This is spurred by Scott Alexander's recent essay Studies on Slack. Scott is the author of the famous (to me) Meditations on Moloch, and if you haven't yet discovered the benefit of spending the time to read that, I have a few relevant definitions in my earlier post power and competition between metagames.

He references "slack" as defined by Zvi Mowshowitz, as "The absence of binding constraints on behavior." This is not like "slacking off", but it's not too dissimilar to the concept of slack in the productivity/flow sense, as in the book by Tom DeMarco, or the colloquial "loose rope" sense. Scott's usage is "the absence of competition" in the sense of evolutionary fitness. And I'd like to relate it to the "rivalrousness" that Game B folks talk about.

What I found fascinating today was the language and modeling around "slack" as the counterbalance to the competitive essence of Moloch:

Moloch and Slack are opposites and complements, like yin and yang. Neither is stronger than the other, but their interplay creates the ten thousand things.

I take this quote as exquisitely useful, even if I'd quibble that they are not exact opposites. Mapping Moloch and slack onto the gradient-descent landscape of evolutionary fitness very clearly shows them as opposing dynamics. Call it the dimension of "combination of friction and gravity" on the landscape. Maximal gravity and zero friction, and you slide right down into whatever local minima is nearby. Maximal friction and no gravity, and you can walk up whatever slope you please, but don't actually seek or settle in a better optimum.

Molochian competition is basically a dominance of "rivalrous" incentive.

Rivalrous dynamics multiplied by exponential tech self terminate. Exponential tech is inexorable. We cannot put it away. So we either figure out anti-rivalry or we go extinct - the human experiment comes to a completion.  -Daniel Schmachtenberger

If you want to understand those words and that quote, you can watch this five minute video:

The Game B folks seem to me to be looking to find and/or create fundamentally anti-rivalrous systems that can't be corrupted by Game A, while talking about playing/parasitizing Game A in order to fund a transition. At least that's the sense I get from my reading/watching so far, and a bit of time in the Facebook group. And that's great... but seems to have some sense of separateness that doesn't map to the interconnectedness of reality, and makes "but how do we get there from here?" a really hard and often-asked question in Game B land.

I tend to view it as growing a new system within the current system, that might one day subsume the majority of all systemic activity. (And if this is just my revelation and all the best/real B'ers already think this way, forgive my ignorance.)

So this "slack" modeling gives vocabulary for the way to grow! You just have to figure out how to add slack to a system. Adding slack doesn't directly counter Moloch, but it gives the participants space to be able to counter the short-term fitness-maximizing pull!

The obvious example is wealth, which relaxes the constraints of physical provision and safety. If you can retire, you have infinite runway in which to play and can behave in whatever way you want - as long as that behavior doesn't destroy your wealth, which evaporates your slack and throws you back into the regular grind. On the other side, it "costs a lot to be poor" because you can't invest in the long term, having to always pay short-term prices on the moment-to-moment needs.

The lower layers of Maslow's hierarchy are the hard constraints that can tightly bound the space that people have in which to seek self-actualization (or self-transcendence). That doesn't make "meet people's needs" an easy problem to solve by any means. I just like that I now have more effective language to talk about how these things fit together. I can see the polarity now, along competition: Maximize both short-term fitness and long-term investment.