The course of a person’s life in the modern world is determined by how they perform on a collection of tests, both explicit and informal.  Society has a finite range of resources with which to test for ability, and these subsequently determine who it invests in.  Investment has a way in many cases of not only improving how well a person scores on later tests, but determining whether they are subsequently tested again at all.  These compounding effects effectively put a premium on testing well early, to the point that suicides in developed countries over non-admittance even to preferred high schools (let alone colleges) are relatively common.  They also vastly incentivize consistency over absolute performance.  That is, a person who scores 70%, 70%, 70%, 70%, 70% on a series of tests will tend to be rewarded above a person who scores 70%, 50%, 100%, 60%, 70%, even those these average out the same.  One can play with the weights, but current patterns of social testing place a much higher priority on avoiding low scores than on maximizing overall scores.  On average, a person’s life trajectory is only as strong as the weakest link in their battery, front-weighted.

It would be wrong to say there are no other opportunities for testing, but these are supplementary and sporadic, and typically function more to generate marginal and suboptimal utility than to maximize utility (that is, they function to achieve a minimum rather than a maximum); eg, an intelligent person without a college degree can often get a decent job if they can manage to convince someone of their competence, but their total range of job opportunities will never be equal to those of a person with a college degree even after working for a while, and so utility is still lost (for this to be otherwise, two things would have to hold: First, the job offers they get through these alternate displays of merit would have to consistently be at the top level of their ability, rather than simply in their range of ability.  Secondly, subsequent employers testing for jobs at the top level of a candidates ability would have to universally ignore the absence of a college degree.  Both of these seem preposterously unlikely).

The more effective the mainline bread and butter testing sequence is at generating utility, the less motivation there is to develop alternative testing sequences.  This is a result of both rational incentives and human cognitive biases.  Ideological motivations rather than economic incentives tend to be one of the few drivers to developing alternative testing sequences, but these tend to be applied unequally and irrationally.  For instance, an employer may give opportunities to a refugee from a war-torn region, while denying them to a poor black transwoman, even though both have been deprived of the same amount of opportunity.  This doesn’t mean one hasn’t suffered more or had a “harder life” than another, although realistically the ability to assess that is quite difficult; just that the mainline testing sequence is an inappropriate indicator of ability in both cases, but an alternative testing sequence is only deployed in one case.  If economics is truly non-zero sum, then from an economic perspective, it doesn’t matter who “had it worse”, or what circumstances lead to the inaccuracy of mainline testing as a signaling mechanism.  It only matters who is capable of the job and incapable of signaling that.  IE, a rational actor seeking to maximize utility, in choosing whether to deploy an alternative test or not, shouldn’t care about anything but the conditional probability that a person can be productive at a certain level, given a certain set of test scores and life experiences.

To be clear, from a social utilitarian standpoint it may be the case that hiring from one group rather than another better increases social utility by removing more social disutility.  But to stop here is zero-sum thinking.  Perhaps it is best to hire one of these candidates before the other, but that’s not how these sorts of alternative testing methods are deployed in practice: in practice, most people who deploy them do so selectively and non-iteratively, to the benefit of one group and the exclusion of another.  There is a very popular fallacy, that the ability to take tests at all is a demonstration of opportunity: for instance, in the example of the refugee and the poor black transwoman, the fact that the latter went to public school for some period of time is seen as fully fulfilling the social contract, even though the likelihood of school being a good test of their ability is low due to racism, transphobia, and the effects of poverty.  Selectively applying the alternative test to only the refugee in this case is never just a matter of utilitarian reasoning: it always reflects the erroneous belief that someone who has been allowed to play a rigged game has had more opportunity than someone who has been excluded from the game.

The more general truth about opportunity is this: Compounding opportunities relative to success reflect the greatest engine of utility generation, while alternative opportunities relative to false negatives in testing represent the greatest means of disutility minimization.  A society could have only mainline testing, and if it was efficient enough, produce enormous wealth, grow year after year, and trivially carry the dead weight of all of those disenfranchised by the few inaccuracies in the battery.  For whatever reason this is what capitalism tends towards today even though it is leaving enormous amounts of money on the table.  Lumpenproletariat are the shale oil of human capital: there is enormous energy there, but the technology to profitably extract it is lacking.

It is hard to tell, of course, whether this technological incapacity is really economic or whether it is ethological.  For my own sake I know I could have produced substantial amounts of wealth for anyone who hired me, far above that of my competitors, but since I was stuck in an alternative signaling network in which the context is disutility minimization rather than utility maximization, this either never read as credible to others or triggered some sort of pecking order enforcement.  The ugliest truth about affirmative action thinking is that it enforces the notion that hiring minorities is an act of charity.  As a result, when hiring a minority is not an act of charity but strongly economically incentivized, people have no mental capacity to handle it.  They start screeching about entitlement even though all that minority has done is display competence to try to sell themselves.  They come up with ridiculous ideas about an excess premium on employability and conclude that said minority must have quintillions of offers at any moment thanks to the synergies of competence and charity, and use this to either excuse their own bigotry or question the candidates capacity for loyalty in the face of this imagined infinite sea of choice.  And, thanks to the capacity of the human mind to hold contradictory information at the same time, they still treat said minority as incompetent in practice.  These sorts of dysfunctions seem to represent properties of the human animal at its most animalistic, rather than any rational or even dysfunctional market forces.

Alternative testing sequences are always sub-premium relative to mainline testing sequences even if they test the same damn thing just as well, or even better.  People also often erroneously think of them as “second chances”, when in many cases they constitute first chances.  The notion that they are unfair often prevents their implementation due to the, as far as I can tell nonsensical impression that you can give someone “too many” opportunities, and people sometimes lambast their deployment as “double standards” simply because any complexity, context sensitivity, or acknowledgement of conditional probability reads as incoherent to a substantial portion of the population.  Enough of that.

I was fortunate to read this blog post recently by a certain Venkatesh Rao.  It talks about entropic ruin.  Having invested a serious amount of thought into poker theory, the most immediate thing that springs to mind in regards to entropic ruin is the use of Sklansky Chubukov numbers in relation to tournament poker.  Sklansky Chubukov numbers, or SC numbers, determine the maximum amount of big bets you can have in your stack in order to be justified in shoving all-in from the big-blind.  They define a strategy for short stacks in which odds of failure are minimized rather than odds of success maximized (which is no longer mathematically possible play for a short stack).

sklanskychubukov

Note that this is not “minimization of failure” in terms of full stacked, rock-style, tight-aggressive play.  Minimizing volatility with high equity hands is not remotely the same thing as minimizing leaving the odds in terms of pure equity.  What’s interesting about SC numbers is that they say nothing about the rationality of your behavior relative to your opponent’s stack, only relative to your own.  But SC numbers aren’t a useful concept in cash games, even though it’s perfectly possible to become so short-stacked that they become applicable.  Why?  Well, the changing of the blinds in a tournament puts pressure on everyone to change their range.  Not equal pressure, but still pressure.  A player’s range in a cash game given a non-exploitative, GTO style is basically static.  So the options in a cash game given an extremely short stack are to worsen your range in relation to a static range, or to bleed to death (or to buy more chips, but let’s assume you can’t for whatever reason).  Both of these are bad options.  Additionally, late game tournament incentives reward not getting knocked out substantially more than they reward accumulating more chips, whereas a cash game player has some tolerance for losing chips because they know they can just rebuy and that if they have a sufficiently +EV playstyle it doesn’t matter in the long run.  A tournament player also knows that future blind increases will increase the role of luck, so they have an incentive to play more hands earlier to maximize the role of skill in the overall outcome.

The result is that SC numbers straddle the incentives of a tournament player, forcing them to seek a balance between losing opportunity and facing volatility.  They come out to meet you at the edge of your range, and might be tricked into going too far.  A full stack cash game player has no such system of incentives.  They just wait.  You can steal as many blinds as you like, but without the opportunity to double up and quickly enter a style of normal play again, the full stack or deep stack cash game player will just wait you out until you shove into a premium hand.  Or they might engage in mildly exploitative play to expedite the process.

