I tend to be skeptical of language like this, since I associate it with a competitive world view. Could you elaborate more on what you mean?
Also, below is an excerpt from The Dream Machine by M. Mitchell Waldrop that highlights some of what I mean. I see concepts like “game theory” and “(neoclassical) economics” to be relatively reductive concepts that don’t take the actual complexity of the world into account. This excerpt is in the context of the nuclear-arms race after WWII, but there are aspects of Norbert Wiener’s leaning into cybernetics to better model the world that I think that aligns very closely with this new, agent-centric model of computing. I think that a paradigm shift will allow us to move away from rigid ideas like game-theory, and see the world from a more human and complex vantage point.
Through the use of innovative analytical tools such as von Neumann’s game theory, went the argument—an argument that was already being embraced by strategic thinkers in the government and in newly formed think tanks such as the RAND Corporation—the nuclear-arms race could be rationalized, mathematized, reasoned about, and managed .
Wiener begged to differ. He certainly didn’t favor irrationality in human affairs; the world, he felt, had already heard entirely too much about the “triumph of the will” from Hitler and his ilk. But he did want to see this rising generation of mathematical Cold Warriors be a little less naive about the uncertainties of the world. And in this regard, von Neumann’s game theory seemed to him particularly insidious. Underlying its vaunted objectivity were built-in assumptions about the nature of human beings and human society that Wiener judged to be “an abstraction and a perversion of the facts.”
For one thing, Wiener noted, game theory presumed that the rules of the game were fixed, that competition was inevitable, that all players were perfectly ruthless, and that they would always choose the strategy that furthered their own self-interest, period. And yet, he said, while there was a depressing element of truth to that assumption, it did sometimes happen that player A genuinely cared what happened to player B—as when they were two nuclear-armed nations inhabiting the same planet, for example. Indeed, he wrote (echoing such luminaries as Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein), when war becomes a form of mutual suicide, you don’t want to win the game. You want to get out of the game.
A second problem was that game theory depicted every player as being perfectly rational and capable of foreseeing the full consequences of every possible action. To be fair, it must be said that von Neumann wasn’t alone in this assumption; it was (and remains) a standard axiom of mathematical economics. But with the possible exception of von Neumann himself, such flawless rationality and foresight eluded everyone Wiener knew. “Where knaves assemble,” he wrote in Cybernetics , “there will always be fools.” Furthermore, he maintained, in the real world it was rarely just a matter of two players’ meeting one-on-one. Society, for him, was more closely akin to what would now be called a complex adaptive system—a constantly evolving, endlessly surprising web of interacting players and overlapping feedback loops. “In the overwhelming majority of cases,” Wiener insisted, “when the number of players is large, the result is one of extreme indeterminacy and instability”.