Visual Thinkers / Infinite, Finite Games

The distinction between a “finite or infinite” game is very useful. As the narrator says, “the big game of life” is infinite. Getting things “done” is more often finite: Who wants auto repairs to go on indefinitely? Just get it done! Who wants children to suffer chronic hunger indefinately? Just get them fed!

The problem is, that the people in charge of “solving” social problems turn challenges like hunger, poverty and education, and just about every other human problem, into an infinite game. They mistakenly identify their infinite “life game” (I want to help people have better lives) with the finite tasks necessary to solve concrete “finite” problems. The “career” choice of the individual, which is intended to yield accomplishments for that person, cannot be sustained without achieving objectives that can only be obtained in playing the finite game. The infinite objective (intent) is confused with the finite objective (results). 

We see this misidentification of “which game is appropriate to which type of task” playing havoc in social policy and practice. A huge source of Asperger frustration is this failure to differentiate “infinite games” from “finite tasks” in the majority neurotypical population.

Also – we tend to “resent” the infinite task of negotiating the social environment, as an imposition on our “life game” because interactions which to us are FINITE (let’s say, establishing friendship), in the neurotypical mind require endless repetition, reassurance, negotiation, tension, fights, making up, starting all over again… For us, friendship is NOT HAVING TO DO ALL THIS! It’s based in trust: it’s a finite project. I’m your friend, forever, unless you destroy that trust. 


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