How does this transfer to the concept of entropic ruin in non-zero sum games?  Well, poverty is a matter of being trapped in a situation where all of your choices are bad.  Doing poverty well means rationally choosing between bad choices in such a way that their badness is minimized.  The opportunities of a poor person are generally survival opportunities, not advancement opportunities.  Why?  It’s circular: A poor person by their poverty is unable to demonstrate competence in utility maximizing behaviors, only in disutility minimization behaviors.  Like in poker, normal and deep stack players will never be subjected to circumstances in which they have to optimize for disutility minimization rather than utility maximization, or even to circumstances in which they have to account for or acknowledge or discern disutility minimization as a real thing.  As a result, multiple things happen:

  1. The very real skill sets of the poor become invisible to the well-to-do, who might give them alternative options to demonstrate competency, but see no reason to do so as they can’t assess capacity for rational calculation in this context given their lack of equivalent experience.
  2. Poor people lose practice in skills that translate to utility maximization
  3. The absence of opportunities for poor people to shift gears from disutility minimization to utility maximization end up artificially reifying class distinctions; IE, there is a build-up of people whose lives consist of applying disutility minimization, and then this becomes intergenerational (in the case of breeding groups) or iterative (in the case of, say, LGBT poor), and then systems dysfunctionally start being optimized around the reified typology, reinforcing it rather than addressing it.
  4. That almost all survivors and escapers of poverty are rational obfuscates the fact that most of those destroyed by poverty are also rational

If I was asked to build an ideal harm maximization machine, it would have the following properties: It would help the vast majority of people substantially.  It would iteratively improve itself.  With remarkable consistency, it would reward positive actions with positive consequences.  It would be intuitive, simple, and accessible.  It would have positive compounding effects at different rates based on the value of a person’s conduct, and even low value conduct would generally receive effects sufficient for survival at iteratively increasing levels of quality of life over the course of generations.  The visibility of any exceptions to this would be minimized, and their etiology would either be superficially agreeable or perfectly opaque in all cases.  These exceptions would become iteratively more disqualifying from the positive utility functions of the machine over time (for efficiency).  They would also be compounding, at a rate in fixed proportion to the compounding of positive utility.  And it would severely penalize anyone who tried to build a better machine.

Why?  Well, utility and harm aren’t mutually exclusive, and if I wanted to build a machine that would stand the test of time, I would both want it to be able to sustain itself, and I would want for other people to want to sustain it.  An ideally designed such machine would lead to both infinite utility and infinite harm.

One couldn’t design a better harm maximization machine than our current, animal capitalism.

 

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I very recently came to the realization that most people don’t think.  At least, not in any sort of conscious, deductive, and deliberate way.  I came to this conclusion by reflecting on past life experiences and looking at the way people use language, and their responses to having that language use probed logically.  The average person is instead a sort of stochastic meme-emitter, in adaptive cases finely tuned by social processes to emit memes at the proper frequencies in the proper contexts, and in maladaptive cases literally going off at random.  The appearance of any deliberate logic is mostly a gestalt effect, and when people try to explain themselves logically they are generally applying ex post facto rationalizations without realizing it.  It’s bad enough that you can tell another person what their logic is in some cases and they will subsequently adopt that as their actual logic.  This is the trick behind psychoanalysis as well as religious or occult reasoning regarding human nature.  If you can explain someone’s reasoning to them more convincingly than they can explain it themselves, and you’re not untrustworthy to them, they’ll frequently believe you.

It’s wildly politically incorrect to suggest that there are different tiers of people, even though this hypothesis is one of the oldest known ideas on record.  The gnostic division of hylics, psychics, and pneumatics shows that people were thinking about fundamental differences in human character and functionality long before the slow sorting hat of history conferred its small advantages to intelligence, making possible (but not necessitating) the disenfranchisement and destruction of the unintelligent.  The murdering of the mentally handicapped under Nazi Germany is contrasted with the murdering of the intellectuals under Pol Pot.  It doesn’t make sense to caste either the intelligent or the unintelligent or average as oppressed or oppressors in any absolute sense.  Rather, they form an ecosystem that can sometimes become dysfunctional in various ways.

At any rate, modern academics have no problem proposing different typological divisions in the human race, even in terms of intelligence.  Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory divides people along 9 different axes: Naturalist (nature smart), Musical (sound smart), Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart), Existential (life smart), Interpersonal (people smart), Bodily-kinesthetic (body smart), Linguistic (word smart), Intra-personal (self smart), and Spatial (picture smart).  The ontological commitment required to propose an ennea-modal model of intelligence is probably greater than in the gnostic commitment to three different rigid types, and a modern explanation of either must ultimately resort to the same sort of appeals to causal and probably biological processes, so the only real reason one type of reasoning proliferates while another is frowned upon is fashion.

It took so long for me to realize that most people are merely stochastically emitting memes because I was always capable of constructing logical explanations for their behavior, and because, on speaking these explanations out loud to these people, they often became incorporated into the person’s subsequent activity.  Conversely, the criticism I got most as a kid, besides “you’re too smart for your own good”, was “you have no common sense.”  Yet simultaneously, just as I was accused of having no common sense, I was also wrongly told “you know better.”  So the inability of people to construct a theory of mind for the other across an intelligence gap is bidirectional, but it is also human tendency to mistake the nature of intelligence.  A picture to illustrate:Intelligence

I think that the reason congeniality is often more associated with average than intelligent people is because there is a narrower distance between social programming and subsequent behavior in the average person; you go through fewer layers of rational thought and abstraction to get to the desired result, to the extent that in an average person you are effectively programming their body through stimulus, whereas in an intelligent person you have to first program their mind and then hope that leads to a proper compiling into the lower level language of the nervous system.  In some cases, like ADHD for example, the mind is programmable but lacks this dominion over the body.  That our current education system has to try to program people of wildly different neurological types using a single set of approved techniques and memes designed mostly for people who don’t actually (and can’t actually) think, is of course preposterous, and it is not hard to find evidence of the utter carnage that results from this lunacy, but since these processes mostly work for most people they are resistant to change.  Studies don’t actually show any correlation between antisocial tendency and intelligence, but that’s probably because intelligent people tend to congregate together and so evaluation of adult humans mostly takes place within the context of peers.  Memes about dysfunctional intelligent people arise from social environments where intelligent people are forced to mingle with average people, like schools and churches.

If we used IQ tests to sort people into different groups at a very young age, all of this could be avoided, but the pathological belief in absolute equality of opportunity even for people who could never benefit from it prevents this, even though opportunity is easily recognizable as a scarce resource and should thus be allocated rationally according to its utility.  As a result, society itself just ends up functioning as a less effective IQ test; in freer societies one with many opportunities to re-test, and in less free societies one with few.

If all of this sounds fascistic to you, I don’t care.  Going back to the metaphor of social experiments as bio-computational bitmasking procedures for different truths, it seems perfectly reasonable that even fascism contains certain truths.  If not in its theory (which is generally willfully contradictory, incoherent, unfalsifiable, etc), then in its practice.  Fascists staked everything on theories of human essentialism and built their societies around theories of human essentialism.  Their systems were designed to murder anyone who could have contributed “non-essentialist” utility to their society.  It should not be surprising that once everyone who could have held up society by means of economic fitness or higher level social functioning or rational thought was murdered, any remaining social functionality could only possibly reflect the actual existence of the sort of truth fascists actually cared about.  That doesn’t make that truth more important than other truth, and it certainly doesn’t make it more valuable; it is probably of extremely marginal value; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t truth.

