Attempting to make a game more fair by adding rules has many unintended downsides

Fair games have legible rules so intuitively people often try to make games more fair by adding rules.

At first these rules are often simple like “take a standardized test.” But because Fair games can be gamed, the outcome of the rule isn’t what the creators intended, for example test-based admission filtering for rich kids who can pay for test prep instead of equalizing the playing field.

A common response to the unintended consequences of adding rules is to add more rules. So college admissions becomes not “how well can you do on grades and the SAT?” but “How well can you simultaneously play sports, do community service, play an instrument, get grades, and do on the SAT?” Building a new building becomes a maze work of regulation, etc.

Additional layers of rules add a lot of complexity. This complexity makes it harder and more expensive to try to follow all the rules. It can still be gamed but moves you ever further into the

For example, the way regulations work is that they are layered.


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