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Chris
Outsider philosopher, game designer and author
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Hi Bart, Like you, I contend that anonymity is a root problem in digital public spaces, and indeed argue against anonymity in Wikipedia Knows Nothing in situations where individuals have any significant power. I concur with you on a number of points as a result. However, we have to be clear about what we mean by 'anonymity'; assuming an alternative identity is different from being disconnected from those we interact with. With this in mind I would like, and this is in deference to what I suspect ground's Brian's objections to your position, to distinguish a MUD community (and its equivalent) from digital public spaces: in the MUD community, participants are anonymous in the sense that their assumed identities are not related to their conventional world identities. But of course, MUD players don't typically know who these people are either way, and so what happens is the formation of a new community. It's a village versus a city situation: you don't get muggings in villages, because there is not the anonymity of the crowd to conceal you afterwards. The fact that the 1990s MUD communities frequently held 'MUDmeets' where people could meet face-to-face reiterates this point for me: there is a distinction between anonymity and joining a community under an assumed identity. Regarding Axelrod's work, I wrote about this back in 2007 as part of the Ethics Campaign. You can find this discussion here, and it's not significantly aged, I'd say: http://onlyagame.typepad.com/only_a_game/2007/06/tit_for_tat.html However, I would side with Mary Midgley in pointing to parental behaviours (specifically maternal) being a prerequisite for social behaviour in animals, and co-operation arises on this vector. I'm not enormously swayed by the concept of an 'evolutionary stable strategy'... the word 'evolutionary' there is thought important by those who use this phrase, and it's actually doing any appreciable work. The long-term development of animal behaviour is swayed by what provides advantages - such as co-operation (as discussed at great length by Kropotkin). It is a mistake to presume organisms begin with self-interest: the primal state is interest. Self-interest is merely a stage along that path. "Neither the shepherd nor the wolf sees any reason to be tactful to sheep." This is a great phrase! And as for Windows 10, I very nearly namechecked this within the piece, along with Apple's relentless downloading of iOS updates (which frequently disable my wife's phone by using up all available memory). In the end, I left the name-and-shame out to save space. :) I think you correct to draw attention to 'dehumanisation' (or, equivalently, densensitisation to other humans) as a key issue here. This, indeed, is the difference between village and metropolis: it is not coincidental that street gangs, muggings etc. increase with population size. Also, and Tokyo might be the exception, politeness tends to decline with population density. New York's brusque style is the epitome of this, but you'll find it in London and Paris too, to lesser extent. The large-scale digital public spaces such as Twitter and Facebook have equivalently greater risks of desensitising, dehumanising... anonymity is part of this problem, yet removing this option is not enough to solve the problem. Anonymity is not about whether you use your birth name: it's about whether you are part of a community. That, it seems to me, is where we are failing in the online metropolis. Many thanks for this extremely thoughtful, detailed, and engaging comment - you made my day! All the best, Chris. NB: Brian Green (mentioned in this comment) has responded to Bart on G+. That sidebar discussion can be found here: https://plus.google.com/115870743941134092422/posts/M1WivrSxV9d?_utm_source=199-1-1
Toggle Commented 5 hours ago on Should Your Laptop Say Please? at Only a Game
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Politeness is not merely an arcane code of conduct, it serves to smooth over the rough edges of human interaction by making requests more tactful, and thus less irritating. Yet as cyborgs we are not good at displaying tact towards... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Only a Game
Hi Michael, Aye, I was very disappointed that this one 'bowled a duck'. I haven't pursued it elsewhere yet, but I would like to see this discussion take place! Librarians: if you have a perspective to share, we would love to hear it! Chris.