So how do smart people manage to establish dominion over average and unintelligent people?  Well, religion provides great insight into this.  There are very intelligent and very unintelligent religious people.  Intelligent people tend to think of religion along either metaphorical or metaphysical lines, depending on their disposition: they either under commit to the religion relative to others, or construct elaborate philosophical systems to enable themselves to commit to it.  Average people can’t see any contradictions or problems in religion, so they are happy to adopt any position on it that they can understand.  Stupid people take it entirely literally.  Fortuitously, all of this works together.  A Kierkegaard or a Dostoevsky can say what they like about religion, knowing that the average can’t contest it and the stupid can’t decode it and that it’s therefore non-threatening to both.  It took a lot of trial and error, of course, to figure out exactly which types of speech fulfilled these conditions, and a lot of people were burned at the stake in the process of discovery.

Characteristic of a smart person with deep influence is their ability to determine what range of meanings their speech might have and to deploy their speech in a way that it fulfils the needs of people at each level of intelligence.  This is why successful influencers often use very broad and open speech, or even meaningless speech in some cases.  This satisfies intelligent people, who would often rather think about something than understand it, average people, by being accessible and giving them a vector along which to interact with intelligent people, and stupid people, by exposure and stimulus.  This could probably be formalized through interpretation matrices, somewhat like this maybe:

In effectMemeZaibatsuIn effect, smart and deeply influential people operate vertically integrated, self-calibrating meme networks; meme Zaibatsus, if you will.  The phrase “Milk for babes, meat for strong men” comes to mind, only in this case these magical meme networks transform appropriately into milk or meat as needed.  Less influential intelligent people play other games: intellectualism is basically a competition to construct high-res, narrow band memes.  Dysfunctional intellectualism is a competition to encode the obvious in ways that require specialized knowledge or extended mental effort to decode, and happens in environment where proving ability is more important than pursuing truth.  It is a great irony therefore that dysfunctional intellectualism, which focuses on measuring individual differences rather than on external metrics of performance, is so often associated with highly liberal fields that strongly disavow the importance or existence of individual and especially innate differences.

This is not to say that obfuscation and signaling are unique to high IQ or liberal people.  But interestingly, low IQ, uneducated, and right wing individuals tend to create opacity through minimalism, by using simplistic speech in a highly context sensitive way, and by saying meaningless things to see who agrees with them as a loyalty test.  The meme range of right wing influencers more traditionally extends to the unintelligent, while the left for whatever reason has focused more on high-res, narrow band memes.  This seems elitist to the right, but it might also reflect the left’s belief in the inherent permeability and mutability of human characteristics; IE, the left doesn’t think it’s wrong to communicate in this way because they erroneously believe everyone could potentially understand them.

One last thought: Regardless of whether they are a persecuted minority or not, the intelligent are, factually, a minority.  Dynamics of intelligence have to take this into account.  If intelligence is correlated with genes, as it shows every indication of being, then the intelligent are a genetic minority as well as a social minority.  I know that this is an off-the-wall hypothesis, but if the less intelligent didn’t put extreme pressure (far beyond that placed on the average person) on the intelligent to be socially useful, then the unchecked advantages of the intelligent would lead to the non-competitiveness of the unintelligent as well as the propagation of a much narrower range of genes.  Therefore, social pressure on the intelligent to be socially useful not only preserves biodiversity but prevents the obsolescence of the less intelligent or even the speciation of the intelligent.

None of this should be taken to support “race realism”, which is retarded.  While differences in statistical intelligence exist between different racial groups, this can be explained almost entirely by simple factors such as the presence of lead and the absence of salt.  Anyone who wants to begin a conversation about human biodiversity without first acknowledging (and addressing) these facts, can only be said to be operating in bad faith.

I guess I lied, because I want to say one other thing: The ability to construct high-res models does not ensure the accuracy of those models, and so, returning to the model of human evolution as iterative biological computation, there are advantages to the bell curve distribution of intelligence.  When one builds something, one begins with the simplest components and only then proceeds to build more complex components, and then preferably in a modular capacity out of the simpler components.  The intelligence of a population is like the working memory set of a program.  An optimal working memory set is neither too small nor too large.  Smart people are vulnerable to gestalt effects too: see astrology, occultism etc.  By limiting the number and complexity of memes that the species is able to process at any given time, each iteration of the computation process ensures that environmental truths are bit-masked for in a highly incremental capacity that proceeds from smallest to largest appropriately.  I think part of the reason everyone is insane today even though things are objectively better than they’ve ever been before is because the complexity of society has started to outrun the ratchet effect of human cognitive capacity.

There are twelve year-olds right now capable of functioning productively in highly competitive and demanding intellectual fields.  Not a lot of them, but enough to grant the proposition as true and build an argument off of it.  Intelligence is remarkably static over time, and so effectively these kids are as smart as they’re ever going to be.  While they may lack life experience and knowledge, this is an information asymmetry and not an intelligence deficit.

Some of these children will be referred to gifted and talented programs, and some will actually be allowed to enter college, but one imagines most of them will be forced to go through the same education track as their low-IQ peers; education geared towards behavioral reinforcement and the development of cognitive skills that are already fully present in high IQ youth.  In practice this is something like putting leg braces on people with functional legs, yet the practice is ubiquitous and suggesting there is something deeply immoral and problematic about it is liable to be shouted down with bromides about special treatment and fallacious appeals to normalcy.  “We can’t deny these kids the chance of a normal development,” is the refrain.  Nevermind that by their very nature these children will never have a normal development, or that there’s nothing especially good or valuable about normalcy for its own sake.

There’s a popular joke that I think encapsulates my general intellectual tendencies quite well.  It goes like this:

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the midst of the French Revolution the revolting citizens led a priest, a drunkard and an engineer to the guillotine. They ask the priest if he wants to face up or down when he meets his fate. The priest says he would like to face up so he will be looking towards heaven when he dies. They raise the blade of the guillotine and release it. It comes speeding down and suddenly stops just inches from his neck. The authorities take this as divine intervention and release the priest.

The drunkard comes to the guillotine next. He also decides to die face up, hoping that he will be as fortunate as the priest. They raise the blade of the guillotine and release it. It comes speeding down and suddenly stops just inches from his neck. Again, the authorities take this as a sign of divine intervention, and they release the drunkard as well.

Next is the engineer. He, too, decides to die facing up. As they slowly raise the blade of the guillotine, the engineer suddenly says, “Hey, I see what your problem is …”

This sort of pathological honesty has a specific form, of correcting a problem in such a way that it leads to one’s own death.  However, it points to a more general form of thanatophilic truth-seeking, of seeking truth even though it will lead to one’s death, regardless of whether any problems are solved or not.

People often accuse me of excuse making, but nothing could be further from the truth.  An excuse has two properties: First, it describes some problem or misfortune (whether accurately or not).  Secondly, it does so to the exclusion of action.  I have never allowed my observations to prevent me from acting, and so I am not an excuse maker.  In point of fact, something substantially more wonderful and horrifying has been happening all of my life: because I describe some problem or misfortune, I am precluded from action by others.  It seems that people respond to the first component of excuse-making by enforcing the appearance of the second.  The more effectively a person diagnoses problems, the less social (and subsequently economic) freedom they have to fix them.  This creates the illusion that people who diagnose problems are ineffectual, that they are making the diagnosis specifically to excuse themselves from action, when it is really more of an ethological feedback loop.  People who diagnose problems are whiners, so they are excluded from the organizational structures necessary to fix the problem.  A build-up of such people occurs such that it visibly becomes the case that the diagnosing of problems is highly correlated with exclusion from the organizational structures where action takes place.  The meme propagates that people who diagnose problems are people who don’t do anything.  The organization begins excluding people who diagnose problems because it’s taken as evidence of a character of not doing anything.

Needless to say, this results in a negative selection against intelligence and honesty.  Worse still, this feedback loop has a way of growing until it becomes a kind of general common sense that displays of understanding of any kind are negatively correlated with action.  The false dichotomy between thinkers or talkers and doers is a result of this.  There are various perverse incentives and unfortunate compounding effects that re-enforce this process.  After a while, someone who has not been able to do anything is out of practice and prophecy is thus fulfilled.  And someone who knows that intelligence is correlated with ability is motivated to staff their organization entirely with those less intelligent than them for various reasons: first, to prevent disruptions of the pecking order, including the potential of being outcompeted by a new hire or training your replacement.  Secondly to ensure loyalty.  When people think they deserve something, they aren’t indebted to you.  Modern capitalism wants everyone to be permanently indebted, not just monetarily but psychologically, and this is why the go-to justification for not hiring someone is now entitlement rather than incompetence.

