Listen now (54 min) | On this episode of Winter is Here, we welcome former poker world champion and decision scientist Annie Duke. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has all of us wondering how you can make good decisions when the stakes are astronomical. We dive into the psychology of decision making with lessons that apply as much to daily life as to geopolitics. And with a poker world champion and chess grandmaster on the podcast, we had to ask—is Putin playing poker or chess?
This was an excellent lens thru which to view the dilemma. One thing that occurs to me is how does the maniac behave when he’s down to his final chips and he suddenly realizes that his cards are not nearly as good as he thought they might be when he initially started playing his hand and his opponents definitely do have the upper hand. Does he just go all in or does he try to survive to play one more hand. Putin has to realize that whoever told him he was playing a strong hand before the invasion was not all that wise so if those same people are telling him it’s ok to push the button because there’s still a way to come out alive may not be all that accurate again. Does the maniac try to play one more hand or does he just bet when he knows it’s the end?
Elements from the first episode of "Winter is Here" are interwoven with the ideas heard in the second one. It is fascinating how the narratives of Mr. Kasparov and Ms. Duke interact. The failure of the so-called Russia experts is in stark contrast to the clear insights from decision theory. When these are combined with the (geo)political then a different dynamic emerges, in opposite to a status quo, standing by with dozens of casualties every day. No one is pulling the lever to use the metaphor used by Ms. Duke. She is very modest in saying her not being an expert in geopolitics, but more of expertise like hers might have prevented some of the the current dictator madness. Her solution to install a no fly zone without naming it as such (also a dilemma in the first episode) is inspiring.
I would think that the states who had the most power and therefore the greatest opportunity to act earlier when the risk was lower, and who benefited the most financially from their inaction, should now bear the most risk by acting boldly to save Ukraine and stop Putin. Put another way, perhaps if the person at the lever had a hand in degrading the trolley brake, they have a duty to jump in front themselves, or at least climb aboard to try to halt it
Brilliant, unflinching analyses of NATO's relative 'analysis paralysis' through an apolitical lens.