teams with the best players concentrated in one team. Of course that team began to win excessively. Next the referees decreed that the winning team could make rule changes. The began by skewing the rules so that it was even easier for them to win, but when the losing teams began to pool their tokens and give them to their most talented remaining players, the winning team changed the rules so that they simply always won. Of course the losers (of which I was one) were outraged. This game taught me more about the consequences of injustice than any textbook could. Many years later a coworker pointed me at the research of Leda Cosmides, especially her paper "The logic of social exchange: Has natural selection shaped how humans reason? Studies with the Wason selection task" ["Cognition," 31 (1989) 187-276], which confirmed that we learn and comprehend concepts of justice in social contracts at a very early age. I have been unable to find Cosmides' work on the web (though there are many, many citations) but I found a good summary in the article "Have auditors evolved?" by Martin G. Evans, Faculty of Management, University of Toronto, Canada. ( www.rotman.utoronto.ca/~evans/evol/acct.htm ) In a startling series of papers [Cosmides, 1989; Cosmides & Tooby, 1989, 1994] she has argued that humankind during its evolutionary period in the Pleistocene, some 20 million years, developed a built in "cheater detector." The argument is that in order to survive in an environment in which the availability of food and water was "lumpy" one needed to cooperate with others and that this cooperation entailed the sharing of food and water. Someone, or some clan, that was successful on one occasion would share with others; the others were expected to reciprocate when they got lucky. In the situation of reciprocal altruism, reproductive fitness would be enhanced for those members of the species who could detect (and punish) defection. In other words, if I did you a good turn, I needed to be aware if you failed to reciprocate. Those with this detection facility were less likely to die young and hence more likely to reproduce than those lacking the "cheater detector." The contemporary evidence for this remarkable assertion lies in a series of studies of that most mundane of psychological phenomena: logical reasoning. Since the development of the modern research program on reasoning (Johnson-Laird & Wason, 1970), there has been a good deal of controversy about the explanation for the context effect found in the Wason reasoning task. This task has been described best by Kirby (p 2): In Wason's four card selection task subjects are presented with four cards that are constrained to have instances from the sets P or not-P on one side and Q or not-Q on the other side. A conditional statement describes an alleged relation between the fronts and the backs of the cards: if a P is on one side of the card, then a Q is on the other. Subjects' task is to select which of the cards should be turned over to determine whether the conditional relation is true or false. ... subjects are usually considered in error when they fail to select the P or not-Q, or when they select the not-P or Q cards, which are logically incapable of violating the conditional. It is usual to find that when the task is represented simply as a logical syllogism few subjects (about 10%) solve the problem. When the task is given the trappings of a familiar situation, hit rates go to about 25%. However this result is not always found, and in some situations (e.g., (Griggs & Cox, 1982) "bar scene2" the hit rate can be as high as 75%. It was Cosmides' (1989) insight that showed that high hit rates were only found when the descriptive story had the trappings of a social contract (i.e., not being allowed to drink until one attained a certain age). Support and refinement of this position has come from (Gigerenzer & Hug, 1992) who established that it is not enough for the phrasing to be in terms of a social contract, there must be an attempt to violate this contract, rather than merely establish the existence of such a contract. In other words, our radar is more attuned to "cheaters" than just about anything else. In my late 20s I took a seminar called "Money and You" presented by enlightened business practices guru Marshall Thurber. ( www.metaquality.com/mtbio.htm ) It was a total immersion in the methodology of simulation games. For about 14 hours a day we spent 50 minutes learning followed by a 10 minute break, and almost never got tired. Each 50 minutes was divided into about 30 minutes of playing a simulation game followed by about 20 minutes of discussion of what we'd learned. It was fabulous. One of the games we played early on Marshall called "sharks and minnows," and it was a version of the Prisoner's Dilemma. At the beginning he broke us into small groups and announced that "high score wins." Each small group played only each other within the group. We thought and acted like we were playing as individuals. I have since learned that tournaments and computer simulations have verified that a long-term winning strategy is "tit for tat," where