Zero Sum No More

In game theory there is a type of game called the “zero-sum game.” Simply put, it is the winner-take-all kind of game. The name derives from the fact that in zero-sum games, what the winner wins is exactly equal to what the loser loses. If you add them together, the sum is zero.

The prevailing worldview on this planet for the last few millennia has been that life is a zero-sum game. For one to win, another has to lose. The most graphic, and universally accepted, version is “kill or be killed.” Competition is based on it, as are most businesses, schools, even family relationships lean that way.

And we have paid dearly for our devotion to zero-sum. Untold people have died horrible deaths in wars in service of this belief. Countless others have suffered in equally countless other ways because of it. And the pitiful thing about it, the thing that really breaks your heart, once you see it, is that it is all unnecessary, because it is all based on a lie.

The only reason there is any evidence that the concept of the zero-sum game is real is there because we have believed it so.  In other words, it is a self-fulfilled prophecy.

But if that is so, if the zero-sum mentality is just a way of thinking, not a law of the Universe, then what should take its place? What is the real truth about the way things work? The answer is hidden in plain sight: our belief in scarcity must be replaced by a recognition of the truth of abundance.

If there were more than enough of every desirable thing to go around, the zero-sum game would never have gained a foothold. We would never even have heard of it, and even if we did, we wouldn’t be able to make sense of it. It would be too far out of our experience to even relate to.

But we have been so inured with the belief that there is never enough to go around that we feel crazy to even question it. Look around. There is obviously not enough to go around. But there is. We don’t have a scarcity problem. What we have is an accessibility problem. And that is of our own doing.

There is more than enough food to go around. The problem is that sometimes the food isn’t where the hungry people are. But that is a distribution problem, not a scarcity problem. The Universe is more abundant than anyone can possibly imagine. So’s the planet Earth. Plus, everything on Earth is essentially free. Mother Nature doesn’t charge for things like food or coal or water. If you want someone to collect those things for you, they will want to get paid, but Mother Nature doesn’t get a penny of it.

If this sounds a bit absurd, try this exercise. Imagine that we have mastered travel beyond the speed of light (and make no mistake, one fine day we will). At that point the entire Universe will be our oyster. Never again will we be able to pretend that there is scarcity.

Meanwhile, we can limit our context to small areas and pretend that there really isn’t enough to go around, and that will make zero-sum look like a universal law. But even then, even without light-speed travel, zero-sum is not a necessity.

If everything really is connected, if we are all one, then my win is your win and your loss is my loss. That is the end of zero-sum. And what if it goes beyond that. What if what is truly in my best interest is also in your best interest, and vice versa? Then we should all be selfish, not selfless, and everyone would be better off. Or we could be totally selfless, and we ourselves would be better off along with everyone else.

In simple terms, the zero-sum game is a fool’s paradise. It is a seemingly convenient way of explaining the results of a fatally flawed belief system, but it cannot stand the light of day. It is too riddled with unacknowledged and insupportable assumptions.

So let’s start living in the truth, that we are all more intimately connected than any of us can imagine, that there is more to go around than we could ever even want, let alone use, and that what is truly good for one is good for all. This will lead us to many new and wonderful places within our minds, or world, and our hearts. We will soon see that compassion feels infinitely better than anger and revenge, that love feels better than…well…anything! And happiness is simply a choice that we all make every moment of our lives.

And that is why I say, “Zero Sum No More.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *