Winning vs. Not Losing

There’s a bizarre parallel between the strategies employed by a resistance organization against a state, and the strategy of the free and open-source software movement. Simply put, both strategies rely on the fact that the underdog merely needs continued survival to ensure that the dominant player has not won, while their opponent needs to achieve total control.

A resistance organization does not need to overthrow the state that they oppose; it merely needs to continue to exist to question the legitimacy of that state. The bar for success for the state, on the other hand, is much higher: for it to succeed, the resistance organization must be completely eliminated.

The same is true for the free and open-source software movement: their continued existence, even at 1% market share, is enough to prevent software giants like Microsoft and Apple the oligarchy they need to force whatever software and policy they choose on the user. Free and open-source software needs simply to continue to exist; commercial software needs a continuous stream of new users and new versions to sell in order to make the money needed to finance support and development.

I’ve read that the best chess algorithms play to draw, rather than trying to win. I wonder what other contests could be approached by playing to not lose.