each turn you Cooperate or Defect based on what your opponent did last time. We learned this experimentally in this exercise, with a lot of angst involved, before finally stabilizing on an all-cooperation mode. The final round was for much higher stakes, and one of our group who had never Defected before did so, and "cleaned up" on points, much to outrage of the rest of us. After the game was over, Marshall totaled the points won in each GROUP, and announced the "winner" was the group with the highest total. Many people were chagrined. We learned experientially the meaning of changing the definition of the "unit of evolution," and we remembered it much better than if we'd read it in a book. It also made it clear to me why it is so important to create an overriding context for cooperation. A few months later I was invited along with some other "Money and You" graduates to an evening of gameplay, on the occasion of Marshall's organization testing some new games for possible addition to the seminar. One stuck with me: we were broken into two large teams, and each team was briefed on the rules separately. My team was taught how to play a simple negotiating game for tokens. (Shades of the youth retreat game!) We played with each other for a while to get the hang of it, and then we were turned loose on the other team. Things went awry immediately. Nobody would play, and after a few attempts to engage them, none of them would talk to us. We spent the rest of the game attempting to engage and being snubbed. In the post-game discussions, we discovered the other team had been given elaborate protocols for communication, including the importance of introducing strangers ton the tribal elders before any other communication could occur, on pain of excommunication. Of course with our totally different goals and values the two teams were unable to relate. I mentioned how Bateson once said that, from inside a culture there is no such thing as "outside the culture." This is why the Japanese viewed the first English explorers as untouchables, and why the other team in this game viewed us as unpardonably rude. I have become convinced that simulation games are one of the most powerful educational tools available. They were mostly introduced in the 1960s in paper and cardboard form, but now we have some computerized simulation games as well. In the minicomputer era there were text-based games that ran on teletypes (!) that ranged from Lunar Lander, with the challenge of gently landing without crashing too fast or running out of fuel, to Hammurabi, in which you were ruler of an ancient empire and had to manage agriculture and administer justice. But in the PC era, the grandaddy of simulation games in "Sim City," currently available as "Sim City 4 Deluxe Edition," ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000C0YW2/hip-20 ) though I still prefer the classic black-and-white game. ( search.ebay.com/search/search.dll?cgiurl=http%3A%2F%2Fcgi.ebay.com%2Fws%2F&krd=1&from=R8&MfcISAPICommand=GetResult&ht=1&SortProperty=MetaEndSort&query=sim+city+classic ) This game teaches many lessons. A review by Stewart Brand in the "Whole Earth Review" said (if memory serves) "now I know why there is never enough money for education." ( www.wholeearthmag.com/ ) The first time my wife played the game, she was up from about 10 PM until dawn's first light -- and she normally doesn't like computer games! She said it was like gardening: you zone, build infrastructure, and then see what grows. She later said she learned why light rail is so important to easing urban traffic. (She also blew up churches until she realized they weren't removing land from the tax base.) My friend Bruce Webster said the game taught him that power plants always have to be near water, and he began noticing that in the real world. In the early 1990s the city of Long Beach had a budget crisis, and I read that the city council was holed up on the top floor of the city's skyscraper "city hall" escaping from the problem by playing Sim City! (Like life imitating art, I was reminded of the diplomats playing "Diplomacy.") I still have an old Mac that runs the original game, and I sometimes build '"pocket cities" on an island: power plant, two or three industrial and residential zones, one commercial zone, some short power lines and a stub of road and rail. Then I would let it run untouched overnight, or even for a few days. When I checked it, I would find a huge budget surplus, a high approval rating, and citizens complaining about a shortage of jobs and housing. This reminded me of those mini-ecosystems in a glass bubble with red shrimp, algae and bacteria in seawater. (It also helps explain my fondness for government deadlocks and shutdowns.) In the early 1990s I met a man at a trade show who said he was the president of the company that sold Sim City. (Alas, I no longer remember his name or the name of his company. These days the game is developed and marketed by Electronic Arts.) ( simcity.ea.com/ ) He said they had big plans for a series of simulation games on a variety of topics. Later, Sim Earth came out and I found it to be a disappointment -- all choices seemed to lead to a few predetermined outcomes: eden or eco-collapse, in a heavy-handed (and inaccurate) attempt to promote ecological diversity. I still find myself thinking that the right simulation games could help us train better foresters, business managers and politicians. What if a presidential candidate had to disclose their Sim Nation score? These days the big hit in the "Sim" family is the blockbuster hit "The Sims" along with its numerous expansion packs, which is more or less an electronic dollhouse. