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Chris
Outsider philosopher, game designer and author
Recent Activity
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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 3 days ago 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 5 days ago 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 5 days ago 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
Hi Brian, Thinking in terms of distances is what got us all into this problem in the first place! :) It is precisely the trick-of-the-mind that sustains the transportation radical monopoly. It is not easy to think of freedom of movement as the freedom to move in any direction when you have been inculcated into being a human-car cyborg, which lacks this capacity. But I encourage you to give it a go. It's a good exercise for game designer, or indeed for any human. And if nothing else, you can now see why I suggest the Tuareg has an authentic freedom of movement and we do not. :) Many thanks for these exchanges, which have helped me clarify the thoughts in the original post. Much appreciated. All the best! Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 12, 2017 on High Tech, Low Fidelity at Only a Game
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PS: I ought to make clear that authentic free movement is the capacity to move in any direction. The distance travelled is what deceives us.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2017 on High Tech, Low Fidelity at Only a Game
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Thanks! I did in fact play a little Space Engine, but although it was very beautiful to look at, it lacked those aspects of Noctis that really made it special for me. Somewhere down the line is a game with the looks of Space Engine and the vision of Noctis and I am looking forward to discovering it! :) All the best, Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2017 on No Man's Sky Roundup at ihobo
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Hi Brian, Two topics have collided here - firstly, convivial living in an age of motorised transport, which was what my point in the previous comment regarding longer trips was in reference to, and secondly, the freedom of movement issue raised in the original post. It's important to keep these in focus, as they are different problems related to the same core issue. You say: "For all its faults, the road network has overall given us more freedom, not less." My reply to this is: the perspective from which the road network has given greater freedom rests entirely on judging in a very particular way, namely thinking with the road network and not thinking through or against it. When you think with the road network, you see the benefits it affords - such as impulsive mid-distance trips, or day trips over several hundred miles. But if you think against the road network, these benefits disappear, since in the absence of the road network you would still be able to make mid-distance trips, you'd just be doing them on a different scale in terms of the distance. A vast number of people are invisible over the distance you travelled - if you didn't have the road network, your relationship with them would also be different. But here we are into counter-factuals, and this is dangerous space for an argument as there is never solid ground when you are thinking against what is. Perhaps more interesting, then, is to think through the road network, then you can see why freedom of movement is illusory within the road system. And key to this is: what can you do on your own? And on the road network, the answer is nothing at all! You must purchase a car, you must fuel that car, you must use that car - the 'freedom of movement' that you have, is a radical monopoly, mandatory consumption. It is the illusion of agency (something we videogame designers are very good at creating ourselves!) that makes the car seem to offer freedom of movement. But there is no free movement, just as there is no such thing as a free lunch. Now look at how your free movement has been constrained by the road network. To do this, you must recognise that as a pedestrian, you are now no longer able to move freely, because the road network constrains you at every turn! Vast tracts of land are forbidden to you on foot... you must take detours to cross roads, or you must cross dangerous roads at great risk. This is the hidden face of the road network, which is not a paragon of free movement at all - nothing of the kind! It blocks movement at every turn - except that singular kind of movement it is intended to support, and which is never free. In the US, where car ownership is an even stronger radical monopoly than in some other countries, the car seems to grant freedom, because citizens in most places in the US are trained to think of the car as the basis of movement. But it is never free movement to travel in a car. Elsewhere, where people move around freely (on foot, mostly, but also with bicycles, horses etc.) the sense of gain with the car is lost and these issues can come into clearer focus. The things the car gives you are solutions to the problems its road network has made for us, like travelling longer distances because everyone is spread out over a wider area. I do not accept that any authentic freedom of movement is to be found here, although the devil's bargain that automobiles provide certainly feels perfect in its Faustian disregard for what is not being considered... Thanks for staying engaged! Your support in this, and all things, is most welcome. Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2017 on High Tech, Low Fidelity at Only a Game
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Thanks for the link to the recording!
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Oh Brian, that's awesome! And you instantly got comments too, great stuff. I will try and plug this here when I get a chance... all is about to go crazy in my home life, though, as I'm off to the US in week and the entire house has to be rearranged before we go. Madness. I will find some time somewhere. Thanks again - this is brilliant!
