The subtext for the thought experiment is: How should you act when interacting with someone smarter than yourself? What can you say or do, when your interlocutor has thought of everything you might say and more? Should you trust someone’s advice, when you can’t pinpoint their motivation? As a Ph.D. student, I run into this problem around three to five times a week, when interacting with colleagues or my advisor3.
After bugging a few people I learned that (of course) I’m not the first person to think about this question. In economics and political science, the situation is known as the principal-agent problem and is defined as “a conflict in priorities between a person or group and the representative authorized to act on their behalf. An agent may act in a way that is contrary to the best interests of the principal.” This problem arises f.e. in the context of conflicts between corporate management and shareholders, clients and their lawyers, or elected officials and their voters. Well-trodden territory.