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000C0YSB/hip-20 ) While I'm glad to see a game become a hit which is not a shoot-em-up, and which appeals to women, I find it is an unsatisfying divergence from the original vision of simulation games. (Another coincidence: I just received an email about "the Third Annual Government Convention on Emerging Technologies taking place January 7-9, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year the event focuses on Partnerships for Homeland Security. The Convention will break from the typical agenda in the afternoons to feature an interactive exercise that will engage participants in a Live Threat Simulation: Terrorex 2004. Attendees determine the outcomes through their decisions in response to mock incidents that will occur throughout the three-day event. By working together and utilizing the available technologies, participants are encouraged to find innovative solutions and test their skill to thwart and respond to the unfolding scenarios.")

New Games

"If life doesn't offer a game worth playing, then invent a new one." -- Anthony J. D'Angelo, 1997 "The College Blue Book" Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, decided in the 1970s that we need some new games. When I taught a student- directed-seminar at U.C. Santa Cruz on "Understanding Whole Systems" and Brand was a guest speaker he told the story. The Vietnam Veterans Against the War were having a gathering and asked Brand to arrange some entertainment. He reasoned that these soldiers-turned-pacifists needed some stress release, so invented a very violent but not harmful game he called "Slaughter." I don't remember the exact rules but it involved players on their knees trying to lift opponents off the ground or drag them out of bounds in order to "kill" them, while trying to score goals with multiple balls. It was a big hit. Later, Brand created a foundation to create, collect and teach new games. The results of their work is available in "The New Games Book" (1976) by the New Games Foundation, ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/038512516X/hip-20 ) and its sequel, "More New Games! And Playful Ideas from the New Games Foundation" (1981). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385175140/hip-20 ) Brand also told the story of one experimental game he played in which players were told that the center of the room was a dream, and when they touched the wall they woke up. A group of dreamers ended up dancing out of the room and everyone followed; they lost interest and went non to another game. He said he was still in the dream, since he'd never touched the wall. This helped me understand how games recontextualize our experience.

Games Versus Being Serious

"Daughter: ...People who cheat just don't know how to play. They treat a game as though it were serious." -- Gregory Bateson, 1953 "On Games and Being Serious" (a Metalogue) reprinted in "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" (1972) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0226039056/hip-20 ) When I worked for Rockwell International and we trying to win the space station construction contract, there was a lull in the work between our final proposal submission to NASA and the contract award two months later, so I was loaned to the Computer Aided Design (CAD) department because of my computer graphics experience, and asked to do a study on user interface advances. In my final report I recommended keeping an eye on computer game developments because I thought that was where the user interface was evolving fastest, and specifically recommended looking at Pinball Construction Set from Electronic Arts and Sundog from FTL Games for ideas (both of them still unrivaled in their innovation, in my opinion). I still remember watching my manager read my report, and hearing him chortle when he came to the part about the games. He thought I'd put it in as a joke, and when I insisted I was in earnest, he advised that I take it out or the whole report would be dismissed by upper management. This was not the first time I'd encountered this attitude (which seeks to boil down to "we are so 'serious' about achieving our goals that if we can be helped by innovations from a sphere of activity we view as 'frivolous' we will decline the support"), but it was one of the more jarring reminders that it can still prevail wherever millions of dollars are on the line. Indeed, I observed the minicomputer and later the PC being dismissed as "just a toy" by companies that later went out of business because the upstarts had taken