Life Game Theory --- All-Pay Auction

Experienced happiness refers to your feelings, to how happy you are as you live your life. In contrast, the satisfaction of the remembering self refers to your feelings when you think about your life—-Daniel Kahneman

Suppose I offer a reward of $100 and let two friends, James and John, bid in turn. They can increase the bid by $1 each time. The highest bidder will get the money. What will happen? If my two friends are reasonably rational, the bid will eventually be at $100.

Let’s alter one aspect of the game. With the other conditions the same, if the loser also pays his last bid, what will happen? Pandora’s box is now open.

It is not hard to find such game in life that regardless of winning or losing players have to pay. It is called All-Pay Auction.

All-Pay Auction: In economics and game theory, an all-pay auction is an auction in which every bidder must pay regardless of whether they win the prize, which is awarded to the highest bidder as in a conventional auction. [Wikepidiea]

Economics Prof. Avinash Dixit at Princeton University used to do an experiment for the last class of his game theory course. He offered $20 to the student who kept applauding continuously the longest. Most students dropped out within the first 15 or 20 minutes, but a few remained clapping for absurdly long periods. The record to date is that three students applauded for 4.5 hours continuously. He coined ‘Applause Action’ from the experiment. It is an all-pay auction where all bidders pay their bids, win or lose. The bidding currency is applause. For all the losers it is merely a complete waste of time.

Back to the $100 game at the beginning, will the game stop at $100? No. If James bids $100, then John should bid $101 because a loss of $1 is certainly better than $99. Unfortunately, this logic goes for both participants. The game will continue, and each bid will increase the cost of failure. Hypothetically, the auction will not stop until one of them goes bankrupt.

All-pay auctions, in reality, are paid more tragically, presidential elections, such as the arms race, political lobbying, athletes training for medals at the Olympic games, sacrificing time with family to climb the corporate ladder, contestants for lucrative contracts, and so on.

To pay for life, to win, often leads to tragic results. Time is irreversible. Once involved in such game, every step has a strong reason to increase bets. Even if you win finally, the reward and payment may be disproportionate. Winners are also losers.

Abandoning me, yesterday has gone unstoppably. [translated from an ancient Chinese poem]

With limited lifetime, how should we cope with the all-pay auction? There are four ways out:

  1. Do not participate. The Nash equilibrium of such games, as Avinash Dixit said, the more people involved, the average bet per person should tend to be 0. In reality, it is the best not to bet at the beginning.

  2. If you have to be in the game, then set a price below the reward and only bet once: win or quit. Don’t append bets. Don’t participate in multi-round auction game.

  3. If participating in several rounds is unavoidable, adjust your subjective payoff of the game. In other words, redefine the reward for yourself. After all, different people value things differently. The key is that you have convinced yourself that the reward deserves the payment.

  4. Enjoy the process. If you can not be a renowned pianist, you can at least enjoy practicing piano.

There is no perfect answer to this problem. But the following may be helpful:

What makes people happy? Real question does not have the answer but only trade-off. I may be mumbling here. Enjoy the game and be happy!


Why do we travel?

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.—–Saint Augustine

Why you should travel? The answer will be different for different people.

Innovation is to make all sorts of things together.

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.

I can’t avoid the weakness of human being as I am one of them. But I try to get broader samples and be less biased. I am afraid that I only read one page of the book of world and claim it is the world. Reading and traveling have been updating my perspective. I pray that tomorrow I will be less stupid than today!

The list can go on and on….Then why travel? Because I can and I want to. There is Chinese saying:

It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.

I want to do both. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Now, take some books, go pack and get the ball rolling!

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生命不能承受之轻(The Unbearable Lightness of Being)

昆德拉作品最吸引我的就是其中的哲思化倾向,他的作品始终呈现一种严肃而又戏虐的面貌,这构成了其独特的个人风格。 这从他小说充满哲学味的标题也可以大致看得出来,如“玩笑”、“生活在别处”、“为了告别的聚会”、“笑忘录”、“生命中不能承受之轻”、 “不朽”、“缓慢”、“身份”、“无知”等等。


“许多朋友劝我放弃《不能承受的存在之轻》 (《The Unbearable Lightness of Being》)这个书名,难道我就不能至少删去“存在”(Being)一词吗?译者在碰到这个词时, 都倾向于用更朴实些的表达予以替换:‘生存’(existence),‘生活’(life),‘状况’(condition)等等”。在昆德拉看来,存在不是一个具体的东西, 而是一个形而上的追问,类似哈姆雷特“生存还是死亡(to be or not to be)” 的追问。

“最沉重的负担压迫着我们,让我们屈服于它,把我们压倒地上。但在历代的爱情诗中,女人总渴望承受一个男性身体的重量。 于是,最沉重的负担同时也成了最强盛的生命力的影像。负担越重,我们的生命越贴近大地,它就越真切实在。相反,当负担完全缺失, 人就会变得比空气还轻,就会飘起来,就会远离大地和地上的生命,人也就只是一个半真的存在,其运动也会变得自由而没有意义。 那么,到底选择什么?是重还是轻?[The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?] ”

