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Examples of positive-sum(ish) games?

by NicholasKross1 min read10th Oct 20201 comment


World Modeling

How many positive-sum(ish) games, or PSIGs, exist? 

For discussion, I'll be using a broader definition than normally used of positive-sum games:

  • Someone invents a magic free energy machine that outputs energy from nothing, breaking the laws of thermodynamics == PSIG
  • Two people cooperating to extract a resource from an otherwise barren asteroid == PSIG
  • Two people cooperating to steal a resource from other people != PSIG
  • Two people cooperating to play a zero-sum game against other people, each profiting more than they would have playing individually != PSIG
  • Anything where the negative externalities outweigh the positive externalities != PSIG

Hopefully this gives an idea of what kinds of examples I'm looking for.

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My intuition is that there are an (effectively) infinite number of ways that people can cooperate to their mutual benefit above which they can achieve alone. This is true on the individual-level such as two people building a shelter. It’s also true on the level of societies where economies generate wealth and value.

On a more physics-level, potentially fusion? I mean you’re giving up mass for energy, but I suppose that would depend on your definition of a game. My view on games is that this wouldn’t apply, as there are no players, but I’d also include your magic free energy machine in that. Games require at least one player.

A zero-player game is more of a system. Whether it is positive value generating really depends on what your parameters are. After all in some respects f(x) = x + 1 would be a positive-sum system.

If you’re talking energy as your system, then dark (vacuum) energy would be positive-sum. If you’re concerned about flour, then a watermill would be. Information products, such as software produce way more value than they take to create.

It really all depends on your definition and context.