Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Lloyd Shapley and the Bhagvad Gita

Shapley's well deserved Nobel win has been a long time coming. I know geniuses like him don't need Nobels but it is worth pausing a moment on an occasion like this to think about how India might have been different if people of my generation- or that of Gurcharan Das, for that matter- had not gone Gadarening after Amartya Sen and John Rawls and now Martha Nussbaum and Hilary Putnam and so forth, rather than Coase and Tiebout and Shapley and Buchanan who, I think, are right about Wicksteed & Choice and thus immune to pointless palaver over what the word 'Cost' means- i.e. dining philosophers starving to death for caught in a concurrency deadlock.
Still maybe these hunger artists on Ivy League catwalks were doing Gandhian dharna so my Hindu instinct was to worship them.
My own antipathy to Shapley is summarized by this extract from my novel Samlee's daughter-
In other words, since Shapley's work is very useful and highly relevant to India, it must be 'Right Wing' and thus it is to be feared and denounced or, at any rate, studied in the abstract but never applied to Policy making. At the same time, I guess people like me were uneasily aware that every semi-literate dehati politician was a master of calculating the Shapley index of power for various interest groups, not to mention  the most computationally efficient collocation method for solving for correlated equilibria (we call it corruption)- indeed that sort of thing is virtually hard-wired in their brains- and that even if us City boys mastered the maths or wrote a Computer program to do the same thing, we'd simply be outclassed by them.

It was only later on, thinking about Game theory in the Gita, that I realized that the paleo-discrete maths tradition in ancient Tribal Republics would have been strongly focused on the sorts of things Shapley taught us guys to at least be aware of, if not actually do. Since the Mahabharata's own compositional heuristic- at least in my belief- is part and parcel of that wider paleo-mathematical politics Welt Bild- it follows that the Bhagvad Gita, as its Pyrrhonist epoche- tells us that it is our 'svadharma' (i.e. there is a 'public signal' telling us our strategy so that, in a manner more general than Nash, we come to Aumann correlated equilibrium) to do Shapley not for the sake of the fruits of Shapley (good stuff, like getting democracy to work properly) but in an Amartya Sen-tentious spirit of utterly abnegating constructive Politics in favor of cunt-queefing pi-jaw so Man remain a futile passion and God again slay himself in vain.
Shapley & Roth's approach to matching problems is, of course, something the Mahabharata does very well so as to show that all 'svadharmas' have a stable way of meshing within just a few iterations. But the central epochee of the Gita shows that one such match- that of Nar & Narayan- is thereby rendered both a Philosophical Situation Comedy as well as Occasionalism's Nightmare on Om Street.
So I'm sticking with slagging off Sen- virodha bhakti donchaknow- but, sure, you guys just go ahead and read the Gita with Shapley as its Smriti. Not everybody can be a pointless fuckwit you know. Me, I'm just lucky that way.


Anonymous said...

[Not everybody can be a pointless fuckwit you know. Me, I'm just lucky that way.]

You say this kind of thing from time to time, implying that you're stupid and crazy. I certainly wouldn't put it that way, but there's clearly something wrong. Are you actually suffering from some kind of mental illness? You can tell me, I'm crazy too. And anyway there's no one else here, so I'm not bringing down the discussion or anything.

windwheel said...

Proudly Paranoid? Sure, but a lot of mental illnesses are (so far as I can know) well controlled by medication whereas there is no pill to make you smarter.
I don't feel stupidity is a bad thing- I don't mean being insensitive but more like being a bit naive- whereas people who think they are smarter than average might end up advocating genuinely hateful (as opposed to merely boorish)ideas.
ON reflection,l think I understand what you are getting at- with young people or those who have been institutionalized- self-derogatory comments are a warning sigh. They may have suffered abuse or have unmet needs. Definitely, that is a serious issue.
In my posts, however, I am speaking from a position of middle aged complacency and philistinism. The aim is humorous but there is also a long spiritual tradition of the 'fool for God' to whom Grace is not denied.
Thank you for your comments. Believe me, they don't 'bring the the discussion down'- that's my job.

windwheel said...

You are welcome to contact me on a basis of strict confidentiality and good faith on my email- I should have said that sooner. Us crazies should stick together.

Anonymous said...

[The aim is humorous but there is also a long spiritual tradition of the 'fool for God' to whom Grace is not denied.]

Right. Elsewhere I called you विदूषकः, using the word advisedly. "Why did you call him that?", my wife asked me. "A vidushaka is smart." "Exactly", said I. I always wanted to be an intellectual clown myself, a far harder and smarter job than being an intellectual, for which role one does not even have to be very smart. I didn't have what it took, but I know what it takes, so I admire it when I see it.

windwheel said...

This reminds me a bit of what people like Rajneesh were saying when I was a teenager. Come to think of it, Satya Sai Baba, in a different way, emphasized the role of Tenali Ramakrishnan ; and Idries Shah (a Sufi leader who influenced Doris Lessing ('Shikasta' novels) and Robert Graves)similarly celebrated 'Mullah Nasrudin'.
No doubt this inspired my decision, in my novel, to make the Vedic Vidusha detective (who tracks stolen cattle and catches thieves) into a 'manipravalay' Vidushak such that the Sanskrit siddhanta is translated into a cynical demotic for the benefit of the uneducated members of the audience. However, as you point out being an intellectual clown is more difficult than being an intellectual so I guess my true pathos lies, not in the fact that it is disturbingly unfunny that clowns like myself are famishing ourselves by using up all our rations preparing custard pies, but that this isn't even an retributive amor fati- the true hunger artists of Academia can only sustain themselves on their own custard pie, which however they but joylessly cram in the face of the rising generation.
I recall reading 'the whore of Mensa' by Woody Allen as a 13 year old in India- I think the story was published in the U.S Embassy's magazine- I didn't understand much of it (probably still wouldn't get a lot of the references)but it gave me an insight into what it must feel like to be smart. Around that time we were given 'Portrait of the Artist' as a School text and that and, later, the Proteus chapter in Ulysses, showed what it would like to be both smart and a total Schlemiel.
I didn't want to be a loser- indeed, on one occasion I finally fulfilled my Woody Allen type fantasy of seducing a girl reading 'Being and Nothingness' at a Wine bar, except it wasn't her at all. She had escaped while I was in the loo, slicking back my hair. When I came out, what with the dim lighting and the fact that I'd taken off my specs, I mistook some harmless Dutch girl for my blue stocking. Still I spoke so confidently to her about Satre that we left together- a notable feather in my cap but for the fact that she thought I was a pimp and could help her turn professional.
Properly considered, this too is a parable.