Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The IntoPittsburgh Exchange

There are two ways to deal with a world fraught with imperfect information. Trust, a popular subject of my blog posts, helps to facilitate transactions in the face of great uncertainty. However, the power of globalization is that markets offer a better means of managing risk. A good example of this Flat World economy is online poker gaming. The Economist puts a serious face on the popular American pastime:

It might seem a bit of a leap to go from here to putting poker on the curriculum. But some academics see it as a worthy subject of study. Chief among them is Charles Nesson, a professor at Harvard Law School. Earlier this year he founded the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society (GPSTS), whose awkward name belies a clear set of goals: to highlight poker's role in teaching patience, strategy and money management, and in improving cognitive skills. “Poker offers metaphors for a range of life skills and could be a wonderful educational tool,” says Mr Nesson, who plays a regular game with other law professors, including Alan Dershowitz—though he has yet to play with Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice known to have a fondness for poker.

Poker is, first and foremost, a game of managing resources, argues Mr Nesson, teaching a cautious approach to risk-taking, not recklessness. There is some evidence for this. One study, comparing experienced poker players with financial- market traders, found the players less likely to exhibit over-confidence.

That poker might help teach people how to thrive in a world with diminishing amounts of social capital spells opportunity for Pittsburgh. The debate about the regional startup climate indicates the problem with risk aversion. Too bad the local casino won't feature "games of chance" that could sharpen valuable skills. Jay Kadane is a local expert who could help guide such an initiative and the innovation cluster of computer gaming provides the perfect vehicle to promote an "entrepreneurial culture" in and around Pittsburgh.

Poker players, much like immigrants, make great entrepreneurs. Failing a bit less than the average person is the definition of success. The definition of failure is never taking a risk in the first place. More Pittsburghers should belly up to the poker table.

No comments: