The infinite game – Newsbook

Chess Puzzles

In finite games, like soccer or chess, the players are known, the rules are established, and the end-point is clear. The winners and losers are easily acknowledged.

In infinite games, like business or politics (or life itself), the players come and go, the rules are variable, and there is no demarcated end-point. I know what youre thinking: business does have an end-point it is being ahead of competition. Likewise, politics does have an end-point it is being elected. Is that the end-point of the game?

Simon Sinek claims that in the case of business you cannot reach pole position and consider it as the end. If you struggle to achieve a goal, say being first in your field, and just that, your business will tend to lag behind in innovation, discretionary effort, morale and ultimately performance. Your success is short-lived and not long lasting.

The same applies to politics. If a party aims at exclusively winning elections, the aftermath is gloomy. It is as if you pass an exam and then forget everything you have studied relegating it to the past. What an election should mean is a transition from a potential to a kinetic vision. It is indeed a continuous game, resembling life itself.

Muscat used a finite game strategy. He had declared that he did not want to stay on as prime minister for more than ten years, a term he didnt manage to complete anyway for reasons independent of his will. The point here is that he applied finite rules to his political game. For instance, he had a roadmap. Again finite. Using two main finite moneymaking strategies construction and passport sale. He must have definitely known that these would not last for very long. What was important for him was that these two strategies would work for the period during which he would be in office. It was a swift way to secure affluence. Whilst this strategy worked for a brief period defiling our landscape and reputation in the process it started decelerating. Mainly, but not solely, because it was reaching its limit. This fact must have been secondary to him because he knew he could opt to be out of office by when the trickle would end. The partys and/or countrys permanence in the game was unimportant.

Wise politicians consider themselves to be as good as their last one. That is why their last one has to be good if they want to succeed. Success, from their point of view, lasts for as long as they are in office, but the game itself is infinite. This means that it becomes more and more important to stay in the game since one can never end it. Ones success is then recognised in ones legacy to the game. Winning an election is just a milestone, not an end-point. After one wins an election, the game just carries on, on a different level. The policies implemented at that level will determine the future of the whole nation. Its direction. Its stability. Its reputation.

It is very short-sighted and immature to apply a finite game strategy to an infinite game like governing a party or a country. Applied to the economy, a finite game strategy may result in a boom to bust cycle. Whilst by applying, the infinite game rules there would be, perhaps, fewer financial achievements over a short span of time, but there would be no self-inflicted bust cycle. No reputational issues that would prejudice future success. No concern over greylisting and bank correspondence, for example. No irreparable damage to the urban and natural landscape. (Im deliberately excluding corruption from my argument)

The passport scheme appears to be an example of this finite game strategy. The philosophy behind it was Carpe diem. Make loads in a very short timeframe. Whilst, by considering the broader picture, through applying infinite game rules, Malta would have made less dough perhaps, but it would not have destroyed its reputation, prejudicing its future participation in the game. More modest but longer-lasting wealth is wiser than a short-lived boom. Even though the distribution of the latter still puzzles me, since it did not reach the needy.

Michio Kaku explains how the American H-1B Visa is the secret weapon used to keep industry, the economy and innovation afloat. It is parallel to our passport scheme but it hunts talent, not bank accounts.

Could we use our passport scheme to attract brilliant minds? Persons who would give us long-lasting value-added by developing our academia, our industry, our services? Reasonably, Malta would not reap the financial benefits immediately, but such a system would certainly help in guaranteeing a longer period of stability and growth. A less loaded, but definitely niftier and more reputable, Malta. This is what it means to have economic sustainability. Inelegantly plagiarising Fearnes metaphor, I would say we need a river not a tsunami of wealth.

So be it economy or be it politics the ability to adopt an infinite game mindset is a prerequisite for any leader who aspires to leave their party (or their country) in better shape than they found it. Probably, the key to success at this infinite game is adaptableness. Is the PN ready to play this infinite game?

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The infinite game - Newsbook

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