The new season of Rick and Morty contains an excellent example of belief prompting in a game theoretic scenario, much to my surprise and delight.
Season 5 Episode 6, “Rick & Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular”, shows Rick Sanchez and the President of the United States explicating their plans to outwit each other; Rick seeks to deceive the President into granting him a federal pardon during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, while the President seeks to stymie Rick’s sly scheme.
Naturally, I knew I must model their conflict as a decision tree using Deciduous, the security decision tree generator app Ryan Petrich and I created (warning: spoilers for the first ~8 minutes of the episode are ahead):
In prior years, Rick was able to gain a federal pardon for his myriad crimes via the American tradition of Presidents pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Rick would brainwash the presidential turkey wrangler, turn himself into a turkey, infiltrate the potential turkey pardonee pool, and then be selected as the chosen turkey to receive a pardon from the President.
But this year, the President is wise to Rick’s tricks and intent on thwarting him – and is willing to expend considerable resources on a mission codenamed “Operation Deep Gobble” to do so. Rick rightly expects this revenge and plans to escalate his investment accordingly.
What follows in the show is an exquisite example of belief prompting: considering what moves your adversary is likely to make to reach their goal, including how they will respond to any mitigations you implement.
The episode shows Rick and the President simultaneously articulating their assumptions about how the other party will operate on Thanksgiving Day, actively anticipating each other’s moves to inform their planning1. On the fateful day, both encounter moves that were unexpected and must quickly reroute their strategy accordingly.
These pre-planned assumptions and just-in-time decisions can both be elegantly mapped on the decision tree, elucidating the strategic and explanatory potential of this visual device.
For y’all’s convenience, I’ve pasted the full Deciduous config code for this Thanksploitation decision tree below. Simply copy and paste it into the deciduous.app text editor to explore it as a hands-on example for using Deciduous.
As a fun next step, think about what additional attacks or mitigations you would pursue if you were Rick Sanchez or Mr. President and add them to the tree. If you’re a fellow nerdburger with nerdburger friends, try roleplaying the scenario and updating the tree live as you LARP the turkey pardon conflict.
title: Rick & Morty's Thanksploitation Decision Tree attacks: - brainwash_wrangler: Brainwash presidential turkey wrangler pre-ceremony from: - reality: '#yolosec' - become_turkey: Turn into a turkey from: - brainwash_wrangler - infiltrate_turkeys: Infiltrate potential turkey pardonee population from: - become_turkey - sneak_onboard - chosen_turkey: Be selected at the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation from: - infiltrate_turkeys - turkey_behavior - ghost_corp: Set up ghost corporations to manufacture the vehicles from: - armored_transport - euthanize_wrangler: backwards: true - pass_audit: Pass audit through unexplained means from: - audit_vehicles - access_computers: Gain access to vehicle corp's central computers from: - ghost_corp - pass_audit - track_transport: Track the real armored transports from: - access_computers - flesh_robots - decoy_vehicles - stealth_mode: Land flying ship in stealth mode on top of transport from: - face_blind - armed_marines - sneak_onboard: Sneak onboard the armored transport from: - track_transport - stealth_mode - roof_combat - face_blind: Exploit marines' turkey-face blindness by turning into a turkey from: - armed_marines - flesh_robots: Create flesh-covered robots of self as decoys from: - monitor_home - jam_radios: Jam the marines' radios from: - investigate_noise - roof_combat: Engage marines in physical combat from: - jam_radios - turkey_behavior: Act like a turkey to avoid detection by President from: - president_turkey mitigations: - euthanize_wrangler: Euthanize the turkey wrangler from: - brainwash_wrangler - armored_transport: Transport the turkeys in armored military vehicles from: - reality - audit_vehicles: Audit the vehicle manufacturers from: - ghost_corp - decoy_vehicles: Deploy decoy vehicles to obfuscate real transport from: - access_computers - armed_marines: Put fully armed marines in the real transport vehicle from: - track_transport - turkey_marines: Turn marines into turkeys to mitigate turkey-face blindness from: - face_blind - id_chips: Track turkey marines with swallowed ID chips from: - turkey_marines - monitor_home: Monitor Rick's house the day of the ceremony from: - reality - investigate_noise: Marines investigate noise on roof of vehicle from: - stealth_mode - call_backup: Marines call for backup from: - investigate_noise - blaine_box: Bring in David Blaine box to detect decoy flesh robots from: - flesh_robots - scan_transport: Scan transport truck for ID chip anomalies from: - blaine_box - id_chips - sneak_onboard - president_turkey: Turn President into turkey to hunt for Rick in the pen from: - infiltrate_turkeys - scan_transport - attack_rick: President detects and attacks Rick from: - turkey_behavior goals: - receive_pardon: Receive federal pardon (Rick wins) from: - chosen_turkey
Some moves are left unexplained by the show, such as how Rick bypasses the President’s audits of the ghost corporations and how Rick determines the “real” vehicle from the decoys. ↩︎