I’ve seen plenty of #ukriots tweets along the lines of “OMG, this makes no sense, how do you gain by smashing up your own community”.
And when people say “it makes no sense”, it speaks to questions of rationality – they’re saying “these actions are irrational”.
Which set me thinking about game theory and some simple maths. I suspect it misses the point, but I’ll sketch it out anyway.
It’s quite easy to show that the actions of rioters and looters are entirely rational.
By setting costs and rewards for an action, you can see whether the outcome is rational.
- expected chance of getting caught or injured
- cost of getting caught
- immediate value of reward from destruction and looting (material, emotional)
- long term value of living in a not-destroyed community
Trade those off, and it’s easy to show that rioting and looting is rational for someone with low expectation of getting caught, who favours an immediate reward over a long-term reward.
But I suspect that it’s an unsatisfying answer for those who are asking the question I opened on.
My guess is those saying “this makes no sense” mean “the way these people think is alien to me”.
They’re seeking empathy, and they’re unable to find it.