Toggle Commented 2 days ago on Librarians on File-sharing at Only a Game
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Last week, the self-satisfying qualities of social media. This week, philosophers Babette Babich and Chris Bateman talk about dinosaur hands. Babette Babich: To say just one thing about this bodying forth [introduced last week] along with slow ways to pour... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Only a Game
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Every purposeful network of beings and things forms a cyberg, where (like an iceberg) we only see a fraction of the entailed network and the rest lurks beyond our awareness most of the time. The complete inventory of beings and... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2017 at Only a Game
Hi Chris, VR has been a fascinating spectacle, watching the game development community scrabble around trying to solve an interface problem that is (I suspect) essentially insoluble, just because investors have latched onto this technology as 'the next big thing' (as you say). I've seen this before with social (=viral) games, episodic content (which worked for Telltale - and no-one else!), mobile games, online integration and so on. It's the investment merry-go-round. As a consultant, I am always having to ride the waves of investment fashion... I'm not sure if there is 'nothing new under the sun', though... it is, of course, a matter of perspective. As much as I like to stress the continuity between games today and games millennia ago, I do think that we are facing new problems with technology today that do not parallel earlier situations as well as that phrase suggests. But then I look into the history of crossbows and see in it the echoes of drone bombings and think that, perhaps, what is changing is only the scale of the problems and not their essential qualities. Thanks, as ever, for your support! Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2017 on Tip of the Cyberg at Only a Game
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Last week, the discussion about corporate venality passed sideways into a diagnosis of US politics and the commercial system propping it up. This week, philosophers Babette Babich and Chris Bateman turn to the moral ambiguity of social media. Chris Bateman:... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2017 at Only a Game
Hi Chris, Regarding 'the singularity', I completely agree with you: the singularity either occurred with the invention of international mail (and hence corresponds to the advent of the 'Republic of Letters') and has been accelerating ever since, or else it corresponds to the internet. Either way, there is no use longing for what it will bring us: the singularity is already here. The question is what we're going to do about it. The interrelation between humans and their tools is, of course, the point of drawing attention to the 'cyborg', and the cybernetic network I trace here (with a huge debt to Callon and Latour) is an important part of the nature of that situation. My key interest, in terms of technology ethics, is the vast gap between the mythos we tell about our tools, and what this obscures... I try to draw out a little more of that with next week's postscript 'top ten'. With unlimited love, Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2017 on Tip of the Cyberg at Only a Game
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Does technology simply increase human capabilities? Or have we radically misjudged the extent and complexity of the ever-growing abundance of tools around us? The astonishing advances in technological prowess in the prior century or so give an impression of infinite... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2017 at Only a Game
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Over at the O Creative Studio website from wonderful Barcelona, Víctor Navarro Remesal becomes the first writer to join me in mulling over cybervirtue outside of Only a Game. Víctor’s piece, entitled The Rebellion of Robot Mates, discusses the charming... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2017 at Only a Game
Hi Michael, Whether a regime can be toppled by reducing its political support depends on the regime and the magnitude of the opposition that can be mustered against it. Let us not forget that the Klerk government in South Africa and the British Raj in India were both ended peacefully in this way. It is less clear whether Saddam Hussein could have been removed from power like this - although since nobody ever tried, we'll never know. You may be right that there is an element of self-comfort in telling ourselves that matters can be brought to a peaceful close - just as there is an element of vengeance in telling ourselves that only violence can end a regime. My point is only that we should not close down the possibility of peaceful transitions of power, since these are actually better at producing lasting change than violent revolutions. South Africa never returned to Apartheid... India remains a sovereign nation. These victories should remind us of the power of non-violent resistance. As for posting the comments to Twitter, it's a feature Typepad added that I only recently realised was such a boon. It alone seems to have rescued the comments here at Only a Game from complete obscurity! With unlimited love, Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 5, 2017 on Beyond Futile Outrage at Only a Game
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Hi Justin, If the question is, at what point should we refuse to talk to someone, it feels like jumping the gun somewhat. Talk, as they say, is cheap - too cheap to deny it as an option. Now of course, when we try to talk to someone it might fail... we aren't guaranteed to be able to have a conversation just because we try. But why shouldn't we try? I think, for instance, of programmes that bring offenders into contact with their victims and make them talk to one another. These are radically more effective than prison at reducing re-offenders. Now of course, our horror at what other people say and do might make it impossible to start a conversation - but I don't believe there is any imperative that demands we don't talk to someone. And I would be suspicious of any attempt to make this argument. I would find it incredibly hard to talk to those who committed the atrocities in Rwanda... but then I think of the efforts that were made towards reconciliation in South Africa and think that there is much to be said of dialogue as an alternative to vengeance. When I started talking to people in the US about their political and religious situation, I heard a lot of people say (talking about the nebulous 'others') "they can't be reasoned with!". To which I asked: "Have you tried?" The assessment that someone can't be reasoned with seems to correspond to an untested assumption that dialogue was impossible. Yet I didn't find anyone I couldn't talk to, for all that I found some that seemed a little crazy, or whose positions were not terribly well thought out. Mostly, however, I learned a great deal about the motives and values of people who not that long ago I would have judged "impossible to reason with." As for "is there a difficulty in deciding where a regime starts and stops?" - yes, absolutely! But the thing with supporters is that they have their reasons for doing what they do (ones that are usually not as simple as blanket terms like 'racism'), and understanding what those reasons are can be tremendously helpful - certainly more helpful than vehemently opposing them and causing them to dig their heels in even further. Reinforcing divisions, entrenching them, is largely how we got into this mess in the first place (a news service that prioritises drama does not help matters!). You can undermine a regime by pulling away its support - and although that's a tough path, it also prevents another similar regime from coming into power. And why not 'fight the battle' on every available front, including diplomacy? We seem to have forgotten that it is even an option. Many thanks for the thoughtful questions! Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 4, 2017 on Beyond Futile Outrage at Only a Game
