Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Heroes of Self Concept

Within the infinity
Of games possible to play,

Among the myriad games
Humans have actually played,

Lie the behavioral games
Deployed for experiments.

Let’s take this one, for instance—
Virtual rolls of a die

By tapping a screen icon
Yield “lucky” or “unlucky”

Payouts according to what
The subject then self-reports.

The real game is honesty.
Although the names aren’t attached,

Rolls and claims are tracked and matched.
Who reports the roll they got?

One in five. Who flat-out lies?
One in ten. Who rolls again

And again until they score
A bit more than they first earned?

One in a dozen—that’s them,
The “morally disengaged,”

Or the “sub-maximizers,”
Or the “cheating non-liars,”

All the rationalizers,
Not “radically dishonest,”

Who played by the rules but fudged,
Who gave their chafed souls an out,

Protecting their self-respect,
The heroes of “self concept.”

The whole scenario’s weird,
As Joe Henrich might point out,

And let’s note heroes are rare—
Bald liars and rule minders

Kant could cheer are more common
Within the fractious breakdown.

But what’s going on in there?
Why this tranche willing to hang

As lambs but not get caught out
As grown sheep in wolf’s clothing?

I say they love the game most,
Respect it most, who only

Cheat just a bit—they believe
More devoutly in the game,

Understand’s the point to win,
And, if caught, to truly claim

They just intended to bend
The beloved, not break them.

Mere animals crave payout.
The fearfully scrupulous

Desire to be let to stay
On the team, pat on the head.

But the liars to themselves
Believe rules and games are real.

Somewhere amidst that breakdown,
There must be half-humans, too,

Who wouldn’t mind a payout,
Don’t care to win any game,

And only observe the rules
At all, if in part, because

They know just how dangerous
Wholly human games can get.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.