Infinite Games, Networks to Start & Join "Scenes", and Finite Lives
“There are at least two kinds of games...One could be called finite; the other infinite.” Finite games are the fixed and familiar contests of everyday life; they are played in order to be won, which is when they end. The end of a race. Nothing more.
What if, however, there was a better and bigger game, an “infinite game”, an ever evolving one - a never-ending marathon?
What if this was the "real" game we should play - one that never truly ends AND where everyone is connected by an almost limitless network?
(image credits for the 2 “game” graphics from Visualize Value)
The global economy and social hierarchy has changed a great deal within a very short period of time, and the results have included enormous prosperity for a few and poverty for many. The leading industrial and economic sectors, and various social contracts of the post World War 2 era in both the East and West have eroded, and society has not completely adapted to these changes. The nature of work is changing.
A future trend of work may be found in the ideal of individuals who are network natives - departing from the current social and economic abstractions of the late 20th Century “Organization Man” of corporations and the 18/19th Century Citizen of Westphalian Nation States. Such individuals would exist and work within “scenes” - associations of people who were connected by both specific common interests and various networks.
All of these “Scenes” are subcultures, long-tail social groups and societies connected by specific common interests and niches, and they are enabled and magnified by the most prevalent current network - the Internet.
Within each of these various “Scenes” Network Native Individuals would have the potential to build self-sufficient economic and creative lives as creators or builders - Artists or Artisans - with viable and vibrant audiences, markets and economic models.
The inspiration for “Scene”, Scenius (as described by Brian Koppelman and Marc Andressen)
Brian Koppelman had a fascinating conversation with Marc Andreesen in a 2 part “crossover” talk, with each a guest of the other’s podcast. One of the focal points in the talk was about work, specifically creative work, and how such workers find visibility, recognition and economic success. A few tidbits from this great talk include:
"As an artist, aim to get yourself into the scene/mix”
The scene is the collision space
”Things HAPPEN when you’re in the scene"
This echoes the sentiment of the phrase "90% of life is showing up". This is not straightforward or easy but being plugged in has been and will remain important.
One way to understand this is the ritual of mating and marriage. Until recently, most of humanity spent the entirety of their lives in one place but with the rise of various networks, involving trade, transport and telecommunications, many today are physically and virtually mobile. Before the rise of these networks, most people who wanted something new or different would have had to leave the post-industrial, rural or isolated communities they grew up in to search for new economic and social opportunities. The rise of information networks and “scenes” is the latest change.
We can find and join “scenes”, the collision space of like-minded interests and curiosity, with others. The rise of the internet and the fall in tech costs is the catalyst.
By finding and connecting to “scenes” of like-minded explorers, we can be making friendships, attracting fans and building financial relationships. And that is just the beginning. This “work” happens in the open - in collaboration with others.
Creativity as a Collaborative Exercise
“Creativity is a collaborative exercise between the creator and the audience”
"You can create an excellent work of art (in your mind), but if the audience doesn’t creatively see eye to eye with you, they won’t appreciate it"
“The entrepreneur who expects the market to automatically appreciate their product….it’s the classic, ‘If I build a better mouse trap the world will beat a path to my door,’ – no, they won’t.”
“The world is BUSY…You have to inject yourself into the world."
So where are we “injecting” ourselves?
THE INFINITE SCENE: THE INFINITE GAME COMBINED WITH NETWORKS
”A finite game is played for the purpose of winning. An infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” — James P. Carse
The phrase “Infinite Game”, similar to the phrase “long game”, was coined by James Carse. Its underlying philosophy is to go beyond a zero sum, linear and scarcity mindset of “finite games”.
Finite games are optimization games played with a specific and objective-oriented outcome as if it was a sprinting trophy. Get that score, get the grade, get those “likes”.
And once “won”, the game ends. There is nothing more.
But what if there was something more, in a bigger game that everyone can play?
The Infinite Scene is that bigger and better “game” that we can all play. It’s where infinite games meets with near-infinite potential of information networks.
The next features of future communities, networks, and next layers of the 'Stack to Come' could be built on an "infinite game" protocol of an “Infinite Scene”.
What are some of the new rules of an “Infinite Scene” for the Network Native Individual, the Artist / Artisan, ready to play?
Andreesen, relating it to the venture capital world, the following ideas:
Most of Your Ideas are Wrong
“People treat their ideas like their children”
“50,000 years ago, there weren’t really ideas, there were just children”
"People protected their children by all means. Now this has sort of shifted to ideas"
“Most of your ideas ARE WRONG” – especially in the VC world.
Way back, many smart VCs turned down Google because the idea seemed very wrong at the time
"“How much can you actually know?….I would take it so far as to say I don’t know that there actually are VCs who can predict if any given thing is going to succeed or fail, period, full stop, including us. I’m not sure that’s even part of the value we provide."
“Maybe we’re actually in the people business, as opposed to the idea business”
This makes finite games even riskier to play. Imagine your entire game was founded on the success of getting, protecting and focusing on just one idea like it was a child. And you had no guarantee that this idea was “the one”. If you can embrace being wrong on ideas and on connecting with more players in the game, the “people business”, then you may be better off.
ADVICE for those ready to play:
"BE SO GOOD THEY CAN'T IGNORE YOU" - Steve Martin
“The best entrepreneurs really do live in the future” – So in a sense, they’re living in two realities at the same time.
“The difference between a vision an hallucination is that other people can see the vision."
"The follow your passion thing is an incredibly destructive meme that flows out of the hippie movement of the 60s...Instead of following your passion, focus on the area in which you can make a contribution. It’s not about you, it’s about other people"
Perhaps you have identified a contribution, you’re so good at, that you can make, that’s about other people, where you can see a vision of things to come but now you need a shared vision. That shared vision is found within a “Scene” of like-minded players with interests in common with you. BUT, how do you enter a “Scene” and share your contribution that you’re so good at? You may need to find someone to bring you in.
“The Test” – All You Need is ONE Introduction
Kopplemann won’t read any scripts sent to him randomly online ... BUT if there’s a warm referral – he will jump on it.
“The Test to get to us… is can you get ONE warm introduction…just ONE”
"The true pain of entrepreneurship lies in trying to get people to say yes to you – to your product, to work for you etc."
The true pleasure of success in the game of the Infinite Scene could be all the stages you must pass through: create, contribute, collaborate and be co-opted into a Scene.
(NOTE: This will be updated, in keeping with playing this game.)
An authority on “Infinite Games” is Simon Sinek. One of the most interesting thoughts Sinek shared in a talk with Cal Fussman was a vision that his work would live on after him, making it as close to “infinite” as we could get for our finite lifespans.
Subject matter of overlapping interest to consider:
James Carse and the “Infinite Game”
Brian Koppelman’s talk with Marc Andreesen on “Scenius”
Lambda School-type trade education and income risk-sharing as a growing trend. This could become the way individuals add to their “stacks” and upgrade their “scenes”.
Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway’s (post Amazon investment) - The origins of Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway, their funding, the long game time-frames which both Bezos and Buffett have, how these two leaders continually revised their thinking which is a part of their respective infinite games and infinite scenes.
To repeat about FINITE GAMES.
Let’s pass on finite games and consider creating or joining a “Infinite Scene”.
(NOTE: This piece will be updated - this will never be truly “finished”.)