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Hi Justin, "But what if they're not reasonable?" is an important objection I hear often. And part of the problem here, as you suggest, is that moral horror kicks in too early, shutting down even the possibility. But you hit the nail on the head here with this remark: "Could it be that we seek allies from across the spectrum, find common ground from a broad group of people." So whether we're talking Trump's 'closed borders' versus liberal universalism in the US or Brexit versus Remain in the UK, the supporters in each case are diverse and the majority are open for discussion - provided discussion is actually still open. The problem is that moral horror shuts it down completely. So if we come in all guns blazing about closing the borders to Muslims (which is horrifying to liberals, myself included), it actually makes it harder to have the discussions we need to have with the people who think that is a good idea, and might not if we could engage them from any angle other than liberal universalism. It's vital to remember that the populace are not the regime, and this is especially important in the US, although it matters everywhere! It is perfectly possible, and sensible, to resist the current ruling power and engage in dialogue across the populace. In fact, it's the best way to resist any government. This ninety day travel ban seems to me designed to drive a wedge between two halves of the population, and once the moral horror kicks in, the administration has effectively a free pass as dialogue becomes impossible between "raving" liberals and "cowardly" conservatives. That allows them to get away with anything : we have to play it smarter than that. Looking forward to our dialogue/interview! Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 3, 2017 on Beyond Futile Outrage at Only a Game
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Last week, a discussion about corporate venality and Ivan Illich’s ‘machine’. This week, philosophers Babette Babich and Chris Bateman turn to the problems of US politics. BB: Our relation to industrial or corporate capitalism seems, at least in certain of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2017 at Only a Game
Hey Chris, Your beaver example is a good one - although I'm not quite ready to go for breath as my distinguishing characteristic. I would probably prefer animate and inanimate, or possibly being and thing, which I've become comfortable with. A tree is a being, because it acts and responds (albeit on a time scale below our ability to care!) but timber ebbs away its being and becomes a thing. Thanks for pointing this out! Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 2, 2017 on What is Cybervirtue? Version 2.0 at Only a Game
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Hey Chris, I am curious about your wording 'non-breathing' (breathless?); does this draw against your Buddhism, i.e. in a parallel to Hindu 'prana' (translated both as 'breath' and as 'life-force)? Genuinely interested as I wasn't entirely happy with 'inorganic' but it was the comfortable choice. Welcome to the Cybervirtue Campaign (as if you weren't already here... ;D), and thanks for the encouragement, which is always welcome. It can be lonely out here these days, now that everyone is shouting at each other instead of talking. Namaskar, Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 1, 2017 on What is Cybervirtue? Version 2.0 at Only a Game
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Exploring cybervirtue involves taking traditional concepts of virtue and considering how they relate to our relationship with our robots and with the other cyborgs we live with. I wish to begin this process by experimenting with certain Chinese concepts. In... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2017 at Only a Game
Hey Jose, Yes, you're right, Ultima IV spells required reagents and formed a crude crafting system cf: http://wiki.ultimacodex.com/wiki/Ultima_IV_Spell_List That was also in 1985, so there are other precedents, and as established here, the Ultima games feed directly into the Elder Scrolls series as influences. Nice catch! Chris.
Toggle Commented Jan 30, 2017 on Game Inventories (3): Diablo and Daggerfall at ihobo
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Hi Ed, The question of a common ethical backdrop is a question of situating this in time, at least that is how it lands for me. 'Backdrop' is the key word: we're not talking about any kind of perfect alignment, but rather a shared point of reference. If I can draw against Charles Taylor's historical work, I would like to suggest that villagers in the late medieval period possessed such a common ethical backdrop, but it is an open question how well that 'travelled'. The 18th century produced a new social imaginary, one that leads up to the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II. The 'age of mobilisation' in the early twentieth century shows this common ethical backdrop I refer to. Note that this is not about a perfect alignment of moral thought, but about a shared toolset for thinking about ethical problems. It could be argued that the World Wars helped stimulate these conditions for mobilisation. This ends in the 60s, although the cracks had of course been showing right from the Enlightenment itself, as Taylor is keen to point out. Now, however, we are in a period of intense fragmentation - Taylor's 'Nova effect'... I concur with his historical sense of a shattering of a commonly held frame of reference. I do not see how, for instance, Watergate could have been a scandal without such a common reference. Such is my reply to your first six words! :) The remainder of your comment seems correct to me as a diagnosis of the situation in the United States. I personally don't see this as significantly contra my claim, though. You also try to pack in a substantial guerrilla critique by footnoting Stephen Turner's The Social Theory of Practice, which I have not read and therefore cannot adequately respond to. I can therefore only respond to its blurb, in which the knockdown argument is the claim that "there is no plausible mechanism by which a 'practice' is transmitted or reproduced." This is rather odd for me, since it seems apparent that practices are reproduced by habitual learning (the action of the hippocampi), for which the evidence is well-established, right up to the swelling of one of the two hippocampi in London taxi drivers when they master 'the knowledge'. Perhaps Turner's critique carefully demolishes all this, I'm not in a position to say. But as a game designer I would need some convincing that the practices I see transmitted through the play and design of games (such as the use of the right hand to adjust perspective in a three dimensional fictional world) were not tangible examples of practices being transmitted and reproduced. From Turner's title, I wonder if the problem here a critique of sociological applications of 'practice'... again, without reading the book I am not in a position to comment. I would welcome your pushback if you want to fight Turner's corner for him, though. Finally, greetings from a fellow Zero Books author! Best of luck with Uncertain Futures, and many thanks for your pushback against this piece. Best wishes, Chris.
