shell game

< Previous | Next >


Senior Member
From Smart Cities by Anthony M. Townsend:

The power grid shell game isn’t only about keeping the lights on,
but doing it cost-effectively while letting loose as few emissions as

What does "shell game" mean? The dictionary definition (a method of deceiving or cheating someone) doesn't make sense.

Thanks for response.
  • dharasty

    Senior Member
    American English
    It is entirely reasonable for power companies -- and any company -- to try to deliver their product cost-effectively. Loosing some of the product (electrical power lost to electrical emissions) should thus be minimized. That doesn't sound like any sort of deceit to me.

    So what that has to do with being a "shell game" is not clear. Maybe the author describes some deceit elsewhere in the containing passage?

    Alternately: a "shell game" is about moving some small item from one container (such as under a shell) to another. The "game" -- deceitful or not -- is to try to find the item when everything stops moving. Maybe the author is describing some aspect of electricity generation or transmission that -- in an engineering sense -- "moves" electricity from one place to another to reduce emissions. (From a technical view, I'm not sure about that... because it is the actual movement of power that generally causes [unwanted] emissions.)

    Anyway, if that is the author's intent, then perhaps he should have used "juggling": "The juggling of power on the power grid..." as that does not imply deceit, but clever movements.


    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The passage is about 'smart meters', Siemens central position in supplying them. and how the flow of electricity is managed by their use. Without a lot more background information and technical knowledge than is reasonable to expect in a language forum, we are not likely to be able to explain in what way this is a 'shell game'.

    Speaking loosely, in a 'shell game,' you give the appearance that one thing is happening while actually you are doing something else. Copyright's link to the Wiki article explains more fully. Perhaps prpreggy has an idea of how that would apply here.

    Link to source: Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia
    (This is a link to Google books. Sometimes a Google-books link works in the US but not in the UK, for instance, because of differing copyright laws.)
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >