Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Rational Rule Breaking

With all the World Cup posts and today’s entry about Lebron this is starting to feel a little like a sports blog. Sorry about that, but here’s one more. This one is a followup to my post from a few weeks ago on the Uruguay handball against Ghana. The comments on the post were super interesting, as folks debated both sides of the ethics goal line handball.

This post, which labels the move as “rational rule breaking” sums up my opinion quite nicely:

My own view is that this is not “cheating.” It seems to me “cheating,” in its colloquial understanding, involves not just breaking the rules but attempting to prevent others from discovering you’ve done so. What happened in that game was what I would call “rational rule breaking.” There was no intent to deceive; the Uruguayan player knew the only chance he had to save the game was to break the rules, and accept the penalty, and hope the Ghanans missed the penalty kick. True cheaters don’t wish to break the rules and accept the penalty, they just wish to break the rules and avoid the penalty.

If I want to cheat at cards, say by dealing off the bottom of the deck, I’m going to do it in such a way that attempts to mask what I’m up to. I’m not going to make it obvious what I’m doing becasue I do not wish to accept the penalty. Rational rule breaking, by contrast, is done with a clear understanding of the costs and benefits and not just a willingness to be caught, but an actual positive desire to get caught because the penalty is worth preventing the outcome that will come from following the rules.

[Via orgtheory.net]

July 12, 2010