ben as game theorist

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ben as game theorist

Post by retroactiveman on Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:52 pm

I posted this on the old website, and it seems that many of the same people are over here, but if not here it is to bore everybody again:

"Survival is a contingent fact over which there is choice, and that choice is exercised in favor of survival (rather than the creation of a Ďsuicide club.í The basic contingencies of life furnish Ďa common element in the law and convential morality of all societies.í" HLA Hart.

Bottom line: genre dictates how episodes are conceived. The result being characters are wrapped up in themselves, episodes are wrapped up around a character.

For example, this means we get eggtown, where Kate, whose name ties her to the 19th century jurisprude Aust(i)n, with an episode all about the law (and the sovereign, ie Kate, with respect to the law); or we get an episode about HUME that focuses on cause and effect (or where Hume's radical doubt [failure to press the button] sinks the ship of philosophy...anybody up for the Humean challenge?)

In this vein who is the many named Ben supposed to be. He is not one person, but a specific type of person...a game theorist.

What does this mean?

Realizing that Benís character is game theorist suggests a) Penelope Widmoreís contemplated death is not the product of revenge, and b) considering Benís character as game theorist means necessarily that Penny must be an obstacle.

Game theory is the study of the ways in which strategic interactions among rational players produce outcomes with respect to the preferences of those players, none of which might have been intended by any of them.

Are Ben and Widmore playing a game? I think that itís safe to say that Ben and Widmore are playing gamesóthey both want some kind of payoff that appears to be un-sharable, but Iím not sure that they are playing the same game. Playing the same game would require all participants to have a set of all possible moves from which all participants could possibly make. Ben and
Widmore may be playing by the same rules, or they might not be.

What we know is that Ben characterizes Keamyís behavior as rule changing; Widmore imputes Ben as responsible for Alexís death. This disagreement would suggest that they are not playing by the same rules (or might not be talking about the same death).

Widmore is raw, ugly capitalism. Ben is the game theorist. He is the actor trading on peopleís preferences, and basing his future action in line with his perfect information of their preferences (he knew Keamy was a killer, Keamy killed, would anybody especially Ben be surprised by this result.)

Why would Ben, in unilaterally claiming that Widmore has changed a rule, impose a rule framework when that imposition would seem to impose additional constraints on his behavior?

Because through a framework of rules he procures both justification in seeking the death of Penelope as well as authority among the coalition he his assembling to mount this attack.

As Hobbes pointed out, the fundamental justification for coercive authority is peoplesí own need to protect themselves from social dilemmas, as a world devoid of authority consistently offers only bad choices, less than optimal utility. Id. The offer of protection plays out as an offer of a logical choice between two options. People, for various individual reasons will choose the option that will bring them the greatest utility (whether or not this utility actually plays out).

Here, both options are monstrous, but the human monster is of the daughter slaughtering variety. Ben also demonstrates that he also can distribute justice through the smoke monster; which would help people realize the benefit of cooperation or risk punishment by the Leviathan.

With Sayid, Ben is able to promise the possibility of justice for his wifeís death which is the preference of Sayidís tortured soul. Widmoreís agents have violated the same rule with respect to both of them.

The rules Ben plays by, the good guys rules, give Ben his new coalition on the island, his target (Penelope, stylized as retributive justice for the rule changing crime), and his agent to take the shot Sayid. In waging war against the epitome of capitalism, maybe war must be waged this way.

In short, Ben is given authority through scrupulous game playing.

Given that Ben is a game theorist, it would make absolutely no sense to have Penelopeís murder be mere blood lust. Benís target is the island. Benís and Widmoreís exchange (youíll never find the island, nor will you) suggest that the island is still what they are after.

Because the island is Benís problem this problem needs a rational solution.

Penny's role with respect to the island will become critical, which will necessitate her death. (Just as a side note, it would make sense to have Desmond Hume the philosopher fall in love with Ďthe economistí of a free market economy.)

Lost is not a game. But Ben plays games. The overwhelming gamey taste this episode had paints his character, tells us who he is, who he is supposed to be, and who he will be in the future. While this game is a big game, it is the game of one small manís life, living it so.

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Re: ben as game theorist

Post by Caged_Faraday on Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:32 pm


Well... I can't say Locke's spiritual journey is my... primary interest.

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