Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Art of the Good Life #22 : Life Stories are Lies !



The world of RPGs is split between two broad player types. I belong to "Murderhobo" category. I create powerful PCs whose sole purpose is to kill monsters and spread mayhem in the gaming world. If the gamemaster gives me  a wish, I will often ask for a magic sword so that I can kill more monsters and spread more chaos in the campaign world. I like my RPGs to be chunky, mathematical and full of interesting loopholes. Characters possibly played by Murderhobo gamers include Saitama One Punch Man, Thanos, and Batman (Injustice).

The opposite of a "Murderhobo" is the "Storyteller". These assholes get into a game because they want to develop a narrative around their character. They wish to explore their inner world and how it interacts with the campaign.  These players value coherence of the campaign world and they hate murderhobos and the chaos we bring into the campaign. They like an RPG that is rich, descriptive and rule-lite Characters possibly played by Storyteller gamers include the Genos, Spider Man, and Batman (Dark Knight Returns).

As a dedicated "Murderhobo", of course I know that the "Storytellers" are wrong !

The narrative bias is my favorite cognitive bias because we are wired to love a great story. The ability to turn a set of disjointed facts is one of the key skills of a data scientist, litigator or a financial journalist.

Take for instance the recent rise of DBS stock which is currently the talk of the town. It's easy to spin a great story out of it. Perhaps bank stocks are rising because of rising interest rates and banks tend to become more profitable when interest rates are higher. But can this explain the recent fall in OCBC prices? You then go on to talk about DBS's fintech strategy which makes it part of the Fintech economy. As we discover more, we end up contradicting our story about DBS, you then go on to modify your story further to maintain its coherence. 

A good story has three elements that come in in the form of 3 Cs. It is "compact" or easily understood. It is "consistent" in that it does not contain an element that contradicts with itself. It is "causal" or formed by events that lead from one to another. Our human brain simply cannot accept facts as is and has evolved to turn any series of events into a story. This is the reason why we have superstition and religion - a story must be manufactured to explain a natural phenomenon.

Our inclination towards stories brings most of us to have some sort of life story for ourselves. It is some kind of lie we tell ourselves to make us seem more heroic than we appear to be.

This ultimately prevents ourselves from seeing ourselves realistically - multi-layered, paradoxical and incoherent.


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