故事以风流多情的离婚外科医生托马斯和因此长期备受煎熬的特丽莎的感情为主线,托马斯和情人萨宾娜, 萨宾娜和她的爱慕者法国教授弗兰茨之间的关系为辅线,在1968年布拉格之春运动发生以及之后苏联入侵的时代大背景下展开。 书中主人公托马斯正是这关于存在的问题的代询人。

在离婚之后遇到特丽莎之前,托马斯的生活是愉快自在的,婚姻对他来说是一种责任的束缚,阻碍了他体会生命的快感, 在无数的”性友谊“中,他获得了美好的生命之轻。特丽莎的闯入打破了托马斯的自由,她像是


特丽莎紧紧握住托马斯的手使他感到了久违的生命的责任和重量,并体会到了其中的美好,可是他又不愿意放弃多年来的“自由”。 这种内心的矛盾恐怕很多人都不陌生。此后托马斯一直在爱恋特里莎和追求自由之间徘徊。对于托马斯来说独居还是与特丽莎结合, 并不是一个简单的爱情问题,而是关涉到他对存在的理解。“一定要这样么?(Must it be?)”这个问题在书中重复出现, 这是托马斯纠结的问题,这个问题取自贝多芬的弦乐四重奏(Beethoven’s String Quartet no. 16)。

“The String Quartet No. 16 in F major, op. 135, by Ludwig van Beethoven was written in October 1826 and was the last major work he completed. Only the final movement of the Quartet op. 130, written as a replacement for the Große Fuge, was composed later. The op. 135 quartet was premiered by the Schuppanzigh Quartet in March 1828, one year after Beethoven’s death. The work is more lighthearted and is on a smaller scale than the other late quartets. Under the introductory slow chords in the last movement Beethoven wrote in the manuscript “Muß es sein?” (Must it be?) to which he responds, with the faster main theme of the movement, “Es muß sein!” (It must be!). The whole movement is headed “Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß” (“The Difficult Decision”).” —— from Wikipedia under ‘String Quartet No. 16 (Beethoven)’

七年之后特丽莎终于在托马斯的举棋不定的感情下出走,将托马斯重又置于自由之身,使其身上的重负突然间释放, 甚至感到悲伤过后的美好,托马斯嗅到了愉悦的生命之轻。不知道是否是上帝的玩笑,在和特丽莎相处的过程中, 托马斯已经渐渐学会感受对方的痛苦,他已经适应了那种责任带来的沉重。我想这份沉重给托马斯以生命的价值感。

我们在生活中的一言一行无不反映着我们赋予生活的意义。托马斯之前对轻的坚持源于他对生命意义的忽略, 可以说他只是想活在当下,并不想意义的问题。而特丽莎的出现改变了这一点,特丽莎不仅仅是托马斯的责任, 更是他生命意义的载体。他终于明白,自己再也不可能回到从前虚无缥缈的生命了。他回到了布拉格, 追回了特里萨,最终托马斯选择了“非这样不可((It must be!),选择接受生命的重量。 如贝多芬在弦乐四重奏手稿中写下的,这是”那个困难的决定(The Difficult Decision)”。 对于任何一个人,在生命中找到这样一个意义的载体,选择去承受该意义赋予的重量,都是一个困难而重要的决定,这不仅仅限于爱情。

而特丽莎呢,认真是她一直以来的行为方式,认真让她感到沉重。在托马斯不断地在轻与重之间游走抉择的时候, 特丽莎认真的生活态度始她陷入痛苦的绝境。特丽莎也尝试着去接受托马斯的存在哲学。 当她终于无法忍受托马斯在肉体上的背叛,她开始了向轻的试探,和一个工程师发生了关系, 可这次行为只给她带来了更深的痛苦,更重的负担。她永远背负沉重的负担,而这沉重恰恰也是对托马斯的一种吸引。

从另一个角度,可以说他们的每个决定,生命的轨迹受着许多其它因素的影响:爱情的任性,政治环境, 以及各种偶然和巧合。故事发生的时代背景是沉重的,人们的自由受到极大的限制, 主人公职业生涯和个人生活都受到政府的掌控。你可以选择逃离这样的国家,但那些试图逃离的人比那些留下来的人一定更自由么? 即使身体逃离了,但是精神上和家乡的纽带却难以斩断。除了身体的逃离之外,还有精神的逃离, 也就是昆德拉反复提到的“媚俗(kitsch)”,美国参议院对孩子的微笑,与布拉格广场上的游行, 歌唱都是媚俗,试图掩盖国家真实的现状。而像特丽莎这样的人,依旧坚持用照片揭示苏联入侵下的真实国家。 这是一种沉重的行为。政治媚俗,是昆德拉批判的一个重点。如昆德拉所说:“政治并不产生媚俗,但它需要媚俗。 任何政治运动都以媚俗,以迷惑他人的愿望为基础。…… 媚俗是所有政客的美学理想,也是所有政客党派和政治活动的美学理想。” 关于“媚俗”,之后有时间我还是要用新的篇幅进行更好的梳理。

