# What is a No-Win Situation

In his book "On War", Carl von Clausewitz asks the reader to never start a war if you're not sure you will win it. All unstable and unsure things have a strong chance of falling into a no-win situation.

Arun Prabhu

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2019

Types of No-Win Situations

Catch-22

'Catch-22' is the term coined by Joseph Heller, who wrote a novel of the same title. It is regarded as one the best literary works of the twentieth century and it describes the no-win situation to the fullest. A catch-22 situation arises when you face a dead-end situation that often comes with trying to foresee as precisely as one can.

- If he accepts the mission, he would be called mad by his superior, because of the deadly nature of the assignment.
- To be declared medically crazy, he had to go and
*ask*the doctors to check him. The doctors will think he, in fact is*not*insane, just because he asked to be evaluated. He would thus be declared fit and have to fly the mission anyway.

*have*to fly to their possible deaths.

Cornelian Dilemma

A concept simple to understand, but impossible to get out of unhurt would be a Cornelian dilemma. IT involves human emotions and the conflict that they provide to the person in question. The sufferer is caught in between two choices, where each choice would hurt either him/her or someone else linked to the situation.

Game Theory

Mathematical game theory states the outcomes of a situation, based on the amount of interaction between the players, the level at which they know each other's strategies and their own personalities. The game theory can be applied pretty much anywhere, from military actions to a simple social interaction. There are two major branches of the game theory:

**Cooperative:**A cooperative gameplay happens if all players' decisions are affected by including the others' decisions, like a binding commitment.

**Non-Cooperative**

**:**Game theory dictates non-cooperative gameplay, as all players' take decisions independently, with no external influences.

**Zero-sum:**Here the resultant resources each player earns is equal (that is, zero), no matter how deviant their decisions are. That is, whatever you lose or gain is balanced out by the other player's losses or gains. A good example of this would be a game of poker, where your winnings are exactly equal to someone's loss.

**Non-zero sum:**Here the total resource count is not equal or zero. This happens in most observations on game theory.**Simultaneous:**Here, two players move at the same time, and even if they don't, only the end result is known to each, making it effectively a simultaneous game.

**Sequential:**Here players move with the knowledge of previous moves, regardless of the credibility of the knowledge.

Nash Equilibrium

This is a more neutral concept from non-cooperative gameplay. If all players making a decision arrive at a point they know each other's gameplay very well and no changes in decisions, in any way, can affect the outcome to a more favorable one. Here, all players eventually stand neutral, because they know that they would be worse off if they make any changes.

- All parties stuck in equilibrium would start competing in another field. This may or may not end up in another draw (a point to note here is that Nash equilibrium happens in very rare cases).

The Prisoner's Dilemma

This is one of the most famous examples of game theory, which shows the high probability of two players (prisoners) ending up in jail by resorting to a non-cooperative game. If played in cooperative mode, both prisoners leave Scott free, but if the iterative version (multiple trials) is played, this outcome does not happen after a few trials.

- If both the prisoners do not confess, the police let them go free (
*win-win*). - If both confess, both get 1 year in prison (
*lose-lose*). - If one rats the other out, with the other confessing or not, the latter gets 10 years in prison. Here, one leaves free, while the other is jailed (
*win-lose*).

All in all, the no-win situation is pretty harsh to be in. No one wins it!