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A thought inspired by Wednesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nedarim 36

A thought inspired by Wednesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nedarim 36

What makes us need to win at games?

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This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.

Many readers will find this question quite puzzling. Isn’t it obvious why we need to win at games? We want to show others that we are better than them? While not denying this motivation, I’ll ask you why people play games on their own. Who cares if the computer thinks I’m smart? No, you say, even playing solo is part of a process of proving your capabilities. It is still a means to show that I am great.

OK. So why do people get addicted to playing computer games? What is it about arranging some pixels on the screen that makes people spend hours or days obsessively trying to achieve some goal that by any objective measure, have no meaning at all? Nobody can deny that people are motivated to prove themselves, but surely there are easier and quicker ways. That explanation alone does not explain the world-wide phenomenon of computer gaming.

What about the way the world goes crazy following sports team? (In the US there is not much appreciation for the craze that grips the world in the Soccer World cup, but there’s plenty of alternatives.) What are you proving about your skills when your team wins?

I suggest the following answer. Your brain is wired to get worked up about games. When you spend a certain amount of time wanting something or if the desire for that goal is intense, your brain will start investing in that goal. The more time you spend on a goal, the more your brain rewires itself to prioritize that goal.

It is plausible that when you finally succeed at some goal after spending some time in frustration and doubt, that you get a big rush of hormones as a reward. Next time you work on the goal, you remember the reward. However, whether that is a true account or not, does not matter. What matters is that those ancestors in our remote past who worked on goals and did not lose motivation easily, those who stuck through the frustration and kept chasing the target, they were more likely to survive. We needed some mechanism that kept us determined, even obsessed, with achieving our goals. That is why the mechanism exists.

Good computer games are finely tuned to get the timing of the frustration/reward cycle just right. Similarly, sports team supporters go through the anxious tension of a game waiting for the reward of their team winning. Of course many other factors such as ego, local pride, social support, curiosity etc. are also playing in the mix. That is why the whole system is so successful. However, at the bottom is this feature of the way our brain works. We are wired to get obsessed with winning games.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are goals that are independently meaningful. These would include cultural advancement, a better world, or simply education for young and old. A good strategy for furthering these meaning-rich goals is to incorporate the lessons from games.

By understanding how we work, we increase our chances of finding good strategies and, ultimately, increasing our chances of true success.

submitted by /u/eliyah23rd
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Source: Reditt

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