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Chris
Outsider philosopher, game designer and author
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Hey Dave, I was initially confused as to this comment, but I see that it follows from the discussions above. I think there is a role for games that expose the kind of consequences you are talking about, but there will always be videogames that are power fantasies which just elide the outcomes. I don't think the games are the root of any specific problem here... but I think that there is a set of problems that do need thinking through, and games are caught up in them like most other media. Thanks for commenting!
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Having completed the first phase of the Cybervirtue Campaign, it is time for my Summer blogging break. I shall be working on incorporating the pre-reader feedback to the new book, The Virtuous Cyborg, prior to submission to the publisher –... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2017 at Only a Game
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Over on the Journals of Doc Surge, Chris Billows has some additional thoughts about cybergs, the networks of technology and humans that are a definitive feature of our time. He suggests that literacy, toys, telephone networks, and vision correction technology... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2017 at Only a Game
Hello again, anonymous passerby! This comment is much clearer than the other that you left, and I agree with much that you say here. I completely agree that reason is a human tool, and I might even go further and say that our (multiple) systems of reason are human tools, since Alasdair MacIntyre has rather convinced me that there is always more than one form of reason. And like our tools, our reason can drive us if we're not paying attention! It's an ever-present risk. I also might agree that there is nothing absolute in reason... the truths of logic are absolute, but only because they are divorced from all reference. But I think the focus on absolute truths as a point of comparison is not always helpful... that's why I have become interested in 'reliable knowledge' as a touchstone, since 'absolutes' are always escalating a little beyond the sensible. In this piece, I'm playing at philosophical aikido, so it definitely has a feel of 'reason pitted against reason'. That's not my only philosophical mode, though... Given the general perspective you put forth in this comment, I want to gesture towards this ten-year old piece on 'The Meaning of Life': http://onlyagame.typepad.com/only_a_game/2007/09/the-meaning-of-.html I'd be interested to hear what you make of that. Again, thanks for commenting! New voices are always welcome here. Chris.
Toggle Commented Apr 20, 2017 on Is Free Will Too Cheap? at Only a Game
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Hi anonymous passerby, The layers of apparent sarcasm in this comment make it difficult to adequately respond! :) So I shall just focus on a few key points... 'Ethics are a tool' strikes me as a difficult to defend position. If you mean, the people in power use ethical systems to control those lower in the hierarchy, you are close to Nietzsche's position on morality. This is a highly defensible viewpoint, although holding it doesn't really help anything. It's one of those places that you can feel content with the sufficiency of your perspective, while not being able to do anything practical with it. In general, one of the problems I have with the 'will to power' perspective - which Nietzsche championed, and which Foucault saw through to the bitter end - is that the motive for power is less a foundational quality than it is one of the (many) key motives around us (one that is involved in a lot of specific problems). While I share your perspective that there are those with power and influence taking steps to ensure that the situation that benefits them remains that way, I wouldn't invoke a term like 'levers of power' as it suggests greater control than exists. Influence, even excessive influence, should not be mistaken for control. Nobody has any control at the moment... and that is as much an opportunity as it is a problem. Thanks for sharing your views, and my apologies for not quite being able to adequately separate your sarcasm from your sincerity. I feel there are other points here that would be worth discussing. Chris.
Toggle Commented Apr 20, 2017 on Everybody's Got It Wrong Except You at Only a Game
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Is it possible to be truthful without understanding the truth? When our sense of truth vanishes, what does it mean to be honest? At a time when ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ have become everyday points of discussion, it may... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2017 at Only a Game
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Justice is something nearly everyone cares about, but nobody shares their sense of what it is. This problem, upon which ethics has flailed since at least Nietzsche, divides moral philosophers into those who assert there is a perfect rational standard... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2017 at Only a Game
Hey Brian, It's interesting that our experience of online abuses are so orthogonal: you encountered groups, I have only encountered singletons. I would be tempted to say that this was a product of US versus UK influences, but all except one of the MUDs I played were in the States. It might, however, reflect your longer time in the MMO space, since I stopped playing in about 1995, and you just kept going. I'm over in the States right now and was with Mike Sellers, and you came up in conversation. I told him that you were responsible for the continued running of Meridian 59 - I hope I got that right! :) All the very best, Chris.
