Nov 08, 2018

Jordan Peterson on hockey & iterated games

Jordan Peterson interviewed by Sam Harris (a):

Peterson: It's like Piaget's notion that children, when they first come together to learn a game, if they're young enough, they can play the game when they're together.

But if you take out of the game and ask them about the rules, they give widely disparate accounts.

So, they've got the procedure in place but they haven't got the episodic representation, technically speaking. It's only once they've become more linguistically sophisticated that they can come up with a coherent representation of the rules.

And then it's only later, when they start to construe themselves not merely as followers of the rules but also as originators of the rules (and that's akin to the relationship of constructed individuality in relationship to the state)...

Can I tell you just a two-minute story?

Harris: Sure.

Peterson: So one time I was at the hockey rink with my son. He was young; he was about twelve. And they were playing this championship game in this little league that they had.

My son was a pretty good hockey player, but there was a kid on the team who was better than him, who was kind of a star. But he was a diva, y'know?

Even though he would score goals and all of that, he wouldn't pass. He wasn't facilitating the development of any of the other team members.

Anyways, we watched this game. It was very close; it was a very exciting game. In the final few minutes of the last period, the other team scored. My son's team (the star's team) lost.

The teams went off the ice, and the diva kid smashed his stick on the cement and started to complain bitterly about how unfair the game is.

Then his idiot father came running up to him and told him how unfair the refereeing had been and how catastrophic all of that was.

I thought it was one of the most heinous displays of poor parenting that I had ever seen.

Now, there's a moral of that story. This kid was very good at playing hockey. But he wasn't very good at being a good player.

And so you always tell your kids – "doesn't matter if you win or lose, it matters how you play the game." And of course you don't know what that means, and neither does the kid. It's often a mystery to the kid what that means because obviously [they're] trying to win.

But imagine it this way. Imagine that the goal of life isn't to win the game. The goal of human life, in some sense, is to win the set of all possible games.

In order to win the set of all possible games, you don't need to win any particular game. You have to play in a manner that ensures that you'll be invited to play more & more games.

And so when you tell your children to be good sports, to play properly, what you mean is "play to win, but play to win in such a way that people in your team are happy to play with you, and people on the other teams are happy to play with you, so you keep getting invited to games."

See also Carse: 1, 2

The above, along with some Ravikant advice, basically explains how I think about building relationships.

If you're a person who enjoys thinking about stuff and wants to play iterated games with me, do get in touch!