Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Game Theory and Jyotishya

Nithin Sridhar

(This article has been published in under the title "Missing link: John Nash’s Game Theory can make Vedic Astrology more accurate")

John Nash, the famous American mathematician and his wife died last Saturday in a fatal taxi crash in New Jersey Turnpike. His most remarkable contributions were in the field of Game Theory. His discoveries like Nash Equilibrium, have resulted in the use of Game Theory in various branches like economics, politics, warfare, psychology, evolutionary biology, logic, ethics, social and human behavior etc. This article seeks to explore, whether there are some common points between Game Theory and Vedic Astrology (Jyotishya), which can be utilized to integrate them, so as to improve the efficacy of Jyotishya. Before, proceeding further, let us briefly understand, what Game Theory is all about. 

Game Theory is a systematic study of exertion of Free-Will. It is used to study, analyze and predict various human decisions, where the decision of each Individual is influenced by the decision of the others in the game, and all their decisions collectively determines the final result. Roger B. Myerson (in Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict, Harvard University Press) defines Game Theory as “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers”. He further states that, Game Theory provides general mathematical techniques for analyzing situations in which two or more individuals make decisions that will influence one another’s welfare. Hence, Game Theory aims to understand the mutual relationship and influence of free-wills of different people in the game. 

To be fully defined, a Game must have these four elements- players (those who exert free will and take decisions), the actions (choices) that are available for the players to choose from, the strategies that each player applies in taking action, and the payoff’s or the results that each player obtains as a result of his actions. Some of the assumptions underlying the Game Theory include, the players being rational individuals. That is, the exertion of free-will by each player will be aimed at maximizing his payoffs. Secondly, every player understands that other players are playing for maximizing their own payoff’s as well. Hence, the determining factor behind decision making is “self-interest”.

Now, if we link this concept of Game Theory to the concept of Karma in Hinduism, we will notice that there are certain elements that are common to both. The concept of Free-Will plays a very important role in Hindu view of the universe. The whole universe and all the interactions within the universe follows the law of Karma- the law of cause and effect. Each action results in a specific result. Hence, the present situations and life choices that an Individual faces, is a result of his own previous actions. Similarly, his present actions will place him in various situations in future. Therefore, destiny and free-will are one and the same thing- Karmas. The former refers to the actions performed by the exertion of free will in the past and the latter to the exertion of free will in the present. 

To the question, what drives a person to perform actions? “Desire for happiness” is the answer given by Hindu scriptures. In other-words, self-regard and self-welfare is the primary motive behind all actions. The Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha that constitutes the four purusharthas or goals of life that is central to the Hindu way of life, is designed to lead a person slowly on a path that ultimately imparts Supreme-Bliss. Hence, all actions be it for Dharma, Artha, Kama or Moksha, they are all guided by motivations of attaining the results/payoffs offered by them. If it be said that, taking decisions in self-interest is contradictory to practice of dharma (ethics and duty), the answer is given by Lord Krishna himself in Gita (2.30-38). Lord Krishna urges Arjuna to fight the Righteous Mahabharata battle by saying that, if he fights, then there are only two possible outcomes. Either Arjuna dies in the battle and attains heaven and enjoy the heavenly world or he will conquer and enjoy his kingdom. In either case, following his Kshatriya Dharma and fighting in the war is beneficial to Arjuna. Hence, even in the case of Dharma (ethics, righteousness, morality, duty), being economically rational i.e. taking decision in self-interest is the most natural reaction for a person. Another element of commonality is the factor of influence of decision making process of one player on the other. Though in Game Theory it is explored in a purely rational basis of how a player understands the strategy of the other, the Hindu Philosophy explores the interactions between two Individuals based on the Karmic debts or Rina that binds them. Any interaction between two people is not a coincidence, but it is outcome of complex bond of Rina or Karmic debt that those Individual share with each other. And their present interactions and their mutual exertion of free-wills will be influenced by this Karmic debt that exist between them. The Rina or Karmic debt is a bond of give and take that is formed due to actions in the past. 

Hence, the past Karmas that are bearing their results in the present for an Individual, the Karmic Rinas between the interacting Individuals, the mental make-up of an Individual and the factor of rationality/self-interest of the Individual will determine the manner in which he will exert his Free-Will. Game Theory only uses the last factor, the factor of economic rationality or self-interest in its analysis of free-will. The Behavioral Game Theory also takes into account the mental make-up of an Individual. But, both of them have no information regarding the past actions. Hence, the Game Theory is only limited to present exertion of free will determined by only a limited number of factors.

On the other hand, Vedic Jyotishya deals with predicting the future events based on the past Karmas that have begun to fructify. Every person takes birth as a certain animal, or in a certain house and faces certain situations in his life based on his previous Karmas committed over millions of past lives. The sum total of all the previous karmas are called as “Sanchita Karma”. And a small portion of Sanchita Karma that is ready to give results is called as “Prarabda Karma”. It is this Prarabda Karma that decides the time, place, and manner of birth. It decides the various life events, various life situations that a person is placed into in his life. Jyotishya uses various methods that includes using birth time and location and making the natal chart, to determine the Prarabda Karmas that are in store for a person in that particular life. It then, uses this information to predict the future events. But, what it does not take into account is the performance of Agami Karmas. Agami Karmas are the actions performed by the exertion of free will in the Present. And these exertions of free will can significantly change the events and directions in which the life of a person is moving. But, Jyotishya does not take into account these Agami Karmas. Hence, many of the predictions turn out to be untrue. If the concepts of Game Theory can be harmoniously integrated with the concepts of Jyotishya then the predictions can be made more accurate. Further, Jyotishya will be able to analyze and predict even the exertions of the Free Will in the present.

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