Toggle Commented Apr 6, 2017 on Lessons from the MUD at Only a Game
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Hi Lewis, It is not because armed drones are 'unsporting' than I oppose their use, but because they remove the conditions that make 'just war' - the only recognised moral justification for pursuing war at this time - impossible. Jus in bello, the proportionate use of means, is essential to the claim of 'just war'. When this is absent, something has gone horribly wrong. I have two basic objections to your stated counter-argument. Firstly, the way that armed drones have been deployed does not match your hypothetical situation, and is far more problematic than you appear to assume. Secondly, it is an impoverished view of morality that equates equivalent outcomes with equivalent moral assessment. Even contemporary consequentialist ethicists have accepted that weighing of outcomes, without any inclusion of circumstances, is an impoverished understanding of morality. Regarding this first point, I encourage you to examine this report from 2012 based on US drone activities in Pakistan. It is a far cry from your hypothetical strike on a 'terrorist command and control centre'. I am open to the possibility that drone strikes are used sometimes as airstrikes, in situations that military ethicists would consider acceptable. Nonetheless, this is an inadequate description of the deployment of armed drones at this time, which have been used to pursue assassinations of convenience that would not have been actioned in a situation that required the deployment of an aircraft with a pilot. See the report at the link below for detailed discussions: http://chrgj.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Living-Under-Drones.pdf Regarding the second point, you are welcome to adopt a strict outcome-focussed ethical system as your basis for morality, but this is only one of three basic approaches to morality, and has no essential priority over its alternatives. In both a duty ethics (deontological) and a virtue ethics perspective, the removal of the pilot has significant moral impact that you have opted to ignore. To be honest, even from a purely outcome-focussed perspective, the very convenience of the armed drone as a weapon of assassination changes the decision process that leads to its deployment. This moral effect applies even if the other perspectives on morality were discounted for some reason. I do, however, agree with you that war is not a game. In a game, you are free to pursue any strategy within the rules that will lead to your desired outcome, with no consequences once the game is concluded. In war, nations are bound to adhere to the rules of engagement that they have vouched to honour in international treaties. When they do not do so, they open themselves up to moral criticism, and potential future consequences that are anything but a game. Thanks for sharing your objection to this piece, Chris.
Toggle Commented Apr 5, 2017 on Technological Cowardice at Only a Game
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What do internet trolls and drone assassinations have in common? An absence of courage brought about by creating the most grotesque kinds of cyborg. In the heroic age of ancient Greece, the Norse Vikings, Celtic warriors, courage was the central... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2017 at Only a Game
Thanks for sharing your Big Two practices, Andy! Very interesting. I wouldn't personally choose a way of playing that benefited those that were already winning, since I tend to prefer closed feedback loops that offset differences in skill (making the game fairer) rather than open feedback loops that reward victory (making the game more competitive, and more rewarding for competitive players). Your take on straights makes a lot of sense, although I personally like the instability caused by wrap around straights. As for the 3 player game, I'm not at all interested in the 4 player game for precisely the reason you outline. No hidden information makes the game too mechanical. I personally like it as a 2 player 'heads up' game, which I play with my wife. She tends to win - I think I too rigidly define my strategy up-front, whereas she is more fluid with her play, which is a huge benefit in this game. Thanks again for sharing your perspective on this great card game!
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2017 on Big Two: Rules at Only a Game
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Hey Brian, We seem to be agreed about the problems of scale, and most of our disagreements come in the small print. Whether the mob is a community depends upon what is meant by community: if we mean 'a group of humans acting together', that obviously fits a mob. If we mean 'a group of humans connected by personal relationships', the mob is clearly excluded. That seems to explain our differences on that front. The question of what proportion of online abuse is traceable to mobs versus lone individuals is actually incredibly difficult to quantify for obvious reasons. But I can at least online my impressions here. Firstly, that co-ordinated mob behaviour is a substantial proportion of abusive incidents, but far from a majority. A huge volume of abusive text online is 'drive-by comments', and this is not attributable to any kind of mob unless we're collecting people, say, by political views, which would seem to be a tenuous criteria. I think you are underestimating the volume of lone wolf drive-by abuse... the Pew research into online abuse suggests the majority cases (64%) are coming from strangers or unidentifiable cyborgs, for instance: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/ Now that doesn't necessarily exclude your mob scenario, but the evidence I've found when researching this doesn't support your claim that it is mostly mob actors. Of course, it doesn't categorically exclude it either. We might have to wait for further research to emerge - or it might be that these two scenarios will never be amenable to being distinguished by researchers. The evidence that we have confirms only that both kinds of behaviour - mob and lone-actor - occur. Nobody is able to take this much further. Perhaps I can move us closer to common ground here, however, by pointing out that in drive-by comment abuse, the fact that others have also hurled abuse makes further abuse more likely to occur (in principle - again, research here is near impossible). Now you could call that a mob, and I might be tempted to do so, but it doesn't change the fact that the victim in these cases is unknown to everyone in the mob. Remember, I am marking with 'unknown' the absence of a personal relationship. And again, the Pew research favours this understanding. This perspective does not contradict your view regarding mob mentality, of course, but I stand by my assessment of the role of unknown (or effectively unknown) anonymity as an exacerbater of the problems. Regarding 'alone', most of my evidence comes from other kinds of abuse (not online abuse), in which lone actors are by far the dominant player. For instance, a study reported here puts the figure at 70% for lone actor harassment: http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2014-06-will-take-street-harassment-seriously/ Of course, this might not translate into the online context... but my sense of the situation is that this is the case. However, this does tie into your claim about humans being social creatures... people who conduct harassment or abuse alone are usually alone in life - they have no strong social ties to anyone else. This is the opposite pole to mob mentality: not that they are being empowered into acting by peer effects, but rather the absence of the moral representation that comes from having personal relationships sending someone down a dark road. I think we are more aligned here than otherwise, and our disagreements are ones of definition and emphasis. Certainly, we are agreed that scale is the most important aspect of the problem. Many thanks for your pushback! I will need to email you shortly to check you're happy with the way you are included in the book manuscript, since I have made you more of a direct character in that. :) I'll be sure to edit the text to incorporate some of the points you raise here before sending it on, though. With gratitude for your support and your involvement, Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2017 on Lessons from the MUD at Only a Game
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Hi Tom: I thought that even on sales where no identity was checked prior to purchase, that details were still entered into a register. I'll be sure to modify the text for this in the manuscript of the book that this material is heading towards. Thanks for your clarification here! PS: If you let me know your surname, I'll include you in the acknowledgements of the book too.
