Saturday, December 15, 2007

Games Indians play...

During one of my regular hunts at the LRC, I chanced upon a book with this title.For someone who is fascinated by India and her meandering millions, this book seemed just the right tonic.Add to the fact that it was quite lightweight and written by an academic of IIMB, and I felt this book would pack quite a punch.I picked it up.

The book attempts to answer some basic questions about Indians with a game theoretic approach. Some of the key questions were :

1. Why are we individually so brilliant, yet collectively dumb ?
2. Are Indians the world's greatest free-riders ?
3. Can we learn any lesson from the concepts of game theory ?

The author has made a good attempt at doing justice to the title. He starts with why Indians behave in such a bizzare fashion, something which he seeks to explain with our focus on short-term results versus long-term goals.

Also, he attacks our collective sense of fatalism and the cavalier approach we extends to issues which do not concern us individually.He bemoans the fact that Indians have never work collectively, and when they are put into teams each comes with the impression that work is a zero-sum game. Small wonder why the author compares us to crabs in the bucket,each trying to outdo the other! He concludes with an interesting reference to the Gita, and analyzes how the verses of the Gita actually enjoin us to incorporate a C-C (collaborate-collaborate) outlook to life.

My key "takeaway" from this book was his reference to Axelrod's experiment, which sought to define which game theory strategy works the best irrespective of circumstance. To his astonishment, a strategy with only three words in its program survived every other plan. It was............Tit for tat.

The book somewhere meanders into discussing various game theories and focussess incessantly on potraying the negative aspects of Indian society. Regrettably, it does little justice to ordinary people we meet who despite their fears are warm, friendly and a tad too forgiving at times. Also it fails to even tread on India's greatest glue - religion. India is a tremendously religious country, and much of our lives centre around our beliefs. Logic would suggest that religion should also guide our interaction with others, but this aspect is not covered by the book at all. I wish the author had applied his thoughts on this issue. Finally,he also makes a passing reference to politicians but does not do much of game theory analysis here as well.

All in all, an absorbing book, perfect for those few minutes of welcome nothingness that thankfully creep into our everyday lives !

Coming up next - Warrior Politics !


Quest said...

nice review makes me want to read the book.

Wiating for the next one.

VV said...

Religion is our glue? I would say it is our federal system that makes room for representation of many voices.