Asking for cheating

A phenomenal amount of resources gets spent each year trying to reduce the amount of cheating, fraud, bribery and deceit. Governments fund inspection programs, audits and review processes to ferret out the corruption. Corporations spend millions to stem the multi-billion-dollar losses from employee theft, exaggeration of expense or insurance claims, and embezzlement of cash. Schools hire additional staff to monitor the students, catch the offenders and punish the cheaters.

In my view, it looks like someone trying to dry off with a beach towel while they are underwater. There's no shared awareness of:
  • asking for cheating to occur by what's missing, mishandled and mistakenly perceived
  • setting up the convenient opportunities for cheaters to exploit cleverly
  • making cheating the odds-on favorite for those gambling on the risks of delayed reprisals
  • creating cultures of cheating each other normally where it's not to be taken personally
  • enticing people to game the system for all it's worth to maintain their sense of dignity and self respect
  • inadvertently rewarding cheating more than acts of integrity, honor, self respect and conscience
  • giving cheating a good name among the outcasts of the contrived conformity
  • reacting to cheating like it's a real problem that keeps it showing up as an unavoidable problem
All these patterns eliminate the possibility of people seeing their own cheating as a losing game. Chronic cheating won't go away because it runs too deep and engages almost everyone involved. The cheating takes on a life of it's own that defies attempts to stop it, resist it or change it in some way. Until we see how we inadvertently ask for cheating in so many different ways, we cannot design systems that eliminate cheating from the start. Each pattern of "asking for cheating" offers an opposite approach which can have the effect of eliminating cheating


  1. Tēnā koe!

    'Twas ever thus Tom.

    If one examines the animal kingdom, it is rife with 'cheating'. And not just one species cheating against another. What's more, the higher the intelligence of the species, the more sophisticated the cheating. Birds and mammals seem to lift the accolades, but a few insects and parasitic nematodes might win a few there too.

    But even plants 'cheat', and squeeze one another out of existence if they could.

    Another take on cheating is an attempt at survival. For some it is a successful attempt. Certainly this seems to be the case with many animals and plants. It's ironic that cheating is seen as a 'bad' thing among humans. We treat pests like we do cheats.

    Yet if we consider how the petroleum industry per se is ruling the world, it would not be a far cry to claim that it is cheating on the rest of society round the globe. It is very successful.

    Many other lesser industries can be thought of in the same terms, including the illicit drug industry, the porn industry, the so-called adult-entertainment industry, etc. Not all of them are illegal, yet all can be considered 'cheating' by sectors of society.

    from Middle-earth

  2. Thanks for drawing some great connections to natural dynamics, Ken. In those situations you describe, there is only one way to win: surviving. Ecosystems are prone to collapse when one animal, plant or insect dominates the diversity. "Winner takes all" is lethal to the overall community. Nature often uses a cheater to disrupt the excessive winner and meet several other objectives in the process:
    -- cultivating a more fertile, stable or enduring habitat by killing off one very successful life form for it's nutrients and reuse of it's sunlight, space and local resources.
    -- restoring balance to the whole system after going to some unrestrained extreme or adopting a one-sided success
    -- introducing diversity and scattered growth potential after an over concentration of one life form and closing of niches for others to exploit
    advancing a local extinction to serve the emergence of a more robust and resilient community in its place

    Thus there's always a question about any successful life form: is it serving the whole by the way it's cheating or is it asking to be cheated out of existence? Mere success is not defensible in a court of ecological balance that maintains standards of holistic inter-dependencies.

    Enjoy today!

  3. Kia ora Tom

    Under the circumstances, I guess we all should make a point of enjoying today.

    from Middle-earth