Zero-sum competition drives growth of non-zero sum
Added on 29 Apr 2017
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The CEO's of two competing corporations are often playing an essentially zero-sum-game. If they are going for the same market, if one of them wins, that means the other loses. But to play that zero-sum game effectively, they have to orchestrate within their corporation these non-zero-sum games. They have to get their workers to collaborate in an effective way, using the latest technology, to create a corporation that in some ways is like a giant social organism, you could say.
So the zero-sum competition drives the growth in non-zero-sum ones, and it has long been this way. So when two chiefdoms or two ancient states would compete or whatever, the way to succeed in the competition was to help people within their organisation collaborate more effectively. And that doesn't mean that there are no zero-sum games within those organisations; there are: there are rivalries, there is exploitation and all of that. But still, fundamentally to succeed in these zero-sum games you need to be good at the non-zero-sum games.
And that actually, you mentioned Darwin, that's true with the biological organisation as well. The organisms that are favoured by natural selection could be described as organisations within which there are non-zero-sum game dynamics among the cells, among the organs. So a given individual is in a way a bunch of cells playing a non-zero-sum game with one another, because they have 'a common interest'. Not that they think about it, but because they share the same DNA, getting the DNA into the next generation is in a certain sense a common goal.
So in biological evolution and cultural evolution, in a way you have the same fundamental dynamic: that yes, there is zero-sum-games competition, but that competition drives the system to create new forms of non-zero-sum collaboration.

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