All of this violates traditional economic theory and its ethos, which says that the non-zero sum nature of wealth should make people indifferent to being outcompeted, that a rising tide lifts all boats, and therefore the incentive should be to raise the tide as much as possible rather than worrying about relative boat size, and that organizations in a competitive market have every incentive to hire the best talent relative to price that they can afford.  Rather than attempting to prove this in any way it has instead been more or less taken for granted simply because it is logical, and one of its logical outcomes, that economic numbers go up in markets, is readily observable.  That’s it.  That’s literally the absolute state of economic reasoning.  Model validity + numbers go up -> capitalism is optimal and fair.  An ethologically minded person who has observed enough of the world is sure to know better, but they are also unable to do anything with the knowledge.

An economy run by machines could implement capitalism perfectly, and in exact accordance with its ethos, which is agreeable to me.  I am going to call this hypothetical arrangement Machine Capitalism, which I am happy to call myself a proponent of.  What we have now instead is Animal Capitalism.  Over the course of this blog post I am going to go into more depth about some of the features of Animal Capitalism as I understand it.  Naturally I intend to do so very discursively, while simultaneously expounding my own outlook.

One of the interesting things about reading Vaclav Havel in the age of information is the way his description of post-totalitarian society maps more or less perfectly to the state of affairs in the United States today.  He describes an event in which a brewer was reassigned to menial labor after making the mistake of trying to promote a superior production method.  This violated the pecking order and so he was penalized for it rather than rewarded.  The political point systems common under Communism are plainly dystopian to us today, but at the time and to many of those who lived under them, they must have seemed meritocratic.  Human beings can adapt to just about any system of incentives and disincentives, and will tend to rationalize globally suboptimal outcomes by appealing to the fact that they were a result of locally suboptimal decisions within the context of the system.  To the average human being, competence at a given game is more important than the merits of the game’s design: Human beings enforce conformity to systems rather than enforcing quality of systems.  This is a very interesting tendency, and I hope it’s motivations become more clear through subsequent analysis.

The United States somehow became post-totalitarian without going through a totalitarian phase and without even having a true centralized institutional force to impose dysfunction onto it.  What that means is, the dysfunction of the United States is a result of decentralized and general processes that cumulatively had the same basic effect as the top-down imposition of authority did in Soviet client states.  This is very interesting, and if the human race manages to survive it, it will doubtlessly turn out to yield some of its greatest and hardest lessons.

It’s worth noting that even the most dysfunctional systems have still taken a long time to collapse.  Communism had quite a run and worked surprisingly well for a system that didn’t work.  For whatever reason, once people have committed to a way of living, it is enormously hard for them to alter that, regardless of the objective benefits or detriments of the system.  Somehow, economic and social systems that are exactly wrong in every tangible sense support generations of people.

This may just be the sunk cost fallacy in action at a group level, but by thinking probabilistically I have come to have another idea, which I of course have no way of testing: it’s impossible to really know the long run tendencies of a system without a sufficient sample size.  However, if you subject a sufficiently large group of human beings to a certain way of life for long enough, then after a while the entire network of properties and relationships that compose the system in which they live, will become visible, first in the distribution of resources and power, and then in the biological properties of the population itself.  Every human social experiment is thus a kind of social and biological computation in which human beings are the substrate for data collection: and all the death and failure involved in these computations is just the engine of data collection, a brute force process of elimination or environmental bitmasking procedure that gradually reveals the statistical properties of the total system.  Only once these properties become obvious enough in these terms, will people tend to either double down on them or walk away from them based on the system’s properties and their conduciveness to human life or cultural values.  Therefore, there’s a natural commitment to the total computation which is ingrained in humanity’s blood.

Confounding this somewhat, there are various circular processes in history that introduce noise into the analysis.  The idea that history itself is circular is very old and goes back at least as far as Vedic texts, which expound the concept of Yugas, and it is probable that this ancient wisdom is a reflection of these processes.  One of them, familiar to anyone who has taken Linear Algebra, is circular population growth and decline (or in extreme cases, collapse).  Another one, familiar to all economists, is the circular boom-bust of economic growth.  The presence of these circular processes introduces the possibility that the final results of a given bitmasking procedure will have too much noise in them to form correct conclusions.

I could write endlessly about these circular processes, but instead I will simply suggest that readers familiarize themselves with the HANDY model for an understanding of the potentially extreme implications of these processes, and then give a brief analysis of some of the circular economic issues in our present society, before going on to expound about how these bitmasking procedures (and their subsequent social and economic effects) are themselves circular.

Let’s talk about degree inflation.  There was a time when having a degree was a very clear signal of competence and intelligence.  The interesting thing about this was, an intelligent person didn’t need a degree as badly to get ahead back then; that is to say, a degree didn’t use to function as a barrier to economic entry, while at the same time better acting as a signal of intelligence.  Somehow, a degree has subsequently become a very terrible indication of competence and intelligence, while simultaneously acting as a barrier to entry even for intelligent people.  How did this happen?  It’s entirely insane that something should become more determinative precisely as it becomes less meaningful.

Goodhart’s law is on full display here.  However, perverse incentives are also in place.  As less competent people trickle into the workforce and subsequently rise to the final level of their incompetence per the Peter principle, it becomes more and more important to select future employees for loyalty rather than competence.  Some minimal level of competence is still required though.  Enter the modern college degree: a perfect signal of minimal competence.  Where before it represented that a person was intelligent, now it represents that they are not stupid.  Combine this with intensive testing for loyalty and you have modern hiring practices.  Only the loyal mediocre will thrive.

While some of these factors have traditionally driven intelligent and capable people into developing new fields, establishing start-ups and so forth, as soon as these fields are developed they succumb to the same tendencies and pressures.  The fact that anything has ever progressed at all is mostly an artifact of the entirely circumstantial truth that there have always been new fields to develop and compete in; IE, the human race functions through an iterative process of diffusion and development.  An ethnic minority is displaced from warm and friendly lands to cold and harsh lands, but there they find and develop some valuable resource, which they subsequently use to establish themselves.  Then they displace some new minority to some new wasteland and the process repeats.  This is the biological instantiation of the principle, in which the unwanted are basically fed into cube-like death mazes until value comes out.  The economic instantiation of the principle is simply the fact that small businesses are expected to bear the brunt of the risks in new markets while established firms use every resource in their power to maintain control over existing markets, including access to state power.  Through another circumstance of history, these mazes have become decreasingly dangerous or lethal and increasingly lucrative over time thanks entirely to what was iteratively extracted from them, namely technology, knowledge, and methodology, but the process of diffusion would take place in either case.  It’s not a moral law, it’s a biological one, and the capitalist insistence that the arrow will, in the aggregate, always trend up, and that this somehow represents the benevolence of capitalism, is entirely a misreading of a narrow and potentially fleeting set of facts, combined with a bizarre desire to take credit for natural process as personal will.  There may come a day when there are no new markets to develop, no new fields to compete in, and the tendency towards mediocrity becomes an entirely unanswered hegemon in human society.

