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Billiard tells you all you need to know about people's Machiavellianism

These days I'm enjoying my time playing billiard with an old friend.

We like it, albeit there is no competition: I won all games with ease.
And I feel in full control, with little chances of losing.

I'm technically only slightly better than him, though (we're both poor).

Why the huge gulf, then?

It's because I'm strategically light years ahead.
Or more like, my friend has no strategy at all.

  • He lost several times because the wrong ball enters the wrong hole. I've never done that mistake because I make sure to think in advance how the "dangerous" balls will move after I strike
  • He strikes whatever is easiest for him, and gives only a small priority to the "special balls" (1/15). I focus heavily on the 1/15
  • I make sure all my balls stay in the lower part of the table (another strategic advantage). He didn't even realize there's an advantage to that
  • He mostly strikes with the same power. I try to modulate the power of my strikes so that if I miss, the ball stays near the hole
  • Second-order consequences: He doesn't plan where the white ends up right after his strikes. That means that he often passes me great shots for my 1/15. I do think where my white ends up. I try to set up consecutive shots but, most of all (since it's not very likely I'll have many consecutive shots :), I never leave him an easy shot for the 1/15
  • Around the rules thinking: I'd never do it because I don't want and because my friend is awesome. But it's within my thinking that one could strategically and legally strike in order to obstruct or severely handicap the opponent's game. And the most Machiavellian could do so while pretending it was a mistake (this is even lower in my view). I know from our conversations that my friend never even thought of that possibility (one of the reasons why I like him)

Put all of that together, and I probably have a 90%+ chance of winning and controlling any given match.

My friend is a successful guy, IQ-smart, an animal lover, very high in empathy, and an overall great great guy.
He just happens to be very low in Machiavellian thinking.
And it reflects on a game that, in good part, is a game of strategy.
Life, in good part, is also largely a game of strategy.

Edit:
This reminds us that several elements of Machiavellian thinking apply equally well to legit or even value-adding endeavors.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on September 29, 2021, 11:43 pm

My friend is a successful guy, IQ-smart, an animal lover, and very high in empathy.
But he's very low in Machiavellian thinking.
And it reflects on a game that, in good part, is a game of strategy.
Life, in good part, is also largely a game of strategy.

All the more reason why the chess piece was such a great idea for the home page :).

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Do you think that Machiavellian thinking when it comes to people is different from that in the game of billiard?

It could be the case that your friend didn't think through the game of billiard while he takes other domains more seriously.

For example, Elon Musk probably thinks Machiavellian in business to get people to join in his grand vision but not so much his personal relationships.

I think the level of strategising involved reflects a person's involvement, attachment, commitment to a particular area.

 

Quote from Matthew Whitewood on September 30, 2021, 4:47 am

I think the level of strategising involved reflects a person's involvement, attachment, commitment to a particular area.

In part, that's most likely the case.

But it's not binary, and not the whole story.
Part of is also about how one naturally thinks and approaches games, problems, or opportunities.

Billiard is not life or death for us, but I want to win, my friend wants to win, and he doesn't hide his disappointment to lose.
So at that level of mild to moderate involvement, the different ways of thinking still made a night and day difference.
Most people approach "more important" things in life with the same level of involvement and attitude. From dating someone, to finding the right partner, to covering their asses if things go wrong, to getting a promotion, most people approach these things with the same non-strategic attitude.

Other variables include:

  • Experience / time spent doing something: the more you do something, the more you think things over consciously, and the more you tend to eventually stumble upon the various tactical advantages.
    The Machiavellian has the advantage of getting there much more quickly.
  • Popularity: the more popular something is, the more the strategizing has become part of the "body of knowledge" that all the pros simply have to learn if they want to compete at high levels. So if my friend became so passionate about billiard to start getting seriously good, he'd eventually learn the strategies by mingling with the good players and/or researching the topics.
    The Machiavellian still holds the advantage with all the non-popular, non-codified fields. Plus, wit hall the novel situations that can't be experienced a thousand times. Plus the amorality of being open to doing things that empathic wouldn't do. Or the ability to manipulate or lay traps during the games that are also rarely codified
  • Mechanical VS people-related: because of their natural traits, Machiavellians have an advantage when individuals or groups are involved. And people and social dynamics are not as easy to methodically study and learn (and not easy to find good information about it. Before TPM there wasn't even much on power dynamics)

Conversely, the less one methodically studies a subject, the less clear information there is, and/or the less you can prepare in advance for something, the more Machiavellianism provides a distinct advantage.

Finally, many things that matter in life are non-codified, or purposefully left unaddressed, unclear, negatively framed as "dark knowledge", or with misleading information to keep them from reaching larger audiences.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks a lot for sharing your detailed thoughts!

What I'm thinking of at the moment is what impacts the general ability and drive to strategise:

  1. Machiavellian personality: the drive to win through any means like manipulation, bending rules, etc
  2. General intelligence: the ability to learn, analyse, apply knowledge and make sound decisions & plans
    • Creativity
    • Critical thinking
  3. Upbringing & environment: exposed to "dark" behaviour when young whether in business, relationships, etc
  4. Emotional Stability & Detachment: Linked to Machiavellianism which is why Machiavellis bend rules more easily than empaths

For example, I think Donald Trump is Machiavellian.
Who else would write the Art of the Deal?
But his ego clouds his judgement sometimes.

Probably, Machiavellis get the benefit of practice because that's how they think every second.
Scheming and learning to bend rules do take practice.
Then, you get more creative with more experience and data points to draw from.

The drive to win and feel powerful seems to help people learn to be more scheming too.
Although that's more on the other dark triad of narcissism.

But probably all the dark triad traits are correlated.
Including psychopathy which helps in being more "objective" since there are fewer emotions involved.
However, I think if empathetic people learn how to be detached, their empathy can be an added benefit as it allows them to intuitively read situations.

  • Mechanical VS people-related: because of their natural traits, Machiavellians have an advantage when individuals or groups are involved. And people and social dynamics are not as easy to methodically study and learn (and not easy to find good information about it. Before TPM there wasn't even much on power dynamics)

It seems potentially harder to methodically study and learn non-codified rules about people than rocket science for example.
Probably, the cutting edge of any technology and science would be different though.
Because it's vague and people may have different views & opinions on them (even deliberately hiding or lying about them as you advised).

Maybe when you mix people with technology, laws, finance, that generates lots of non-codified rules and "how things work".
Probably, things that lawyers, investment bankers, politicians won't tell you about.

Well, now it's going into higher level of abstraction, speculation, and general psychology.

The thread / subforum might not be the place for that.
The point of the original post was simpler and more practical:

  • You can observe how Machiavellian or non-Machiavellian people are with mundane activities such as billiard (and whenever strategic thinking is important)
    • Practica use: assessing people. So if you want to assess people, and how potentially helpful or "dangerous" they can be as friends or partners, you can observe how they behave around strategy-based games that makes it easy to spot their thinking processes
  • Machiavellianism helps a lot whenever strategic thinking and second-order consequences matter (and both play an important role in many important areas of general life success)
  • Machiavellianism is helpful even within fair competition (and, by extension, can also be used for value-adding purposes and for the good of people beyond the selfish individual)
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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