their markets. Early computer graphics were rejected as being "just cartoons" a few years before they made optical special effects in movies obsolete. I don't know how many people noticed in the mid 1980s when video games exceeded theatrical films in revenue, but I sure did. I still find it disconcerting that comics are viewed by most Americans as "kid stuff" when they know better in Japan. I believe that medium is vastly underused, especially in the fields of technical documentation and defining software specifications. There are signs of improvements in attitudes; for years military leaders have complained that the situation rooms depicted in Hollywood movies like the 007 thriller "Doctor No" (1963) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004RG62/hip-20 ) and the afore-mentioned "WarGames" (1983) were better that the real displays they used to protect their citizens from attack, and in 2002 I heard a rumor that the new situation room at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) of the US defense department was designed by former Disney "Imagineers." ( www.nro.gov ) Of course, while some refuse to take games seriously, others are way too serious about games. After my first visit to a "meet" of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) at which players engage in mock medieval combat to determine royalty rank, I decided they were much too serious for my tastes, and have since attended Renaissance Faires instead whenever I was in then mood for some creative anachronism, and I've heard tales of marriages performed in Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) games. Last year when the superbowl was about to be held here in San Diego I took my morning walk past the "NFL Experience" pavilion as it was being set up, and saw stands selling $100 sweatshirts and $500 jackets with superbowl logos. I thought this might be a case of a game being taken too seriously. But I still laugh when I hear people deride the new combination PDA and cell phones as "toys," which I sure will soon displace PCs in many applications.

Meta Games

"You may knock your opponent down with the chessboard, but that does not prove that you are the better player." -- Source Unknown There are games that transcend games. Gregory Bateson liked to point out that the question, "Would you like to play chess?" is not a move in chess. But it can be a move in another, larger game. The Ingmar Bergman film "The Seventh Seal" (1958) had a man playing chess with Death for his life. (He lost.) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6305174083/hip-20 ) Somewhere -- I've forgotten now where -- I read of a metaphor for the universe in which God plays chess with Satan, but in a strange twist, God makes all the moves, and Stan simply introduces errors, which God must counter with more moves, and Satan introduces errors into these as well, and so on. In a sketch on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s, we see the screen of the old video game "Pong" as two young men are playing and talking at the same time. As one slowly reveals to the other that he's stolen his girlfriend, the other player becomes increasingly flustered and eventually loses. This is a classic example of the "meta game" called "one-upmanship" by Stephen Potter in his "Gamesmanship" series of books (1931 and later). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1559212233/hip-20 ) In the play "Rosencrantz & Guidenstern Are Dead" (1967) by Tom Stoppard ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802132758/hip-20 ) the two principles play an extended game of "pitch and toss" (betting on coin flips) and after an extremely extended run of heads conclude that they must be characters in a work of fiction. The game "matching pennies" described above is a game of pure strategy, and if you try to guess what your opponent is guessing about what you are guessing, and so on, you end up with a psychological "hall of mirrors" effect. Conventional wisdom holds that the best strategy is a random choice, breaking even on average, but of course if you can read your opponent's mind (or are playing a program you have source code for, or have correctly reverse-engineered) you could win 100% of the time. It make for an interesting challenge... Don Woods, co-creator (with Will Crowther) of the original "Colossal Cave" text-based adventure game, recommends a game called "Psychological JuJitsu," or "the Game of Pure Strategy," on his web site. ( www.icynic.com/~don/ ) I have played it, and found it fascinating. Children often beat adults. It resembles a game of matching pennies modulo 13. It also reminds me of the the "Foxholes Game" described by Martin Gardner in "Mathematical Magic Show" (1965), chapter three. