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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, January 30, 2004
    The Infinite Game
     
    Finished Stewart Brand's The Clock of the Long Now - Time and Responsibility tonight, musing on life as either a finite, or infinite game...

    FINITE GAME
    The purpose is to win
    Improves through fittest surviving
    Winners exclude losers
    Winner takes all
    Aims are identical
    Relative simplicity
    Rules fixed in advance
    Rules resemble debating contests
    Compete for mature markets
    Short-term decisive contests

    INFINITE GAME
    The purpose is to improve the game
    Improves through games evolving
    Winners teach losers better plays
    Winning widely shared
    Aims are diverse
    Relative complexity
    Rules changed by agreement
    Rules resemble grammar of original utterances
    Grow new markets
    Long term

    The idea comes from James P Carse, who suggests that football, elections, and much of business are finite games: win/lose. Infinite games would include family, gardening, and spiritual practice (though Christian Zionism, for one, seems to confuse that). Finite players seek to control the future; infinite players arrange things so the future keeps providing surprises. Death-defying finite players seek immortality through their famous victories; infinite players "offer their death as a way of continuing the play - they do not play for their own life, they live for their own play."

    So... break out from the finite, stultifying political traumas of the day; explore the infinite. Taking the infinite view means I'll be making myself scarce between three and five tomorrow, well away from the radio, as the loathed Anfield derby plays itself out...