survival of the fittest?

Recently watched the movie A Beatiful Mind (Russel Crowe) for the second time, following it more closely. There’s an interesting scene of a blonde girl, where they’re discussing about famous economist Adam Smith’s theory that “individual ambition is for the common good”.  When a blonde girl enters the scene, Nash comes up with a thesis that is different, and is eventually accepted in the university saying that his theory flew in the face of 150 years of economics…


Recall the lessons of Adam Smith, the father of modern economics. In competition… individual ambition serves the common good.

Every man for himself, gentlemen.

Nash: Adam Smith needs revision.

Hansen: What are you talking about?

Nash: If we all go for the blonde, we block each other, and not a single one of us is going to get her. So then we go for her friends, but they will all give us the cold shoulder because nobody likes to be second choice. But what if no one goes for the blonde? We don’t get in each other’s way, and we don’t insult the other girls. That’s the only way we win. That’s the only way we all get laid.

Nash (continuing): Adam Smith said, the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself, right? That’s what he said, right? Incomplete. Incomplete! Because the best result would come from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself and the group.

Hansen: Nash, if this is some way for you to get the blonde on your own, you can go to Hell.

Nash: Governing dynamics, gentlemen… governing dynamics. Adam Smith… was wrong.


Reminded me of some notes from a few years ago, wonder if its another example…

Seen on the roads of Bangalore… Consider congested traffic moving slowly on road 1 & 2 of an intersection.

Say people are driving on road 2, while people on road 1 are waiting to proceed.

                | |
                | |
            ____    ____
           1____   ____
                | |
                | |

What inevitably happens is people on road 1 keep on inching forward until they block the traffic on road 2, and then start moving ahead. Then the people on road 2 start doing the same thing until there is a total jam and instead of people moving at 40 kmph, they are each moving at 1 kmph.

Each new person who enters the situation, tries to move as fast as possible through whatever gap he finds… because *he*
wants to get to his office faster, causing the deadlock to tighten further.

Very few people (but fortunately there are atleast a few such people!) actually pause for a moment to think about the
bigger picture, that if they wait now for 2 mins and allow the traffic in the perpendicular road to clear, they can reach their destination 15 mins earlier !!

Btw some important clarifications about the movie by Princeton University

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