Moloch

Moloch is the personification the forces that coerce competing individuals to take actions which, although locally optimal, ultimately lead to situations where everyone is worse off. Moreover, no individual is able to unilaterally break out of the dynamic. The situation is a bad Nash equilibrium. A trap.

One example of a Molochian dynamic is a Red Queen race between scientists who must continually spend more time writing grant applications just to keep up with their peers doing the same. Through unavoidable competition, they have all lost time while not ending up with any more grant money. And any scientist who unilaterally tried to not engage in the competition would soon be replaced by one who still does. If they all promised to cap their grant writing time, everyone would face an incentive to defect.

The topic of Moloch receives a formal treatment in the sequence Inadequate Equilibria, particularly in the chapter Moloch's Toolbox.(Read More)

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