Mar 11·edited Mar 11

I think "passing the ball" is a bad metaphor for this, because there's always the same number of balls and they always stay the same size. In real life, the good effects of telling someone that they hurt you can outweigh the bad effects. If they listen and learn, they'll hurt you (and others) less in the future. Also, if they have some self-discipline, then even if they do "pass on the ball of hurt", they will be able to pass on a smaller ball than they were given.

So I would recast it like this:

You and your friends all stand in a ring. A few of you each have a ball of size 5 when you begin.

On each round, each person without a ball has probability B of spontaneously generating a ball of size 5. Each ball has probability P of spawning a new ball of equal size, which will be passed to (at random) either the person on their left, or the person on their right, after which the original ball shrinks to half the size it just was. Finally, each ball has probability G of growing 1 size bigger (unless it's already size 9), and probability 1-G of shrinking 1 size smaller (and we say they have no ball if it shrinks to size 0).

So this is a subclass of 2D cellular automaton whose edges wrap around and in which the cells take integers from 0 to 9. B sets the base rate at which your friends hurt each other; P the rate at which they "pass the ball"; G whether they over-retaliate or under-retaliate.

If you and your friends have a low enough average (or possibly a different but similar metric) values of B, P, and G, then playing the game will usually reduce the total mass of balls, though new ones keep being made. Otherwise, playing the game will increase the total mass of balls until everybody has their hands full of heavy balls.

The game itself isn't good or bad. The people who play it make it good or bad.

Expand full comment

I like to think that a big part of my personality/values are built around solving this cycle. Telling the truth, emotional intelligence, and invitation to joy.

Expand full comment

I think this is common with things that feel uncontrollable (your personality just hurt me), but a lot of the things that ‘hurt’ are things that you can do just a little better. Hey it feels like you leave your dishes on the table pretty often - can you please try a bit harder to pick them up when you stand up… is actually doable.

But the big personality things can be actionable, little things too.

Expand full comment