📈 Не наебёшь — не проживёшь! Eat or Be Eaten: Game Theory and the Prisoner’s Dilemma in Business

3 min readDec 19, 2022

Eat or be eaten, move forward and never stand still, Не наебёшь — не проживёшь… Whilst maybe good motivating language, and useful in times of war, is such an approach optimal for business?

An environment of mistrust — Is this a failure of capatilism?

Prisoner’s Dilemma

A simple “game” where two prisoners are interrogated.
* If both say nothing then both walk free
* If Prisoner A incriminates Prisoner B and Prisoner B says nothing, then A walks free whilst B is imprisoned.
* If Prisoner B incriminates Prisoner A and Prisoner A says nothing, then B walks free whilst A is imprisoned.

And of course, if both choose to incriminate then both are imprisoned.This is a zero-sum game, whereby game theory strategy can be applied

Non-Zero Sum Dilemmas

In their basic form, these can be summarised as “games” and corporation between participating parties results in a benefit for both.

If a picture says a thousand words, then a video might be even more useful. Here is poker player Liv Boeree participating in UK TV Show “Split or Steal”:

The Human Element & A Changing Economic Climate

At the time of writing, it is no secret that economic hardship (and in some cases panic) is widespread.

Whilst a known optimal way to operate in game theory type scenarios, this mathematical approach ignores nuances, and the human element.

Although mathematicians should have strong counter-arguments, in the opinion of this writer not all “Prisoner Dilemmas” are equal due to these factors. For example, if the other prisoner is your brother of 20 years, from a philosophical perspective (of course dependant on other details) one might choose to not cooperate and even if the strategy does not work, at least, sitting in your cell, you shall know the person who you considered a brother for 20 years is not, and who is to know what kind of trouble he could have got you into should he have chosen to not cooperate.

We never know what will be the consequences of misfortune or what could be the consequences of good fortune.

Word Games

As I understand the metaphorical translation or equivalent proverb of the Russian language in English is similar to “Eat of Be Eaten”.

It is easy to view this as an aggressive stance, but it is also one of protection. If you one only intends to “eat”, then those who wish to eat you, may prey on easier targets.

“Не наебёшь — не проживёшь!”, involves a sexual word, although as I understand not in a sexual context — The message is similar: Eat or Be Eaten

If we follow this mode of thought to the end, then one ends up eating everything and has not only nobody left to share it with, but nobody to help when that person may become a target to be eaten.

Amusingly in the Russian proverb: You can “eat” the rest of the world, but once again most would like to think they have the character to draw a line, and refrain from this behaviour when there is a true partnership.

How to identify such a partnership? Or sincerity? Not so easy. It might be easier to quickly weed out those who certainly do not have a partnership in their mind though!




Blog on subjects relating to business, investment and technology. Not financial advice, merely thoughts.