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Book: Finite and Infinite Games

It’s a small book with 101 paragraphs. This format works well, as you can read one paragraph and ponder about it.

We play many games in life, and the key lesson I will take away is how to recognise which kind is being played.

“A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing to play.”

Job titles, medals, and diplomas are all manifestations of a finite game. They exist as proof that someone won at some point and is still a winner. The players of a finite game use them as accessories while playing in the theatre that is life.

Paradoxically, finite games are played to be finished. When I was younger I would deliberately lose some turns of a game. The goal: make the game last longer. Was I an infinite player back then?

An infinite game has no set rules. Rules evolve to sustain the play.

“Every move an infinite player makes is towards the horizon. Every move made by a finite player is within a boundary.”

“Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.”

A finite game is bounded. An infinite game goes towards an ever-growing horizon of possibilities.

Some of my favourite chapters were the ones on sexuality and religion. The monogamous lifestyle and all the courtship involved is part of a finite game: owning the other partner. Religion uses myths and bounded rules to limit the gameplay.

“To look at is to look for. It is to bring the limitations with us.”

On the contrary, in the arts, new art movements move current limitations and invite new possibilities. New art movements bring new ways of seeing and questioning.

Language and storytelling is a tool of infinite or finite games. The way we communicate shows what game we are participating in. Do religious leaders or dictators leave the door open for discourse?

“The contradiction of finite speech is that it must end by being heard. The paradox of infinite speech is that it continues only because it is a way of listening.”

“Though we are free to be natural we are not free by nature; we are free by culture, by history.”

We play many games in our lives and being able to differentiate them is a superpower. What games do you play at home or in your work? It is good to pause and deconstruct our limitations or the ones you indirectly impose.

Always pick infinite games because they are beneficial to the greater good.

“There is but one infinite game.”

Excerpts

“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.”

“If the silence of nature is the possibility of language, language is the possibility of history.”