Toggle Commented Jan 27, 2017 on Beyond Futile Outrage at Only a Game
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In this latest dialogue between philosopher and Nietzsche scholar Babette Babich and ‘outsider philosopher’ Chris Bateman, we discuss our relationship to corporate power and influence, the possibility of virtuous behaviour against a backdrop of pervasive technology, and living with robots.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2017 at Only a Game
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Why does our world suddenly seem to be filled with outrage, yet nothing changes? When our moral intuitions provoke anger, we voice our hatred or cynicism online and somehow feel that is enough. Nothing changes, since we have lost a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2017 at Only a Game
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Hey Rik, I welcome tangents of all kind! It's not my current plan to put much time into the videogame angles up front, just because the book project won't deal with them, but I certainly intend to get there sometime down the line (probably around April-May). Until then, it's still the case that everything counts for this topic as long as it relates to the topic - and I think the design of community games is an important aspect of cybervirtue. The links are also extremely welcome, and shall be thrown into the hopper for future digestion. Since one comment is enough to qualify, I shall count you among the players of the Cybervirtue Campaign! :) All the best, Chris.
Toggle Commented Jan 23, 2017 on What is Cybervirtue? at Only a Game
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As well as the continuation of the Cybervirtue Campaign (which has its first player now – the awesome Ari, who I’m thrilled to reconnect with), this week also sees the start of a new Babich and Bateman Dialogue, provisionally entitled... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2017 at Only a Game
Hi Ari, Haraway is always rattling around in my head... although I have only read her notorious Cyborg Manifesto, and dabbled with her most excellent discussion of 'companion species', the doors she opened prove most helpful. Again (and I apologise for the endless referring to Chaos Ethics I shall be doing, it being my major work in moral philosophy right now), I make the point in Chaos Ethics that while she is correct that we were always cyborgs, the ants and beavers were cyborgs before us. And as I think I've already mentioned somewhere in this Campaign, all organic life is a cyborg, because this split between organic and inorganic shouldn't be used to disguise the relationship between beings and things. My grateful thanks for that most excellent article on Chile's Project Cybersyn, which was completely unknown to me! This is a brilliant resource, and very much dovetails with my thinking. Indeed, if there was a motto to the Cybervirtue Campaign it could well be these words used as a title within the piece: "technology alone will not create a better world." Cheers! Chris.
Toggle Commented Jan 20, 2017 on What is Cybervirtue? Version 2.0 at Only a Game
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Hi Ari, Your cyborg thought experiment strikes me as a very specific instantiation of the more general problem of connectivity between selves. I discuss this at the start of Chaos Ethics, and draw against Derek Parfit, who in turn draws against Thomas Nagel, with the concept of series-persons: seeing our lives not as one entity, but as a chain of entities. Parfit wants to use this to argue, effectively, for a lenient way of looking at crime - that the crimes of the earlier series-person should not be held against a later series-person, who is effectively a 'different' person. (You may already be familiar with this reference, of course). What I end up doing is putting this into opposition with Alasdair MacIntyre's point that the unity of self - a consistent narrative across our lives - is actually essential for our moral selves. A quick and dirty way of getting to this point is that if we did follow Nagel/Parfit, it invites irresponsibility by basically saying 'whatever I do now, a future series-person won't be accountable for it'. That's not how I pursue this in the book, which is more about raising questions than answering them, but I do side with MacIntyre on this one: yes, we are different people at different times of our lives, but narrative unity is, as Daniel Dennett also argued, the basis of self. We should not be too keen to undermine that. Now, you turn this discussion to corporations... I shall defer this for now! The posts at the beginning of February will hit this point dead on, and will be a good time to discuss your thoughts and ideas. But I do object to your suggested term 'social cyborg' - corporations are rather anti-social cyborgs... and I am definitely interested in how we might encourage virtue in them. As I say - we shall get to this! All the best!
Toggle Commented Jan 20, 2017 on What is Cybervirtue? at Only a Game
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