Monday, May 7, 2007

Just flip it.

While reading through Jeff's super weekend leisure links post of Friday, I stumbled upon an interesting piece of reverse-thinking.

Here's the post, and here's the snippet.

In an effort to prove poker as a game of skill as opposed to a game of chance (and thereby possibly qualify it for legal online gambling*), poker pro Annie Duke explains as such:

...Duke offers a simple but compelling argument (attributed to David Sklansky and Duke’s brother Howard Lederer) for poker as a game of skill and not purely chance.

The gist is this: forget about winning at poker, and think for a moment about losing. Is it possible to intentionally lose a poker game?

The answer is yes, of course. Is it possible, meanwhile, to intentionally lose a game like Baccarat or roulette or craps?

There is a name for this method of argument, which I cannot remember, but it was first introduced to me via Jonah Goldberg** who said (and I grossly paraphrase) - to test an arguments foundation simply flip it and see if the reverse works.

The example he used was violence in movies, and whether or not violence had an adverse affect on moviegoers. And it went something like this: if one says that violence in movies does not affect the public in a bad way, then one cannot say the "good stuff" like social-awareness and whatnot affects the public in a good way. In other words, either the movie has impact on the moviegoer or it doesn't. Whether or not that impact is positive or negative doesn't matter for to admit one is to accept the other.

I, for one, who has studied and watched 1000s of movies believe the impact is negligible. I don't think people who watch Grindhouse want to go killing people in a stunt car***, nor do I think people who watch Extreme Home Makeover donate to the Goodwill the next day.

But the line of thinking, as just that, is worthy of note.

* The ban on online gambling is an inexcusable piece of legislation affecting millions of honest Americans during an election cycle when the Republicans needed every possible vote. At the very least they could have regulated online poker and created another Lotto - useless to everyone except those who play it. Or, they could have let people do whatever they want with their credit cards and hard-earned money.

** Goldberg on "24"

*** Some may bring-in the Virginia Tech murderer and the movie Old Boy as Exhibit A, and certainly that topic is worthy of a top-level discussion some time. But for now let me say I'm not ready to start censoring entertainment with the caveat that there might be another Cho out there eating it up, for if that were the criteria, I don't there think would be any entertainment.

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