The fastest way to understand human society is to realize that standardization acts as an economic lever that makes average people the single largest natural resource in the world.  The Roman legion, which united the western world, was made up of unexceptional people who used simple and generalizable techniques.  Some of these people were doubtlessly better than others at these techniques.  Therefore, the key to the military success of Rome was incentivizing the best of the average, rather than the best of the best.  An average person can learn from a slightly better than average person, because they use the same approach to a problem at different levels of efficiency, so a leadership consisting of the merely above average leading the average enjoys certain synergies and avoids certain disruptions.  At a higher level, the way a genius approaches a problem can often look like magic to the average, and this has traditionally been one of many reasons the genius makes a bad leader.  This general pattern really took off with industrialization, and now that the market is the driving force of the world it has effectively swallowed the world.  As the value extracted from the average has grown to constitute a greater and greater share of the economy, the economy has become increasingly idiot-proofed and automated while driving the intelligent to the margins.  Average people are drawn by gravity to low-risk, low-reward environments.  Above-average people are drawn by competitive advantage into the leadership of these environments.  Intelligent people (and undesirables, some of whom are intelligent) are pushed by diffusion into high-risk high-reward environments.

Naturally, the very first thing most intelligent people want to do once they’ve struck it big in a high-risk high-reward environment is to leverage their capital towards rent seeking in an environment that’s as close to risk-free as possible.  Once you have a lot of wealth, even marginal gains are still massive.  Interestingly, this desire sometimes seems to hold even in cases of negative expectancy.  At the extreme case is the truism that running servants replace running water: there are billionaires who would rather be feudal lords than give up any power or assume any risk, even in the face of large potential gains.  There seem to be two types of rich person: the type who made their money by pursuing a niche market or a low probability win with a high expected value, and the type who made their money by pursuing high probability wins and avoiding volatility to minimize risk of ruin.  In a flourishing market, on a long enough timeline, and with enough initial capital, all you have to do to win is not lose.  Yet there are many people who had no path to wealth except a high-risk, high-reward path, and these are the people capitalism lionizes as heroes, probably because very few people would want to gamble this way with their lives otherwise.  That these two types of people are different psychologically or morally seems unfathomable to me, otherwise winners in risky markets would never become rent-seekers.  The amount of intelligence required to succeed in a high-risk, high-reward environment is probably at least equal to the amount of intelligence necessary to manage an established firm.  As the economy ossifies, the high-risk, high-reward environments dry up, leaving only rent-seekers.  That these rent seekers are more interested in maintaining rent than in achieving profit then leads to, at best, stagnation, and at worst, total dysfunction.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: bracehare | January 13, 2018

The Aesthetics of Hell: Why Yoko Taro’s games are good

I will begin to expound on my own personal aesthetics and values, since indeed there is little else to really talk about at present. Since I have difficulty speaking except in reference to examples, I will instead begin with my examples and analyze them for what is good in them. Kino’s Journey. The first anime, not the second, was extremely good, and rises to the tier of one of my favorite films, the seventh seal, in its philosophical character. With the tagline “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is”, it is perhaps the perfect embodiment of the Japanese notion of Wabi-Sabi. However, there are also traces of western aesthetic and moral sensibility. Kino goes from country to country armed with guns, without which her travels would be impossible, but she is nonetheless a non-interventionist, an observer, who only reacts defensively. The gunplay is fairly realistic, even if Kino is at the 100th percentile of ability. A Schopenhaurian sense of the sublime pervades the entire series. Aside from a presumed illiteracy, Kino’s character and lifestyle seem ideal to me. She is depicted as a “boku-girl”, but still has a female identity. She is not butch. I appreciate these things as well, since femininity has always seemed performative and superfluous to me, at least as a public expression. Something performative and superfluous generally lacks character.

 

As a “boku-girl”, Kino is authentic in a simple and direct way. She in not, like Sartre’s waiter, in the mode of or the guise of. Authentic femininity is what is left over after all concerns of practicality and character have been met. It generally manifests as a subtle aloofness or inability to engage entirely with male social patterns, or else (perhaps more endearingly) as an overcompensation thereof. It is almost never self-conscious in the natal female. The antithesis of this is performative femininity as a means of manipulation. The women depicted in the original Kino’s Journey are all realistic, mostly authentic, and do not suffer from annoying anime character syndrome.

The world building of Kino’s Journey is also subtle, suitably semi-real, and permits both sufficient degrees of freedom for the story and characters to shine, and enough metaphysical doubt to keep things interesting. Kino’s Journey has definitely been a major influence on me, and would have been one of the major aesthetic inspirations for my second game, Liber Perturbatio. As for the metaphysical doubt, it comes in the form of a reference to If on a Winter Night a Traveler, which is quite charming, although a bleak scenario is also presented as possible, in which a sick girl is dwelling in a sort of VR construct of her favorite stories, in a world where everything else but her father has died. The world of Kino’s Journey is not ideal. However, it contains structures, patterns etc that approach my set of ideals, certainly in a teleological historical or narrative sense, if not always in themselves

To begin with, there are many different countries, which scarcely interact, but seem to all share a common tongue and a common set of rules for interacting with outsiders. Each country is thus able to develop according to its own character without ever departing a context that allows it to remain compatible with diplomacy and visitation at the limit these exist in the setting. In the long run, post-singularity human society could hope to look as nice as this universe, with people retreating into artificial cultures and worlds but maintaining communication, peace, and freedom of movement. The world of Kino’s Journey is a bowdlerized hell in which people pick their poison. I like bowdlerized hells, because they permit real character. But the principles remain important to me even under ostensibly utopian conditions. For some reason I recall Bora Horza Gobochul’s arguments against The Culture and think, I have espoused something he would have found agreeable had he lived long enough to settle down.

I turn my attention now to the subject of hell in general, which is quite aesthetic to me, in limited doses dependent on the strength therein. I will first analyze the concept of a Bowdlerized hell in more depth, and then go ‘down’, so to speak, until I have exhausted everything. I will do so in the context of various media as well as more traditional concepts to the extent I think they apply. To begin with, it must be noted that the ironic hells of both Dante and Buddhist cosmology demonstrate extreme sadism. Sadism is only truly possible with an empathetic link, since it belies understanding. Moreover, many ironic punishments fail to, at least on their face, appear evil to those they are portended to. Warring devas has the same appeal as Valhalla to many hot blooded people, and secondhand descriptions of Dante often come across as trivial. Walking in circles while looking backward, for example. If the punishment is deireified and interpreted as a mere metaphysical abstraction for the here and now, it becomes Bowdlerized in a sense.

Demons become men again, and the thing in itselfness of the punishment allows for a multitude of possible interpretations and coping strategies. Yoko Taro’s games are all, to various extents, Bowdlerized hells, albeit of a more extreme form than would be desirable in real life. The second game in my own series, Liber Perturbatio, is closer to a Bowdleried hell that is livable and has desirable features, and it shares most of these features in common with the world of Kino’s Journey. The principal virtues of such worlds are in contrast, the possibility of spontaneous selection for virtue; and here I must note, the reason the virtues of the pagans are gilded vices is because pagan virtue is ex post facto based on what produces outcomes that are found desirable later; and in a very real sense the cohabitation and comingling of both angels and demons. There is something structural at work, something profound that I cannot do justice to, but must nonetheless try.

Deleuze said stuff about rhizomes, I am not sure what. There is something rhizomatic about the demonic components of these worlds, and something tree-like about the angelic components. When a tree partially asserts itself over the rhizome, its roots go down into it but without totally reorganizing it. The effect, if perceived internally in a phenomenological sense, is of something rigid and deterministic asserting itself over something either free or stochastic. I think of video games with branching and web structures. If a video game has a main quest line, then even if it is an Elder Scrolls or Fallout game, the tendrils of a tree are asserting themselves over something rhizomatic. But this is merely in relation to time and choice. This structural confluence has some relationship to spirit as well, which is difficult but important to grasp. Demons are all metastable but important aspects of the soul, while angels are stable forms that in a healthy person keep a hierarchy.