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2017 on Should Your Laptop Say Please? at Only a Game
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Living with Machines was a seven part dialogue between veteran Nietzsche scholar Babette Babich and ‘outsider philosopher’ Chris Bateman, looking at our relationship to corporate power and influence, the possibility of virtuous behaviour against a backdrop of pervasive technology, life... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2017 at Only a Game
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Following on from last week’s discussion of robot friends, this final part sees philosophers Babette Babich and Chris Bateman discuss mechanised dolls. BB: Sex dolls are another thing again, aesthetically speaking, and there I do not have many hopes for... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at Only a Game
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Over at Kotaku, Paul Walker-Emig has a wonderful piece on my first game as lead designer and writer, Discworld Noir. It’s called Discworld Noir: The Greatest Detective Game Ever Made, which is very flattering, especially since (as Paul admits) this... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at ihobo
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Delighted to announce that I am on a five State tour of the US this April, with four speaking engagements open to the public. I shall be presenting at four university campuses in Indiana, Texas, California, and Utah with an... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at ihobo
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Last week, I outlined the way high technology has crippled the virtue of fidelity by ensuring that is only ever practiced as the thoughtless failure to recognise how little freedom we possess with respect to the technological traditions we are... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2017 at Only a Game
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Delighted to announce that I am on a five State tour of the US this April, with four speaking engagements open to the public. I shall be presenting at four university campuses in Indiana, Texas, California, and Utah with an... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2017 at Only a Game
Hey Brian, Your objection that the Tuareg loses their authentic freedom of movement when they have to enter areas with road is one that I did consider... but the Sahara desert is 3.6 million square miles of territory, and the vast majority of the land surround it has only dirt tracks with very little traffic. (In my experience of sub-Saharan Africa, these roads literally wash away in the rainy season!) It is only as the cities impinge upon the desert that the problem occurs. But I accept this objection, with the caveat that I still maintain only nomads such as the Tuareg enjoy anything close to authentic freedom of movement. I break with you on two counts when we come to discussing road infrastructure. Firstly, robot cars are not obviously an answer to anything other than 'how do we accelerate our employment problems?' and 'how do we increase our dependence upon corporate manufacturing?'. The only kind of robot car I'm willing to contemplate as viable is one capped to 25 mph, that would thus make the roads safer and share well with bicycles. And actually, I should like that to happen to all cars for use within cities. "One answer is to go back to the old ways, to rip out the road networks and allow people without vehicles to participate in movement again. However, this also cuts off options we have available to us today." I think we can both agree that this isn't going to happen, but it is not actually as crazy as it sounds to do so. With the technological prowess we now possess, we could develop some amazing solutions to the infrastructure problems if we could start again. Alas, I do not believe we can or will. "Another option is to devise ways to allow people without vehicles to still participate in movement with the road network. " Public transportation is better than not having it, and can be done well (I'm looking at you, the Netherlands!). It is at its best, however, when it is not dependent upon roads, which are a solution that does not scale well to 1:1 motorized vehicle ownership... "Now, the road network is a good thing. Instead of only visiting people within a short walking distance from my domicile I can go visit people much further away. Tomorrow I'll be driving 2-3 hours to visit someone for lunch; without the road network I wouldn't be able to do this, or it would take a much longer time to visit." Aye, you just described the US experience rather well. When I moved from the UK to the US, I was excited about all the friends that would be nearby. That 'nearby' meant 1-4 hours drive away. That overhead meant that I did not actually see them very often - certainly less often that a good number of my friends in the UK, who were not in fact much further away in distance. The difference here was the rail network. But it is also worth noting that I had friends in the UK that I could cycle to as well, whereas in the US even walking to the store was to risk being run over and killed. If there is a solution to this problem, and alas I'm not convinced there is any more, it would be to look at infrastructure, employment, housing, community etc. from a perspective that did not presuppose cars. We are as spread out as we are because the mythos of the automobile means we do not need to plan settlements for practical use at all. "You'll just drive there" is the explanation for a staggering number of our infrastructure problems. Rethinking settlements is what's required, but what there is no appetite for. If I can take you back in time, before it was practical to just nip over and have lunch with someone 100 miles away, what happened was that you planned your journeys over a longer space of time. So travelling further also meant that you stayed longer. What prevents us doing this now is an employment regime that is a form of indentureship. I had best not go down this line now, or we'll never get back! The point I am trying to wildly gesture at is that being able to take five hours to have an hour's lunch with a friend a hundred miles away is not obviously or definitively superior to having to make a longer trip to visit them for a day or a week. Convenience is being wildly overvalued in our assessment of facilities. I don't, clearly, have solutions to these problems, but it is not an option to keep heading down this same path. The topography of two dimensional planes has made the automotive infrastructure invalid for cities. It is time to start rethinking our future. Many thanks for your thoughtful commentary, and I very much look forward to reading you on anonymity! With infinite love and respect, Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2017 on High Tech, Low Fidelity at Only a Game
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Following on from last week’s discussion of hands and robots, this final part sees philosophers Babette Babich and Chris Bateman discuss living with robots. Babette Babich: I think that such robot “friends” [mentioned last week] are coming soon, if I... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2017 at Only a Game
Hi Michael, What you're calling 'the liberty dogma' is a corruption of the drive for autonomy that was a crowning achievement of the Enlightenment. But in the 18th century, 'autonomy' implied individual self control and alignment with commonly-held moral ideals, at that time associated with religious practice. Today, 'autonomy' has come to mean the exact opposite! So while I would agree that the liberty dogma is a tradition in itself, I would prefer to see it as a corruption of an older tradition worth saving rather than simply a free-standing tradition. This for me is true of so many things today... I would also like to distinguish between those traditions that possess knowledge (which is to say, have reliable practices) and those that do not. The liberty dogma does not obviously possess knowledge, in that its judgements are seldom reliable and indeed are frequently self-deceptive, and nothing is reliably produced by practicing it. I would welcome pushback on this, but I'm not sure what it could possibly be! "would a more efficient way of breaking with tradition not be actually following tradition at this point?" Aye, to my own infinite surprise, it sometime seems that the only viable act of rebellion left to us might be to align with and revive older traditions - in art, philosophy, culture and so on. Yet, at the same time, I would not denounce every aspect of contemporary life as failing to produce an authentic knowledge-practice. For instance, players of MUDs (the early text-based virtual worlds) formed genuine communities and developed practices that seem to me as worthy of fidelity as anything 'classical'. Is not your own project, The Endless Forest an extension of this young tradition? So while I would agree that reviving older traditions is a way you could break from the traditions of contemporary life (which are over a century old at this point, if you trace them from the industrial revolution), I still believe in the cyberpunk ideal of subverting technology to oppose the system - even if this latter path is becoming harder and harder to maintain faith in. Pleased that you enjoyed this piece, which does after all seem right up your street! There are two more that complete this discussion to come over the next few weeks. With unlimited love, Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 1, 2017 on High Tech, Low Fidelity at Only a Game
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