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9/14/04
Mongoose, Cobras and Markets: Level 3 Deception by Michael Cook

Passage from Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics (pg. 174 of the paperback edition):

Many forms of the activity of struggle, which we do not ordinarily consider as games, have a great deal of light thrown on them by the theory of game-playing machines. One interesting example is the fight between a mongoose and a snake. As Kipling points out in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," the mongoose is not immune to the poison of the cobra, although it is to some extent protected by its coat of stiff hairs which makes it difficult for the snake to bite home. As Kipling states, the fight is a dance with death, a struggle of muscular skill and agility. There is no reason to suppose that the individual motions of the mongoose are faster or more accurate than those of the cobra. Yet the mongoose almost invariably kills the cobra and comes out of the contest unscathed. How is it able to do this? "I am here giving an account which appears valid to me, from having seen such a fight, as well as motion pictures of other fights. I do not guarantee the correctness of my observations as interpretations. The mongoose begins with a feint, which provokes the snake to strike. The mongoose dodges and makes another such feint, so that we have a rhythmical pattern of activity on the part of the two animals. However, this dance is not static but develops progressively. As it goes on, the feints of the mongoose come earlier and earlier in phase with respect to the darts of the cobra, until finally the mongoose attacks when the cobra is extended and not in a position to move rapidly. This time the mongoose's attack is not a feint but a deadly accurate bite through the cobra's brain. "In other words, the snake's pattern of action is confined to single darts, each one for itself, while the pattern of the mongoose's action involves an appreciable, if not very long, segment of the whole past of the fight. To this extent the mongoose acts like a learning machine, and the real deadliness of its attack is dependent on a much more highly organized nervous system.

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO MARKETS?
WHO ARE THE MONGOOSES, WHO ARE THE COBRAS?
(I guess if you have to ask who are the cobras, you're the cobra!)