In a Bowdlerized hell, that hierarchy asserts itself in a limited capacity on the same things as the demons, with better and more potent results; but the angels themselves are more indifferent to these demons, which thus revert in a sense phonetically to daimons, and concurrently in practise as well. The relationship between demons is rock-paper-scissors with a metastable component, while the relationship between angel and demon is hierarchical rather than circular, stable rather than metastable. When angels impose themselves onto the rhizomatic ecosystem of daimons excessively, they become less and less stable, and more demonic in a sense. Some descriptions and diagrams as I continue rambling: The world of Kino’s Journey is a sort of rhizomatic mass with independent but partially identical tree like structures imposed on it, in the sense that each nation is a collection of neuroses with an organizational logic imposed over the top of it. But the nations rarely interact, so the organizational logic of each nation, with its hierarchical features, never competes with anything except the neuroses it has a sort of topological or territorial access to. So it is sort of like this:

Except where the trees are actually trees. Compare my own world in Liber Perturbatio, which has the same sort of rhizomatic mass, but with the hierarchical structures in a constant state of conflict, vying, albeit in a controlled manner, for supremacy. This is depicted something like this:
If you think of the center as a kind of mandelbrot that is built recursively at smaller and smaller levels. The former is centrifugal, while the latter is centripetal.

The type of bowdlerized hell represented by the former is summarized fairly precisely in the wabi-sabi aesthetic, while the latter is precisely Bolgia four of Malebolge, reimagined as a punishment for intellectuals attempting to forecast and immanentize the future: Scarlet the accelerationist, Libens the imperialist, etc. However, what makes it Bowlderized is that the punishment is the self-same thing as the crime, which is to say, arguing endlessly, groundlessly, and in circles. Nor is the crime in this sense such a great evil, but rather a comedic but enjoyable aspect of nature, as evidenced by the fact it is engaged in. It is not the hopelessness of hell but merely the irony of it, the obviousness of it, etc. This sort of centripetal mandelbrot essentially constitutes my preferred structure of governance, ideally with smaller and smaller incrementations of hierarchy taking place at lower and lower levels of violence, with escape valves, and a rhizomatic soil that expands to balance the centripetal force. I think of Miyazaki’s films and find something similar in them, though they do not have much of hell in them per se.

Going deeper into less bowdlerized hells, I still find virtues, though none worth staying long for. To begin with, I imagine hell more generally along the lines of a place separated from God, rather than a place of torture, and think of the increase in duration and torture to correspond to the depth of a given hell. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Well, as, at worst a Universalist, that is nonsense, but aesthetically it still provides a useful frame of reference. What I am imagining now is that a crucifix, that sacred symbol, somehow finds its way into hell. Notwithstanding various stories and apocrypha in which forces of good find themselves vanquishing or overcoming forces in the underworld, we imagine for our purposes that this crucifix, being separated from God, is totally inert. Nonetheless, thrown before an unfortunate group of damned souls it is quite the catalyst, and instantly serves to reveal several important types of character.

The first, largest group and the most obvious character scramble towards it, hoping to receive its power in some way. They are fully captured by it, perhaps fighting over it, before at some point giving up and likely cursing it as useless. It is important to note that at a certain level of suffering, such behavior is likely reflexive, which is another reason why hell becomes less aesthetic the further down you go. Now, there are two other responses to this crucifix, and both of them demonstrate a sort of existential heroism. One of them is the person who would hold tight to the crucifix even when it is know to have no power. The other is the kind who would reject it not knowing whether it has power. We might also imagine a lesser character who knows by reason or intuition that is has no power, and a lesser character who goes to the crucifix pragmatically but without attachment. These lesser characters are interesting and have some value, but they lack heroic character.

The first and third share the virtue of being the only ones to truly realize they are in hell, while the first and second possess the most existential heroism. The first three, however, are all very special because they have found a way to live without hope; the first, by investing their own meaning in the crucifix. The second, by affirming their own meaning against the crucifix, and the third by stoic recognition, reducing pain and hopelessness to mere fact. I think of zero from drakengard 3 and find her to be some combination of the second and third character. In the end her mission and achievement is to save the dragon Mikhael, which she does at the cost of herself in Ending D, the semi-canonical ending. In ending A we best see her acceptance that she is in hell by her resignation to death, which in her case cannot be interpreted as escape or reprieve, but as acceptance that she will not receive a happy ending. The world of Drakengard 3 is an outer limit to the concept of a Bowdlerized hell, only because combat is enjoyed.

It is the hopelessness of Yoko Taro’s worlds that make the characters within them beautiful; and this is why Nier Automata is aesthetically inferior to previous efforts, even though it represents a great step up in terms of gameplay and general design. Annoying anime syndrome becomes existential heroism against a hopeless backdrop. It gains a mature character as something like a spontaneous aristophanes play achieved through attrition; like it was just waiting to be whittled out of larger, blockier characters. The eponymous character of the first Nier, as an old man, adds both the aesthetic of Dad-aloofness and a sort of Achilles vs the Trojans pagan bloodthirst, which work together shockingly well. Nier Automata feels like it was trying to do to Nier what Count Zero did to Neuromancer; to provide a glimmer of hope at the last moment.

However, Nier Automata is more of a sterile world than a dying world, and substitutes a sudden double swerve at the ending for the traditional overarching sense of hopelessness in the series. It suffers from Shyamalan syndrome in a sense, thinking that surprises are more important than world building and atmosphere. This is not to say the atmosphere is bad, per se, there is just a discongruity between the elements of the game that limits it aesthetically in comparison to previous efforts. Hell becomes aethetically uninteresting when it loses its obviousness and immediacy as a punishment that is the self-same thing as the crime.

Taro’s games, on some level, understand this very well, and this is what makes them stand out as great works of art. It is unfortunate that Nier Automata got a bit sloppy somehow; likely due to self-consciousness.

 

Posted by: bracehare | October 24, 2017

Long Term Post-singularity scenarios

Seeing Donald Trump work tirelessly to murder the underclass using institutional power has made me realize that singularity technology, and especially the ability to duplicate human consciousness and run ancestor simulations, removes some of the only disincentives capitalism has against becoming the fascist neo-feudal hell that we all knew was lurking in its secret heart.  Only the reality is much worse than anyone has ever conceived of, by a factor of k-large * k-large, since arbitrarily many simulations can be run for arbitrarily long.  Here are some of the things that happen when ancestor simulations become possible

Genocide

Regardless of what you call it, it becomes incentivized to murder people using institutional power, because:

  1. There are now “take-backsies”
  2. Doing so perfectly consolidates power without losing access to any of the intellectual productive power of those killed

e.g. you can just kill every poor person and go back and look for all the starving artists.  Then you can exploit these artists and steal their art under the rationale that you did them a favor by reviving them and this is their compensation.  In the meantime, their art becomes politically harmless because you’ve purged everyone who might react to it as more than just consumable capital.

Torture

Because the pre-singularity movement will necessarily be towards monoculture, we can reasonably expect the dominant segments of society to match those that are dominant now, but without any counterbalance against them; ie, the post-capital world will be run by an echo chamber of white, “Christian” crony capitalists fueled by self-help tier ideology and egoism.  Since these people will have the power of Gods, and since they have specific notions about God, it stands to reason they will act in the same manner as the God they believe in and create an artificial hell in which to torture those they don’t approve of indefinitely.  It is easier for them to rationalize themselves as “doing God’s work” than to tackle the hard theological questions that come from this sort of technology.

Neoteny

In the absence of coercion, both inside idyllic simulations and outside of them in a monoculture, people will fail to develop intellectually and emotionally to ever greater and greater extents.  This trend is already perfectly visible now and doesn’t need to be elaborated greatly upon, but we can imagine clandestine subcultures armed with such technology and the universes they would create as an informative thought experiment.  What would a thousand subjective years in a universe populated entirely by “adult babies” do to human culture or the individual human soul?

Fixed patterns of coercion

Once it becomes clear that coercion is a necessary component of human psychology and existence, people will attempt to incorporate it into the world(s) through the artificial post-scarcity analogues to capitalism that will define immediate post-scarcity economic thinking, leading to an accumulation-based rationalization for forcing patterns of coercion onto others.  What this means is that people who spent their entire lives wishing for death as a release will now receive neither death nor any other form of compensation, as the parameters in which they might have accepted compensation are denied to them, eternally, by the pseudo-market mechanism.  Even in the absence of such a mechanism it is unlikely a diversity of coercive patterns will be tolerated or that they will be distributed in time or “space” in a reasonable fashion, due to monoculture values.

