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Tit for Tat in the Terrorist Age

An essay concerning potential of complexity through Tit for Tat within unconventional situations.

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2001 by RDFollendoreIII  

We apparently now live in the "age of terrorism." We are terrorized by the ability of an unseen enemy to strike anywhere at any time.  We are terrorized by the idea that an unseen army would use "weapons of mass destruction" on our cities.  We are terrorized by the idea that two snipers can halt the social and economic operation of our cities by the random murder of a few innocent and unsuspecting citizens. We are all primed by our nationalistic feelings to react and deliver our Tit for Tat blow for America.  But what is it that Tit for Tat means? Does a counterblow to terrorism simplify or complicate our successful alternatives? These questions are for you the reader to read between the lines of this essay and think about.      


November 15, 2002

Tit for Tat is pretty much what it sounds like, but science has found that it's implications go far beyond what anyone might reason. It is a sequential set of transactions. When one side takes an action that negatively affects another, the other side responds in kind.  With only the parameters of these simple rules, but with limited damage but unlimited resources on each side, the result is a perpetual function within which both sides constantly lose.  When the situation becomes more complex and the situation is designed so that contextual data is missing to the players this is not the case.  It has been shown that within a prisoner's dilemma situation having two sides with limited resources, Tit for Tat represents the optimum strategy for winning.

The transactional context of Tit for Tat is the sequential representation of interactions.  Simultaneous transactions by both side do not allow for a measured Tit response.   This means that at any point there may not be a possible Tit for a Tat.  The potential occurrence of simultaneous transactions introduce greater potential risks for both sides the longer the scenario is played out.   Precedence is inherently important. 

Tit for Tat requires represents primitive coordinated system of implied memory and learning.  If a side forgets and loses count or does not recognize the importance of their response to the Tit for Tat, then it will ultimately lose. The cost of internal transactional error is therefore very high.  While Tit for Tat is sequential, the definition of Tit and Tat is asymmetrical.  Except at the initial action, each Tit becomes the other side's Tat.  This means that from the context of a Tit or Tat can be legitimately considered in terms of a defensive or offensive transaction, depending on the oppositional viewpoint.  The process of Tit for Tat from this perspective involves a concept of local time.

It is only through the accurate historical memory of all of the transactions from the external perspective that the definition and distinction of Tit from Tat can be recognized.  If a side chooses to compartment the memory of received damage from that of given punishment then each section would not be able to recognize if it had initialized the overall transactions and was therefore the aggressor or the defender.  There is an implied moral argument concerning these distinctions which enforces the concept of historical time. 

The Tit for Tat paradigm implies a preexisting balanced association.  Aggressor's initialization always requires an external motive. The overall defender has been hurt by the initial Tat and the motive of it's retaliated Tit is that it at least requires compensation in order to regain the original balance.      

The expectation of an equitable measured response by the opponent is a critical assumption of Tit or Tat.  If each player were to be able to choose between doubling or halving their response, the result in a limited resource situation would obviously occur much quicker.  An overwhelming response from either party ends all transactions between both of the parties.

The value of a Tit for Tat scenario is conditional on the separation and subordination of allocated resources.  If both sides are using up common nonrenewable resources, then it is in the interest of both to reduce rather than escalate their response.   It is also possible that a nonsymmetrical arrangement of utilization of common resources can exist.  This would occur when one opponent can use their own as well as the opponent's resources, while the later can only use their own.  This of course places the later in an unbalanced disadvantage.  The disadvantaged side has two options.  The first option is to capitulate and therefore be absorbed and the second option is to eliminate the opponent with a massive response.  Of course, getting to this decision with provable conviction would depend on accurate and convincing prior knowledge.

Finally, Tit for Tat implies the ability to deliver the Tit accurately and in time.  The delivery of a Tit may require one point or many different simultaneous points.  The ability to coherently deliver an overwhelming Tit is worthless if this is not true.  Therefore the ability to disperse and hide can be just as important as the value of the delivery.  

The process of Tit for Tat is essentially an economic formula for the negotiation of value within an environment free of stochastic conditions.  As the conditional situation of Tit and Tat systems become more complex, the risks to sequential, equitable and measurable responses changes.              


The tactics that have been taking place involve far more than things like the destruction of buildings, the hijacking of aircraft, and murder of innocents.  The understanding of Tit for Tat shows us that the rules for successfully negotiating our way through this counter terrorist minefield which has been placed before us by our enemies. One side has chosen to call this a war while calling the other side terrorism.  But unlike conventional war, success is not necessarily fixed by the number of flying B1 bombers we are able to respond with.  It involves the application and use of intelligent systems that can be used to sway the balance of power in our favor.  Our military has shown that it is possible to successfully model a modern coordinated attack on a military target.  The question is if our technology will be used by our leaders to successfully model and allow them to understand the underlying strategies that will peacefully stabilize the underlying political, economic and social conditions which perpetuate these events.    

If America is to thrive and prosper then we Americans must all be very careful of our personal choices about freedom.  The security of this great nation does not depend on hollow nationalistic phrases.  Nationalism is not the same thing as patriotism.  I might suggest that a nationalist becomes  involved because of his country, a patriot becomes involved because of the values he or she believes his country represents. If we choose to be nationalists then we are not  expected to think laterally, but loyally. Being nationalistic simply means we live where we live and respond the way we are expected.  I believe that being a patriot is what it means to be American.  It is about the founding documents of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.   If we are to be true patriots then we must be willing to stand together as we look beneath and beyond the surface of cause and effect.  We must have the freedom to contribute beyond the Tit for Tat scenario.  Right now this country needs all of the solutions we use to protect our liberty and freedom.  That does not mean living under a threat of terrorism, and nor does it mean living under an oppressive regime.  We Americans must be aware that the same technologies that can break the Tit for Tat policies can also be used enslave us.   




Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved