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“Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage among his books. For to you kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned with the flick of a finger.”

― Gordon R. Dickson, Tactics of Mistake

Recommended reading. In the mathematical theory of games and in real life in the wilds of Asia, all tigers (Panthera tigris is the species – how many subspecies is a matter of dispute) are largely ambush predators that must follow a risk-reward strategy. That is, while maintaining awareness of what other predators might consider the location their hunting territory, a tiger stalks quite a variety of prey. Whether the target of the hunt is a bear, a deer, a bovine, an antelope, a rhino or elephant calf, a human, a wild boar or virtually anything else of appreciable size, the tiger has to consider the risk of injury during the attack versus the reward of food. The majority of stalks are probably failures because tigers usually do not pursue when prey flees. So increasing hunger may alter the tiger’s calculations. With some diligence, a tiger’s behavior can be predicted.

As Gordon Dickson points out, the sage in the mathematical theory of games follows quite a different pattern. There may be no risks so the sage will persist in an attack against nominally larger targets for what seem to be small or no rewards. As always, one ought to measure the strength of a society by how it treats its weakest – the old, the poor, the disabled, the linguistically challenged and the very young. For example, were a sage among his books to be inspired to defend  the weakest there is no telling what lengths the sage might go to. This makes for a very persistent and dangerous opponent both in simulations and in life, hence Dickson’s warning.

 

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