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Why is Wood Badge calling the Prisoners Dilemma the Game of Life?

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I just finished my LNT Master Educator course and the subject of Wood Badge came up. I was astounded to hear that Wood Badge courses have apparently taken the Prisoner's Dilemma and renamed it the Game of Life. Some quick references:

Prisoner's Dilemma: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_Dilemma

Game of Life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_Game_of_Life


I understand why Wood Badge might use the Prisoner's Dilemma, because it demonstrates that people may not cooperate because they don't know whether they can trust the other person to also cooperate, because the other person might be more greedy, the payoff is larger for the noncooperative party if one party cooperates, etc. It can teach us a lot about our motives, how we think, even what and why we value.


But why is Wood Badge trying to rename it the Game of Life? That's going to bar people from reading or learning more about it because when they chat about the Game of Life, people who haven't been to Wood Badge aren't going to have the faintest idea of what these Wood Badgers are lolling about. One person that I spoke with had not had a good experience with the game -- apparently the story behind it and the rationale behind it had not been explained very well.


The Wood Badge participants that I spoke with were apparently unaware of the rich history of this game and the many things that have been done with it. I just feel that if the history of the game and the real name of the game had been given that the educational opportunities which can result from actually playing the game in an iterated group setting could have been increased.(This message has been edited by BartHumphries)

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"There ain't much in WB that hasn't already been taught in Management 101 at any community college or corporate professional development seminar. I await the revelation of what makes the WB version of

Wood Badge was a great course to enhance management skills. I have been to many other courses like this as I work in Corporate HR in the real world. The fact is many people are not exposed to these

I have never heard the game used in Wood Badge (which was picked up from NLS and taken from other sources) called "The Prisoner's Dilemma". AFAIK, that's NOT the name of the activity. "The Prisoner's Dilemma" is a reference to the underlying concept.


The game is know by MANY names. My Fraternity uses it in our conflict resolution training, and we just call it the 'red green' game. If you look on-line you'll see other uses of the game, and I've not found it called "The Prisoner's Dilemma".



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Yah, BartHumphries, you're right. The Game of Life in WB21C is just a version of Prisoners Dilemma, which does have a rich history and a bunch of psychology research behind it. Just like situational leadership in WB21C is really just old Hersey-Blanchard. We don't call this stuff what it is because then it wouldn't seem as boy-scouty. Either that, or we'd have to pay royalties ;)


The Game of Life in WB21C also has a mixed effect in da course. Lots of times it melts down badly, and causes a lot of bad feelings among participants. Da course designers would have benefitted from lookin' up the research that others had done on da Prisonners Dilemma problems and been more thoughtful about da rules and context.



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This is the problem with people using methods like Prisoner's D, Myers Briggs typing, etc. without have a leader trained in application. People think that once they have taken the quiz or played the game once, they can then run events themselves. That MIGHT work, but it can also often run into problems that the person running the event is not experienced in managing.


In a Scouting even, I would HOPE that the instructor tries to get people to focus on the Scout Law, thereby making everyone default to cooperation.

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Some people have this quaint thing they play called The Game and they have a few rules for it:

1. Everyone is playing. No consent is required and everyone is playing (albeit most don't know that they're playing).

2. When you think about The Game, you lose.

3. When you lose, you must announce and make everyone else in earshot lose as well.

The best thing to do for this game is to refuse to play. Consent is required -- the quaint notion that some people have regarding this game is humorous but ultimately not of any real concern.


The Prisoner's Dilemma can be "solved" by one of two possible strategies, depending on whether the "points" are valuable. If points are valuable, then the robot studies suggests that an initially altruistic strategy which then chooses whatever the opponent did the last time with some chance of forgiveness generally leads to the best overall strategy.


If however points are not valuable, such as when playing in a social group such as a church or Scout or work setting, the best choice is to recognize that the "points" are not valuable, to have one member of your party hold up an "I'll agree to whatever" sign or a "consensus" sign or whatever sign is more altruistic, then play something else -- hopefully someone brought a deck of cards so that you can all play poker or something that everyone in your party finds equally enjoyable. Winning isn't everything and in a setting like this, if playing the game becomes rancorous, one should simply stop playing so as to increase the spread of harmony. Let someone "win". It's pretty meaningless, after all.


Perhaps some Wood Badge instructors would benefit from learning about either the Stanford Prisoner experiment or the Milgram experiment (as appropriate)? ;)


Anyway, I object to the idea that Wood Badge isn't calling this "game" what it really is, and isn't explaining the history of and studies around the Prisoner's Dilemma. Wood Badge is for adults. Adults should get the real unvarnished ("unrenamed") message.

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Way to go, Bart, now I LOST THE GAME!


I figure it's renamed because a lot of us have read or studied game theory.


And you've made the WB-ers point. If you are "in the game" to "win all you can" you loose sight of the possibility that "you all can win".


In other words, if the aims of scouting are not valuable, your best strategy is to get the most out of the program for you and your kid and not return too many favors. But, if the aims do have intrinsic value, your best strategy is to make sure the way is clear for everyone to achieve those aims in hope that you'll be included in the winning.


Sure, it's a little hokey. But I think that's the point.


BTW ... Our course director did reference the prisoner's dilemma.

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Another non-WBer, but did the old the BA22 and staffed JLT, so I hope I have some cred on this topic. Further I had to play a similar game in PDL-1, Ethical Controversies, which came from Exploring if memory serves. Again I hope this non WBer has a little cred on this topic.


Part of the problem as I see it is that instead of unifying the group, these games can sometimes destroy the group if not handled properly. And yes there is a lot of training to doing that properly. Unfortunately from all these discussions, most staffer runnign the game do not have enough training and expereince to see when the game is causing more problems than it is suppose to make you think on.


On another note, I think that what happened last weekend in NH is another reason to review WB as it is currently, and bring back the outdoor skills. Knowing folks who did the old WB, and based upon my own experiences with BA22 and JLT, i do not see someone with the training ending up int he situation that occurred.



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As a WBer I think the whole thing is a train wreck.


Scrap woodbadge or call it a management course.


Then offer AOLS....Advance Outdoor leadership skills and I would like to see a MOLS course, master outdoor leadership skills, sorta long the lines of the LNT master educator course, a week of living out of a backpack, learning and teaching the skills.


Require AOLS for a tour plan for anything more remote than staying at a scout camp.


Personally I would not have a problem if trained as a MOLS offering to take patrol sized groups into the backcountry. Sort of a District level Master outdoorsman.

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