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0394726235/hip-20 ) He describes it as a "simple, idealized war game that [Rufus] Isaacs uses to explain mixed military strategies to military personnel." The game is for a soldier to hide in one of five foxholes, labeled one through five, while a gunner fires at one of the gaps between foxholes, labeled A through D, like this: (1) A (2) B (3) C (4) D (5) If the gunner fires at a gap adjacent to the hole where the soldier hides, the gunner wins the round, otherwise the soldier wins the rounds. I recommend playing this game with someone -- it's less trivial than it appears. (Simply have each player write their move on a hidden piece of paper, then both reveal for each round. Record the score as hash marks. It makes a great travel game for kids.) The "guessing what your opponent is guessing about what you are guessing..." problem becomes particularly pronounced, leading to some nontrivial effects. Next month I will reveal the optimum strategy for each player. Of course, these strategy games still place in a confined "game universe" with a limited set of outcomes. The search for "open-ended" games has long been a quest of game lovers. It is the game analogy to the search for "open-ended evolution" described by Steven Levy in "Artificial Life: A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology" (1993). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679743898/hip-20 ) Successfully crafted "opened-ended" evolution simulations have recapitulated the evolution of parasites, and observed some effects seen in the fossil record, including mass extinction and punctuated equilibrium. It has been asserted that the appeal of jazz music lies in its open-ended nature. Through most of its history every few years someone has changed the rules. While attempting to watch the whole DVD box set of "Jazz -- A Film by Ken Burns" (2000), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004XQOU/hip-20 ) I came to understand that early jazz musicians played "big band" music for the tourists, and then got together in after-hours clubs and played improvisational jazz for their own amusement; it was music by and for musicians. Looking for similarities in game playing, besides the free-form "let's pretend" game of children, I have found that logician Douglas Hofstadter, of "Godel, Escher, Bach" fame (1979), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0465026567/hip-20 ) has recommended "Nomic: A Game of Self-Amendment" created by Peter Suber. ( www.earlham.edu/~peters/nomic.htm ) This game allows players to change the rules as they play. I've never tried it but I long to. It can certainly be played by email. I think it should be taught in law schools. In ruminating about lessons learned from the New Games experiments, Stewart Brand said what we need is a "theory of game change." Too many destructive games, like trench warfare, the nuclear arms race, religious Jihad, and the war on terror, have been played by humanity, possibly for lack of such a workable theory. I would add that we also need a "theory of game side effects." Even back in ancient Athens they knew that the value of the Olympics wasn't in precisely who won, but the side-effects of strengthening Athenian youth. Today we see basketball selecting players for height. Is this affecting human DNA? (After all, "Magic" Johnson said he had over 2000 sex partners.) My dad, a 50-year football fan, said recently, "It used to be big guys couldn't run. Now they can run." Is this evolution in action? I worry that some of our recent scandals, such as the Lakewood Spur Posse and the Kobe Bryant trial, are unintended side-effects of sports gone amok. Experiments with high schools without intramural sports have shown that academic performance improves and students clamor to get in. (Mind you, I'm not talking about eliminating them, just providing alternatives.) We also need a better understanding of the side-effects of our money games, and our war games. we already know from Gulf War One that video game players make better gunners. Are "Sega Virtua Racing" games producing better drivers? (And how come our arcades have better driving simulators than our high schools, which have mostly lost "drivers ed" programs in the last 20 years?) Can the pressure-sensitive interface of Konami's "Dance Dance Revolution" game be adapted to computer users and prevent carpal tunnel syndrome? ( www.seacoastonline.com/2002news/09022002/maine/22251.htm ) Let's see. In closing, let me quote the motto of the New Games Foundation: "Play Hard, Play Fair, Nobody Hurt." ======================================================================== newsletter archives: www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047 ======================================================================== Privacy Promise: Your email address will never be sold or given to others. You will receive only the e-Zine C3M unless you opt-in to receive occasional commercial offers directly from me, Alan Scrivener, by sending email to abs@well.com with the subject line "opt in" -- you can always opt out again with the subject line "opt out" -- by default you are opted out. To cancel the e-Zine entirely send the subject line "unsubscribe" to me. I receive a commission on everything you purchase during your session with Amazon.com after following one of my links, which helps to support my research. ======================================================================== Copyright 2003 by Alan B. Scrivener