Previously, Peter Hipwell at HCRC/Centre for Cognitive Science, University of
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com
(Rev. Ivan Stang) writes:
>What's this thread about? Some people were funny. Others didn't get it,
>got bent out of shape. Goes with the territory. Better get used to it. The
>ones who don't like the heat will eventually get out of the kitchen. I
>already know who's gonna have the staying power, the grit, the
>determination, the PURE SUBGENIUS OBNOXIOUSNESS. But I must not cheat fate
>by dictating it from here, on high, upon my great throne of
>all-encompassing SubGenius power!!
Well, let's have a look-see at this PURE SUBGENIUS OBNOXIOUSNESS with
the aid of a parable from REAL LIFE (remember that?). I'll just call it:
Perhaps some of you have heard of the DOLLAR AUCTION. The invention of
this is generally credited to Martin Shubik of RAND in 1971.
The rules to this are simple. Someone in a group of people announces
that they're going to "auction a dollar". It's not a normal auction:
the highest bidder pays their bid and gets the dollar. The second
highest bidder pays their bid and gets nothing.
A typical outcome is that the dollar gets sold for something between
three and five dollars.
At the start, the bidders realize they can make a profit -- and if
they come second, they're only going to lose a few cents. So it starts
off at a couple of cents, gradually escalates higher and higher little
by little... when someone gets to 99c, there will be someone close
behind who's going to lose NEARLY A DOLLAR. BUT -- if the second
highest bidder now bids $1 and wins, they lose nothing. BUT -- if they
do that, then the 99c guy can bid $1.01 -- if they win, the loss is
only one cent. And so they keep leapfrogging, REFUSING TO CUT THEIR
LOSSES ALL THE WAY, until one of them ends up paying FAR MORE than
they would have done if they'd accepted losing NEARLY a dollar earlier
on. THE AUCTIONEER WINS.
People have taken this charming REAL LIFE PARABLE and applied it to
situations such as refusing to turn off bad TV programmes because
you've already watched so much of it you might as well see how it
ends, prolonged strikes, architectural design competitions, patent
races, repairing an old car, waiting for buses, staying in a bad job,
the American justification of the Vietnam War, Saddam Hussein's
justification of the Gulf War, territorial animal struggles, the arms
race, the invention of the Nuke, etc. etc. etc.
And I'm applying it to PURE SUBGENIUS OBNOXIOUSNESS, which, I would
claim, is just the sign of an idiot who doesn't want to "LOSE", and
would end up forking out HUNDREDS just over a SINGLE DOLLAR. Any time
an argument here bloats into a monster thread, I think of the dollar
auction. That's why you'll rarely see me bidding high.
Actually, now I come to think of it, an idiot who forks out HUNDREDS
over a SINGLE DOLLAR is IDEAL for the Church. Maybe I'm in the wrong
[I got most of this from William Poundstone's book "Prisoner's
Dilemma", which is mostly about Von Neumann (the guy that basically
invented the device you are using right now), Game Theory and RAND and
has lots and lots of spiffy brain food, e.g. "One semi-serious RAND
idea was Californium bullets. Each bullet is a barely subcritical mass
of the highly fissile isotope. Pop one into a heavily shielded,
long-range rifle, and when the bullet hits the target, it explodes
with the force of tons of TNT."]
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