Toggle Commented Mar 28, 2017 on Lessons from the MUD at Only a Game
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Anonymity and technology mix badly. While you are required in most countries to pass a test of skill with cars, our most dangerous tool, and even the US licenses and records the identity of firearm owners, any fool can appear... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2017 at Only a Game
Over at Only a Game today, a discussion of three kinds of anonymity – alone, unknown, and unguarded – that compares the original online worlds of MUDs to Twitter and Facebook. Here’s an extract: The MUD was the direct precursor... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2017 at ihobo
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It gives me great pleasure to formally announce my new book project, The Virtuous Cyborg, which builds upon the cybervirtue discussions going on here at Only a Game this year. A publisher has already invited me to place the book... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2017 at Only a Game
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Our robots never tire, and always pursue what we have instructed them to do if nothing disrupts them along the way. Can their tenacity be made to work on us, to bring out our perseverance where we most need it?... Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2017 at Only a Game
Over at Only a Game today, a discussion of cyborg tenacity that includes discussion of Pokémon Go and Xbox’s Gamescore. Here’s an extract: Gamification risks stultification because the game developer (or behavioural engineer) is specifying what is being learned, and... Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2017 at ihobo
Delighted to report that Justin Robertson’s interview with me for Ransom Note went up today! Here’s an extract: I trust my mechanic to fix my car when it’s broken – except when the manufacturer has made the car into a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Only a Game
Whoops! The link is wrong. Please try The Dependent World instead. Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Only a Game
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Either the dog is the paragon of fidelity, expressing boundless loyalty to their human, or dogs are incapable of fidelity. It comes down to whether the bond a dog forms with their pack leader counts as a promise, and there... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Only a Game
Hey there Dirk, I actually don't know! It's not been mentioned. With four venues, there's a good chance it will be, but even if it does, that doesn't mean it will get shared publicly. If there is going to be a recording publicly available, I will definitely plug it here on the blog, though. Thanks for your interest! Chris.
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Hey Brian, The generational point you make in this comment is of course undoubtedly correct - but I think there is still something amiss, here... responsiveness to the phone is outstripping responsiveness to the people around us. Something has gone wrong. I do agree that there was a cultural shift, though - two, in fact... the shift into seeing the phone as an outside object, and the shift into not noticing the forceful interjection of the phone at all. The issue I have with the specific needs angle isn't that it lacks validity, but only that it should not be used to leverage the wider issue - those needs could be addressed in other ways, after all. It's good to protect individuals - but it would be unwise to choose a course of action that protected some individuals but in so doing created more trouble for different individuals. We humans have a nasty habit of moving the trouble around. :) From your perspective, since you don't think the situation itself is to blame (being more of an amplifier than a cause), the issues come out differently. There's certainly room for both readings. We share, though, the view that enforcing mandatory public identities everywhere online isn't a viable solution, although differ somewhat as to the nature of the problem. Thanks for responding to my points, and I look forward to finding out what you make of the longer piece in a week or so. Long live the Republic of Bloggers! Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 14, 2017 on Brian Green on Online Anonymity at Only a Game
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Over on Psychochild’s Blog, Brian Green has a fantastic four part series exploring the relationship between privacy and anonymity, and arguing against the idea that removing anonymity would address the problem – both because this means giving up privacy, which... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at ihobo
Over on Psychochild’s Blog, Brian Green has a fantastic four part series exploring the relationship between privacy and anonymity, and arguing against the idea that removing anonymity would address the problem – both because this means giving up privacy, which... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at Only a Game