The Planter's Dilemma

from by Baba Brinkman

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lyrics

So you want hippies huh?
Alright, I’ll give you hippies
Come to BC, meet some tree platners
We’ll teach you ‘bout the prisoner’s dilemma

I was raised with a spade in my hand – ecosystem
Restoration is the game that my fam plays
Reforestation of our native land – pine, larch
Spruce, fir – the species we mainly plant
Rappers wanna brag about a seven figure salary
I’ve planted seven figures worth of trees by hand
With ten fingers in the dirt since the age of seventeen
If you ask me, I’ll be like, yeah, that’s a G
Planting trees is kinda like the game of life
You get paid for your efforts and never paid for your time
Yeah, it’s piecework, so there’s a rat-race side
You gotta hustle if you wanna make your pay-cheque nice
But it’s team-work, ‘cause you’re workin’ with a crew
And you gotta coordinate with the person next to you
‘Cause the decisions that you make affect them too
And efficiency is created by collective rules
See, you’re following a line of trees on one side
And there’s another line of trees that you’re leaving behind
And the space between trees is three meters wide
It’s like watching a game of Pac-man played in rewind
And the goal is to never have to cross over trees
Just fill the open space on the block economically
And never make another planter walk over trees
‘Cause we go at different speeds, so don’t cut me off please!

If I cheat and you don’t cheat then I profit
If you cheat and I don’t cheat then you profit
So we both cheat, so we can each keep somethin’
But where did all the non-cheaters go?

If you don’t cheat, and I don’t, the team profits
And people on teams can achieve some deep pockets
The cheats won’t beat us as long as we keep watchin’
So if you cheat, we’re gonna know

It’s like a sophisticated game of follow the leader
Where the lead player changes every couple of meters
And everybody’s watching for cheaters, if you’re awful eager
To plant the soft easy ground, then we’ll call you a “creamer”
‘Cause there’s rocks and fallen trees and piles of branches
And swamps and weeds, and nice lines of trenches
And it’s easy for opportunists to try to take advantage
Of co-operative units to advance their own interests
So how do we regulate? Hmm, in several ways
But reputation is the most effective way
We swim in a sea of gossip, and we punish reprobates
With the threat of the loss of their option to participate
We got groups within groups, the truck is a six pack
But a lot of people like to work in pairs so they can chit chat
And we live in camps of several dozen who interact
On a daily basis, yeah, it’s quite a mish mash
And sometimes we seem to move with a group mind
Like a flock of birds, a school of fish, or a pride of lions
But that’s just the illusion of top-down design
Welcome to sociobiology, the new science
The coordination comes from simple local rules
That combine to produce the most cogent moves
At multiple levels, from genes to social groups
The same way your neurons compose you

If I cheat and you don’t cheat then I profit
If you cheat and I don’t cheat then you profit
So we both cheat, so we can each keep somethin’
But where did all the non-cheaters go?

If you don’t cheat, and I don’t, the team profits
And people on teams can achieve some deep pockets
The cheats won’t beat us as long as we keep watchin’
So if you cheat, we’re gonna know

It’s the prisoner’s dilemma, you’ve been charged with a crime
But you get off scot free if you snitch and drop dime
And if your partner snitches on you, you’re knocked for life
So you both snitch, and you both do hard time
If only you had some kind of “code of the streets”
Some way to punish cheats – you could both go free
Ironically, the challenge is acting pro-socially
So we probably shouldn’t model it with cut-throat thieves
The point is about where your interests lie
If you’re locked up, well then they’re just outside
But in modern society we live cooperative lives
And cooperatives are the best place to catch free rides
So who’s “pimping the system” and who’s snitchin’?
In game theory terms, “snitchin’” means defection
From a collective, along with the loss of its protection
It’s the “tragedy of the commons” the hip-hop edition
‘Cause a gangster whose motto is “stop snitchin’"
Is a snitch from the perspective of honest citizens
And the Kyoto accord is a dilemma for prisoners
Of this planet, and those who block it are snitches
But the system only works if the members see an active
Distribution of benefits, and graduated sanctions
Just like the tree-planters, ‘cause whatever the endeavor
Life is just an iterated prisoner’s dilemma

If I cheat and you don’t cheat then I profit
If you cheat and I don’t cheat then you profit
So we both cheat, so we can each keep somethin’
But where did all the non-cheaters go?

If you don’t cheat, and I don’t, the team profits
And people on teams can achieve some deep pockets
The cheats won’t beat us as long as we keep watchin’
So if you cheat, we’re gonna know

The prisoner’s dilemma is part cooperation
And part competition, it’s an elegant model
For the evolution of social behaviour
It’s a cross between “turn the other cheek”
And “an eye for an eye”
And the better we understand it
The better our chances of surviving
So how do you punish cheats, huh?
Oh, you don’t punish cheats?
Shame on you! Shame!

credits

from The Rap Guide to Human Nature, released August 1, 2010

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Baba Brinkman New York, New York

Canadian hip-hop with an intellectual bent, nothing but sexy beats and sumptuous brain food.

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