Why Max Geiger Is The Deadliest Warrior

The Deadliest Warrior, Max Geiger

Single combat is a wicked problem. It is a problem that resists a straightforward explanation. It can only be understood after it is solved, and only to the extent that it has been solved.

We tame a wicked problem by defining it clearly. Thus, in the field of software development, we often plan to “build one (solution) to throw away.” The product of this effort is not intended to be a final solution, but a restatement of the original problem in more concrete terms.

The benefit of such throwaway prototypes is that we do not become too invested in refining the right solution to the wrong problem. Solving the correct problem is the difference between a successful engineering project and a piece of abstract art.

To my eyes, The Deadliest Warrior TV series is a work of art: elaborate, entertaining, and useless. Yet some other viewers continue to believe that, because the results of its random battle match-ups accord with their own common sense and preconceived notions, its combat simulation software must therefore have some degree of scientific validity.

Personally, I remain unimpressed by its claims to predict the outcome of (hypothetical) past events. If The Deadliest Warrior’s algorithms are correct, and encapsulate all the relevant details of one-on-one fighting, then it should also be able to predict the future of martial arts!

Instead of merely staging duels between individual pirates, ninjas, soldiers and gangsters, the sim could compute statistical outcomes for every possible fighter, using every single weapon known to man. This computation would provide an indisputable formula for building the ultimate fighter…right?

Not exactly. In the simulated world of Deadliest Warrior, the problem space is explicitly defined. Its digital warriors are obligated to follow the rules of their world, but unlike in the real world, they cannot adapt to battlefield conditions. They do not learn from the successes of their opponents, or from the mistakes of their fallen comrades. That knowledge is guarded by a select few computer whizzes and software engineers…

And that is why Max Geiger is the true Deadliest Warrior!


  1. Max once simulated punching me in the face. I was in a cast for 6.5 years.

  2. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Max entered his hair style into the simulator?

    I can see it growing exponentially until it merges with the computer. Next thing you know we have artificial intelligence with no fashion sense!

  3. Agreed agreed agreed. It’s a silly show and the rating is a gimick to get people to watch it. I try to just see it as a way to showcase historical fighters. Personally I would rather watch it History Channel style where there are facts and story presented for one at a time and of course with no ‘conclusion’ drawn.

    But the people who watch Spike I understand are not the same who watch the History Channel.

  4. I have to respectfully disagree. The simulation is run 1,000 times to, in the words of the narrator “ensure that the battle is not won by a single, lucky blow”. Therefore, the idea of adaptation and learning from the mistakes of their fellow warriors is inaccurate when compared to the spirit of the contest.

  5. I think you’ve got it backwards, Todd. The contest inaccurately reflects the practices of actual warriors in the past and present, i.e. a continual refinement of strategy and tactics, weapons and techniques.

    “Fool me twice, shame on me” becomes “Fool me to infinity, I’ll never abandon my programming.”

  6. I do watch the history channel and yet i find the words expert, historian, and descendent of used a lot in this television show. Bright, amusing , and plain enterainen enopugh to put up with. I say let them have there simulated fights, and stabbing, slashing, and gouging. I rather enjoy the show, but I do watch the history channel also. There is also the case of plain ole hating with a lot of folks anf this show. In the end people, remember the show is all about entertainment!!

  7. Two words – Quiz Show!

    Go watch the movie and you’ll understand what’s going on here –

    It’s just entertainment!

  8. You have it backwards Chris, the contest ACCURATELY reflects the practices of actual warriors in the past and present, i.e. a continual refinement of strategy and tactics, weapons and techniques.

  9. Matt, you may have noticed that in the real world, losers become winners by changing their strategy and tactics. That luxury is not afforded to the warriors in this simple battle simulation.

    Show me a martial artist who fights his 1000th battle in just the same manner as his first, and I’ll show you a moron. In this show, however, they are called “Deadliest Warriors”. 🙂

  10. Chris, the battles are to the death. The loser can’t change his strategy because he died.

    Besides, it’s not like the “loser” has no chance of winning. None of the “winners” have won all 1000 battles. To me, the results reflect which warrior has a higher chance of emerging victorious in a fight.

  11. @chris

    The battle is run 1000 times because in the first fight someone could’ve gotten a lucky shot and won, and the other guy wouldn’t have a chance to change his strategy, well because he’s dead.

    It’s to show who has a higher percentage of winning a battle if they fought 1 on 1.

    You can’t have 1 battle.
    Or else it would be like this.

    Red guy: 100% chance of winning Blue guy: 0% chance.

  12. I like the show. I don’t watch it but I like it. Personally, though I think that Chris is using the show as a pretext to talk about progress and self-improvement more than the show itself. This is because I think he’s a pretty sharp guy and there are many more glaring flaws to the show than this admittedly interesting pet issue of his.

    As an example, the one episode I saw part of was Maori vs. Shaolin Monk. They ruled that the Maori’s Taiaha was a better weapon than the monk’s staff because it could do more damage to a spine. It could break a cow spine and the staff could only break a human spine. Seeing this, I thought, “OK but you only really need to break the human spine in the first place.” Not to mention they ignored Shaolin staff techniques which are known to be some of the best in the history of the world as a factor in battle. In addition, they made the monk “fight” with contemporary wushu rather than traditional kung fu and threw in a number of other errors I won’t get into (like how those needles are not characteristically a Shaolin weapon and how the odds of a single Maori having access to all those weapons are highly unlikely seeing as some of the weapons he used are rank-and-file weapons where others are for chiefs). I spotted these goofs because I have an interest in Kung Fu and I live in New Zealand, home of the Maori. I imagine that if I were to watch another episode with characters less relevant to my interests, I would be as clueless as the average viewer. However, I suspect the errors would still be there for those who know where to look.

    Now for Matt and Ranger Tech, you’re missing out on something. Even named characters like William Wallace represent generics. Let’s say Spartan hoplite meets ninja. Hoplite wins, fine. But the next ninja to come along will not make the same mistakes as the first. So, for the sake of argument, ninja wins. Of course, the next Spartans are going to work out a way to counter the ninja’s countermeasures. Then that dead ninja’s friends are going to work on a way to counter those countermeasures until they’ve both optimized what they have to work with. Every fighter is a product of his environment. We didn’t just invent anti-tank guns out of the blue, someone had to go and invent the tank first.

    Just one more gripe and I’m out. Did they seriously not know that Samurai were mounted archers rather than swordsmen? Sheesh.

    Anyway, nice article Chris. I admire how you’ve segued from complaining about a silly TV show into an essay on personal development.

  13. Oh, hey, one more thing, fellas. Sala Baker from that one episode I was whinging about played Sauron in “Fellowship of the Ring”.

    Yeah, I’m done now.

    Except that the monk doesn’t seem to have broken any spines according to wikipedia. I’m probably wrong about that.

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