I’m a fan of the TV show Survivor. In some ways, I wonder if the game is more like an analogy for life on Earth than you might think. We all go through life just trying to survive and, if possible, to win. Everyone has a different definition of winning, but it often has to do with getting a lot of money so that we can buy a bunch of crap and do fun stuff without having to work anymore.
Survivor has plenty of people who try to win the million dollars by preserving their energy and doing the minimum amount of work, while others try to work hard all the time and win as many competitions as possible so they can claim that they deserve the reward. Some claim they deserve to win because they were physically or socially dominant, while others think it is just as worthy to lay low or subtly manipulate others. Some think it is a greater feat to win when everyone hates you than to win when everyone likes you. Some even have the nerve to ask god for help to win the game. Since it is a zero-sum game, they are asking to be favored over others. I find this kind of request funny, since it seems completely inappropriate to ask god to help you beat someone else when there is no clear moral difference between competitors. Athletes are constantly asking for god’s help to win a game, and then thank him when they win. Of course, you never see the losers blaming god for making them lose. Bad luck–usually. Bad refereeing–sometimes. Personal mistakes–maybe, if they aren’t too egotistical. But nobody ever blames god. But now that I think about it, asking god for help to win a game really might not be such a bad idea.
Let’s look at it from god’s point of view. We’ve now got seven plus billion people on the planet (not to mention alien civilizations we don’t know about yet) all asking for stuff. Dealing with this has got to be very time consuming and boring as hell. Considering that an all-knowing being already knows everything about you, including what is going to happen to you, it seems kind of silly to waste time choosing what wishes to grant. So, if you are god, you might welcome the chance to watch a game just for the fun of it and to choose, in front of millions of people, the winner who you think deserves to win a million dollars.
But if you are god, how do you decide? We’ve seen winners on Survivor who were likeable, unlikeable, hard workers, slackers, leaders, followers, strong competitors, and weak competitors. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern, so anyone who thinks they deserve to win has to wonder what makes one deserving? If you are god and you know everything, how can you make a game fun? If you already know who is going to win, what is the point? I ‘m going to assume that god would not want to know what will happen. He would want to keep it interesting by leaving the outcome unknown. The only way that I can think of for this to work is to employ chance in place of choice.
When I was a teenager, I used to have to play two-player board games by myself when I didn’t have anyone else around who wanted to play. But because I knew everything about what was happening and what I was likely to do, you would think the game would be boring or predictable. To avoid this, I tried to keep it interesting by role-playing and employing chance to ensure that I didn’t make predictable decisions. When I played one side, I would make myself pretend to have one set of values, strategies, tactics, and preferences. When I played the other side, I would employ a different set of rules. I would also use the chance of a die roll to help me decide what to do in some cases.
So, I ‘m thinking that maybe god has to employ similar strategies to make things more interesting for him. Maybe Einstein had it all wrong and Heisenberg was right–god might just play dice with the universe! It would ensure unpredictability in outcomes and would confuse anyone who was expecting him to make certain decisions based on fixed moral grounds. Sounds kind of like real life to me. Maybe god would go nuts if he always had to do the right thing–the predictable thing. Maybe all we can expect from god is chance or games because predictability is just no fun at all. Does he exist to serve people with totally predictable, pre-ordained decisions, or do people exist to worship him and deal with whatever he chooses to give them? In other words, why should god have to condemn himself to an eternal life of boredom so that everything will be predictable for the rest of us?
Maybe we just need to figure out how god is role-playing our life. For you, maybe god has decided to drop you in the dunk tank every once in a while. You just have to learn to enjoy the moments when you are warm and dry and shake off the cold, wet days. For that other lucky bastard, maybe god has decided to use weighted dice every time he goes to Vegas, picks stocks, or applies for a job. Everybody likes to see a lucky winner once in a while, so why shouldn’t god? Maybe good or bad luck is just the way it is for you, so you’d better get used to it. If you can’t catch a break, just think about the Ghostbusters, who were told they could only choose the form of the destructor.
For many, I think god plays us like a Miss America pageant. If you look good and answer the questions correctly, you may go far. I think he plays this role a lot. Maybe we actually choose our own game, good or bad, as they allege in the book The Secret. In that case, we will only achieve heaven on Earth when everybody starts to think in a positive way. Fat chance. Frankly, if god is playing dice with us, then he might as well not even exist. Hmmmm. I agree with Einstein. God doesn’t play dice with the universe. But that doesn’t mean that I actually believe in god. Einstein was an agnostic, which is as close as anyone who values the scientific method can get to atheism. He preferred the term agnostic to the term atheist because of the impossibility of disproving the existence of god. In his words, he had “an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”
What I mean to say is, life isn’t a game where only the deserving get to win. In life, as in the game of Survivor, the good guys don’t always win and the bad guys don’t always lose. We can’t all win a million dollars and get to do whatever we want. Somebody has to lose and get stuck doing work they don’t want to do. At least, that is, until we get fully functional intelligent robots to take care of us. If you have a hot stock tip on a robotics startup company, please let me know. I’m betting on the laziness of humanity to make robots the next big thing!