Posted by: bracehare | August 12, 2017

Confessions of a Dragon

I was standing at the supermarket today trying to decide what to buy for dinner, when I suddenly realized that I was entirely surrounded by death; that this death had simply become entirely innocuous to me because it had been quantified and distributed and packaged in bright saccharine colors.  Now admittedly, this is largely my fault for reading Schopenhauer while mentally ill, but it spontaneously occurred to me that in idealistic terms, if any given animal might as well be the same as any other animal, then we might imagine that every ounce of death in the supermarket belonged to a single creature, whose suffering had simply been distributed throughout space and time in a kind of self-contained infinite loop of misery.  But nobody speaks or reasons in idealistic terms anymore, so the thought then occurred to me that animals are simple; that brains are probably turing machines; and that there are finitely many combinations of experience one can have being factory farmed.  That an animal might be equally afraid or equally in pain at various points in the slaughterhouse experience and somehow get caught in an unbreakable hell by way of metempsychosis.  If two brains are exactly the same they might as well be linked, and in fact, who is to say that they aren’t?

It suddenly became the case that I couldn’t tell whether my anxiousness over these thoughts was my own pain, or empathetic pain for the animals.  And then it occurred to me that I couldn’t do anything about this sea of death, and that I was in fact a part of it, entangled in it, and so I bought a meat covered pizza, reasoning that if at least all of this death was orderly, then I might as well torture myself demonically with pleasant flavor, since order always gives rise to sanity anyway, and if one is forced to be sane in hell as well as in heaven, one might as well take some consolation in the matter.  Sane in what sense?  Well, I’ll return to that.

I’m schizoaffective.  In spite of that I manage to function reasonably well, simply because of my knowledge of time; of how to condition myself in a given series of moments so that I can make it through the next series of moments.  In place of an ever diminishing memory, I substitute a kind of recursive reflex that establishes an unbreakable momentum.  There’s enough in my environment to carry me forward and prime me for whatever comes next, so it doesn’t actually matter that my memory is terrible.

The world has mastered this same trick on a larger scale, only they’ve done it in terms of an environment that is horrifying that they have no will to change.  I don’t suppose I really need to account for every instance of suffering in the world today, but I reflect further on the problem of animal suffering.  In Buddhist Cosmology, it is in the karma of animals to suffer, even though it is bad karma to inflict harm on animals.  But this seems simplistic to me, for if I start with Schopenhauer’s argument, that the animal can better bear the pain than the human, and accept that there is some continuity of consciousness that goes from the animal to the human, then I could say, on behalf of the animal (since the animal cannot say this itself) “I would suffer this much pain in this form to be able to enjoy these benefits in my present form”.  And, if this is honest, the whole thing simply becomes an example of self-improvement, like exercise.  After all, people go to extreme lengths to better themselves, and on the timespan of eternity, one might imagine these lengths to become more and more extreme, depending on the nature of people’s urges.  “But this is hell!” you say, noting Schopenhauer’s commentary on the dangers of strong wills.  Well, not if you wake up from it as a human being.  So I guess it’s all down to how literal we’re being with our stated beliefs.

The horrifying and darkly amusing thing is that it becomes possible to tolerate absolutely anything so long as there is a rhythm and a structure to it.  The most horrifying cacophony of noise imaginable becomes at least somewhat cognizable and hence bearable the moment one can put a time signature on it.  I suppose this is largely the point of the Hindu Yuga cycle.  Again, pimping Schopenhauer, he talks about a man having to walk over hot coals endlessly, and idiotically lusting for a single cool spot.  Well of course this is idiotic.  If one lusts for it they don’t distribute it optimally.  It’s fine and good to say that life is a pendulum between pain and boredom, but once one has said it is a pendulum, shouldn’t one stop speaking of melody and harmony and start speaking of rhythm?  The dance game community has gone from making stepcharts that look like this:

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to this

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Which is, if you can’t recognize it, a hellish maelstrom of arrows, tolerable only because they don’t immediately repeat.  But because they don’t immediately repeat, precisely for this reason and probably no other, the will to play this game has risen to this point

The time is approaching, if it hasn’t already come (and indeed time is a slippery and fluid thing) when men will be responsible for managing the consciousness of every organism, or for building systems that will do such managing.  What sins will they face once they understand the true nature of consciousness?  And how will they respond to such sins?  Already we have a secularized notion of hell in the concept of Roko’s Basilisk.  The world’s dominant religion is Christianity, and it has unsubtly influenced the world away from notions of timing and towards notions of some definite endpoint to history, in which everything bad goes down into eternal fire, everything good to heaven, and then I guess they both just stay there, eternally frozen in some sort of stasis, perceiving infinity in that perfect moment but never going anywhere or doing anything ever again.  I had a vision to this effect after an encounter with the Archangel Michael in Belgium.  I think it was probably penalty for being a general shitheel, but it’s hard to know.

Posted by: bracehare | September 8, 2016

Brief Clarification on Metal Gear Rising

I originally excoriated Metal Gear Rising for its ridiculousness.  I have subsequently played the game and seen that it has done a better job with the franchise than MGS4 or MGS5.  The tongue in cheek qualities did not prove to be anathema to broader themes, and the game is quite good.  That is all.  Dismissed.

Posted by: bracehare | September 25, 2014

Snowpiercer: Environmentalism as fascism

I recently had the good fortune to be able watch the movie Snowpiercer, which would otherwise have completely flown under my radar due to the bizarre particulars of its distribution.  A sleeper hit summer blockbuster, it hits a lot of notes that you don’t normally hear together, functioning as a sort of surrealist avant-garde action movie.  It’s received a lot of critical praise for its expert direction, well-matched score, solid acting performances, and political themes.  That last bit in particular shouldn’t be terribly surprising.  On its surface, Snowpiercer is thematically equivalent to Bioshock, taking the piss out of capitalism by creating a symbolic equivalent which is absurd to the point of unacceptability, trying to get the viewer to extrapolate this unacceptability to capitalism as it exists in real life.  This interpretation isn’t entirely devoid of merit, but it’s a very superficial reading of the film which misses some important things.

In the movie, the world becomes a frozen wasteland after an attempt to reverse global warming is a bit too efficacious for anyone’s good.  Film critics have taken this to be, more or less unanimously, an arbitrary setup.  This is a major misreading.  Remember that, at the start of the film, CW-7 (the revolutionary cooling substance that leads to the whole mess) is mentioned as having critics.  These critics are named as environmental groups and a number of developing countries, respectively.  Is this really a throwaway line?  Keep in mind, it’s already a given that this is a movie with themes about wealth disparity.  The mention of developing countries as an opponent to the technology would seem to align it with these themes.  If this is truly a throwaway line, then its placement in the movie is sloppy because it constitutes a red herring.  On the contrary, this line is quite important, but understanding why requires a knowledge of international politics.

Within the United States, the debate on global warming mostly seems to be an issue of the scientific community trying to fight against politicians who (whatever the driving motive), represent the interests of big oil and coal, and conservatives who are almost pathologically wary of any state intervention to the point that the conclusion of its unacceptability precedes any reasoning about the invalidity of environmental data.  Globally, however, climate change has a different political fulcrum: who should foot the bill.  The big divide is whether economically developed countries or developing countries should bear the burden of reducing carbon emissions.  Those in developed countries argue that the developing world are the ones who are causing the greatest acceleration of global warming, and so they should bear the bigger responsibility for reducing carbon emissions.  Developing countries, naturally, have the same concerns about damage to industry that we have in the United States, albeit in the context of raising their residents out of conditions of privation rather than simply maintaining an already acquired affluence.  There is a lot of back and forth for many reasons on the subject, but as that link shows, most people in EDCs don’t feel any responsibility for global warming.  Realistically, one would expect that if the problem could be shifted to LDCs, even the staunchest Republican would emphatically climb aboard.