如我在之前的读书笔记中所说,昆德拉的作品围绕着人生中几乎不可避免的普遍冲突: 灵魂与肉体,沦丧与救赎,媚俗与拒斥、流亡与回归、永恒与遗忘,最重要的是自由意志和宿命。 他直指现代社会人类生存的困境,但他并不给出答案,而是引起我们的思考。最终,我们还是要找到自己的答案。 这也是我喜欢昆德拉的地方,不是为了答案,而是为了问题。“我思故我在”,或许这就是存在(being)。

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The alien life in which she had become involved was a life without shame, without biographical specifications, without past or future, without obligations; it was a life that was extraordinary free. The girl, as a hitchhiker, could do anything: everything was permitted to her; she could say, do, and feel whatever she liked.
Perhaps I want to resist necessity. To trip up causality. To throw off the predictability of the world’s course through the whimsicality of caprice.









Nothing in this novel stays a secret exclusive to two persons; everyone seems to live inside an enormous resonating seashell where every whispered word reverberates, swells, into multiple and unending echoes. When I was small, people would tell me that if I set a shell against my ear I would hear the immemorial murmur of the sea.

Has mankind always lived inside such a resonating shell, without realizing it?

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  • 梅诗金公爵:纯洁,高尚,富有同情心,体谅一切人间疾苦因此显得和社会格格不入
  • 罗果仁:杀气腾腾,他的存在仿佛恶之花的绽放,因为梅诗金公爵对他的宽恕和容忍与其本身的恶形成对比,反而更加憎恨公爵。
  • 娜斯塔霞:美丽,轻浮,内心深处却又善良。
  • 叶班钦将军:成功又是传统的家庭型男人,白开水一样的人,平淡,寡味,但适合过日子。有作死到不行的老婆和女儿,他这样的性格对家庭的维系至关重要
  • 安格拉雅:将军的最小的女儿,美貌幼稚,对家人的期待有很强的叛逆心理,典型的不作死就不会死的角色,一会绿茶婊,一会圣母婊,关于安格拉雅的部分是我最想跳过的,但因为其何主人公关系密切,又跳不过
  • 加尼亚:想要金钱又想要爱情,但却悲剧性的面临无法两全的境地,最后将一切矛头指向他那个死要面子,不切实际的父亲——伊沃尔金
  • 伊沃尔金:加尼亚的父亲,一个自私病态的角色,沉浸在昔日的辉煌中无法自拔,逢人便夸夸其谈讲述许多臆想出来的往日辉煌,除了关心自己外对家庭没有丝毫责任感
  • 列别杰夫:谄媚者,溜须拍马人格,毫无道德感可言,也是一个具有病态的丑恶角色。
  • 读完全书可以感觉到,陀将孩子看成美好灵魂的载体,这一孩子气的纯真是成年人失去的。书中为数不多的几个正面形象中,有两个都是孩子:加尼亚的弟弟郭力亚,一个忠实,正直的男孩;薇拉(列别杰夫的女儿)和她的父亲截然不同,她富有同情心,温柔的甚至有些软弱。至于公爵本身,也是和孩子一般,天真、诚实,极其容易信任周围的人,即使受到伤害也很容易就宽恕对方。即使是个成年人,但他保存了很多孩子的特质。我觉得这一点和娜斯塔霞的红颜薄命一样,有点陈词滥调。

    掩卷而思,这样一本近600页的小说除了是一个悲剧性的故事之外还有什么?小说中有一幅画多次出现,是书中角色罗果仁家的一副临摹霍尔拜因(Hans Holbein)在1521年创作的《基督在棺中(The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb)》,陀曾经在巴塞尔看过这幅画,留下极深的印象。这幅作品画的是刚刚从十字架上被取下来的基督那扭曲,折磨致死的尸体,其表明了一个神圣的灵魂在罪恶的人世间无法存在。这就是作者设计一个悲剧性结果的寓意么?我觉得不是这样的。因为作者同样描述了书中那些芸芸众生各种“矛盾”的心理,让人感觉到即使再卑鄙的人,也不全是恶的,时不时脑子里也还存有一丝善念,也会偶尔真心忏悔。我想陀希望突出的不仅仅是像公爵这样悲剧性富有同情心的高尚角色,对于那些灵魂堕落的角色,作者也时不时解开帘幕一角,稍纵即逝一瞥这些自私虚伪嘴脸背后善犹存的爱、友情、同情甚至是自尊。在人类种种行为背后有某种救赎的力量给人以希望,我觉得陀思妥耶夫斯基最根处还是乐观的。






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