This shirking of responsibility is rooted in a number of fallacies that pass for capitalist thought, in the sort of psuedocapitalist fashion that essentially defines the west (although I suppose a leftist would simply call this “capitalism”, and that’s understandable, and not really worth nitpicking over here).  The west were already polluting this much, for instance.  We got here first.  Taking action against global warming would also almost certainly have a greater absolute effect on the developed world (though a much smaller relative effect), simply because we have more accumulated wealth to lose and a bigger annual GDP to diminish.  Our financial and industrial systems are finely tuned and more or less fully developed.  The political power that is associated with this is not something people are interested in giving up either (crucially, remember that the Kyoto protocol, which pertained to developed countries, was not ratified by the United States)  .  So, tampering with any of this; the engine of capitalism in its present form; is unacceptable.  Of course, in the context of externalities, there can be nothing like property rights.  One can’t have a right to do something that kills people and destroys the property of others.  The logic that we were doing it first, already far from morally well-developed, is a blatant sophistry in this context; a fundamental misapplication of the concept of ownership; but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

At any rate, this sets the backdrop for Snowpiercer.  The globe has continued to warm, from which we can conclude that neither the developed world nor the developing world have accepted the onus of reducing carbon emissions.  The developing world, naturally, see more economic benefit to continued development than they see harm in global warming.  However, to the finely tuned economies of the developed world, global warming is now a serious problem.  Thus, unilaterally and against the protests of both the developing world and environmental groups (the people concerned with the actual environment, rather than simply the economic impacts of climate change), the economically advantaged nations of the world inject a poorly tested and poorly understood cooling substance into the atmosphere.

Subsequently, we have the entire movie.  An eccentric savant builds a perpetual motion engine powered train, equipped to travel in circles indefinitely, on which the poor can remain poor and the wealthy can remain wealthy, and everyone else can remain in between; provided that the system is carefully managed.  This has been viewed as principally a metaphor about class immobility.  It certainly is this, but it’s about something more specific as well.  The train, with its perfect engine, travels in circles.  This is essentially similar to a consumer capitalist system in which GDP grows steadily and efficiently, but economic activity no longer has any meaning.  It exists for its own sake.  People buy the new iPhone because that is what people in that station of life do, not because it actually has any new features of consequence (in fact, it might even be larger, more fragile, and in general represent a step back).  More crucially, the train, with its massively disparate classes, is a carefully managed ecosystem.  As the film unsubtly informs us, the train is the world.

Snowpiercer is then fundamentally not about class warfare in a generic sense, but about the use of environmentalist narratives by elites to perpetuate class warfare.  The actual environmentalists of the world are all presumably dead.  They died protesting.  Wilfred, meanwhile, as an obvious child of elites himself, absurdly built a self-sufficient train as a microcosm of the world, as it existed at the time of the freeze.  The train exists to preserve the status quo.  Those who run it are shepherds, concurrently, of the environment and the status quo.  This requires the nightmarish dystopia of the train, where the herd of humanity has to be perpetually culled, artificially.  The release of CW-7 into the atmosphere was also undertaken to preserve the status quo.   It was the solution to the dual problems of solving global warming and keeping all the hierarchies of the world static.  To those in charge, it’s both or nothing.

What this movie says, then, is that choosing both leads to unacceptable and nightmarish consequences.  People have expressed a lot of contempt for the metaphor of the train, pointing out how senseless it is.  The senselessness is the point.  They say, “why didn’t they just live in a bunker?”  The text at the beginning of the movie tells us that all life went extinct, and the people on the train are all that’s left.  Of course, at the end of the movie we see a polar bear.  The text lead-in at the beginning of the movie is therefore undermined as the authorial word-of-god it would normally be.  There probably are people in bunkers.  Were those 7 people who froze to death just running off to nowhere in particular?  If the materials exist to insulate against cold on a moving train, why would they not exist for a stationary building?  The point, remember, isn’t that the train is literally the world as it must, necessarily, exist.  It’s that to people like Wilfred and the other people in the front of the train, anything besides the utter, depraved insanity on display in the film is an inconceivable, unacceptable option for the world to be.  This pernicious view trickles down to those in the rear of the train as well.  Only Namgoong Minsu, a man who played a lesser role in building the train, is able to see that the train is an artificial system.  Note that the two principal architects of the train, Wilfred and Gilliam, are both fully invested  (note also the way Gilliam’s selflessness and capacity for sacrifice are exploited and turned to evil purposes.  It is not a good heart that saves anyone, it’s the sense and the conviction to say no to something senseless and live with the consequences.)

Ultimately then, when the decision is made to blow the entrance door, and (as other reviews have astutely pointed out) pursue a third way, this is principally an argument for something akin to anarcho-primitivism.  Remember as well that the film is peppered with references to tribal life.  Yona’s mother is Inuit.  The skills which will be used to survive in this brave new world are traditional hunter-gatherer skills, which Namgoong has attempted to instill in her.  The overarching theme of the movie isn’t about left vs right, or labor vs capital then, and attempting to forcibly, singularly impose this view on the film is naive and leads to some real lapses of critical analysis.  This film is about the appropriation of environmental narratives by elites to serve their own ends, and the fundamental falsity and danger of this sort of totalitarianism.  As seen with Gilliam, it can be spun as altruism, and as seen with Wilfred, it can also be spun as the kind of twisted faux-meritocracy that is a ubiquitous aspect of the ideologies of the privileged in the world today (with ever increasing enthusiasm).

The point is this, though: a train traveling in circles where half the people engage in pointless profligacy and the other half languish in their own filth, packed on top of each other, eating cockroaches, is how a totalitarian would solve the problem of an ecosystem in need of careful balance.  It is a totalitarian’s approach to environmentalism.  Contrast with two children wandering a largely barren world, who may or may not be immediately eaten by a polar bear.  Is this better than the train?  Well, let’s put it this way: if they do get eaten by that polar bear, that will probably be the least terrible thing to happen to them that day.  Either way, for however long they remain alive after they exit the train, they are free, uniquely and finally, and the film here requires no political slant, no heavy interpretation, in order to make this point.

Posted by: bracehare | December 28, 2013

State of the Union 2013

I’ve had a lot going through my head lately.  A jumble of thoughts, intense, not entirely organized, with a fevered pitch.  I’ve refrained from writing because I’ve been concerned I would come across as a lunatic, since all of this has the character of madness, but then I suppose I’m sufficiently incriminated already in that respect, and I still feel that these ideas, however undeveloped, need to be expressed in some way.

Lately I have been reading: The Rebel by Camus, Living in Truth by Vaclav Havel, The Gulag Archipelego by Solzenitsyn, and a revisitation of older reads such as the essays of Karl Popper.  A great deal has been put into context for me about my country’s history, about world history, and about “human nature” so-to-speak.  Alarms have been going off in my head.  I have had long stretches of unfocused trepidation and short bursts of lucid terror.  The problem is never so much one of making sure your model is valid, but of making sure your premises are realistic.  Maybe mine aren’t.  Let me start with them, so that my reasoning can be vetted.

What is it that made the American revolution successful and the French revolution a disaster?  Both were based on enlightenment values.  Whereas the United States became a stable and successful country immediately after though, France plunged into a fascistic nightmare from which only their own Caesar could rescue them.  Entire classes of people were murdered, factions of the same political platform turned violent against one another, and the more the state attempted to be a rational, legalistic, populist entity, the more blood was spilt, and the more absurdly.  It troubles me greatly that we cannot account for this country’s historical difference from its sibling.  Part of me suspects that the Jacobin disease lies dormant in our body politic, masked up until now by our unique history, waiting only for the right set of conditions to manifest.  Part of me supposes that France was lucky; they got it out of their system young, at a time when Caesars could still cross their own personal Rubicons, before the atom bomb fixed politics in stone.

The sinking feeling I have had is that the only reason the United States got away with our revolution whereas France did not is because we had an escape valve.  We had the west.  We also had designated acceptable targets extrinsic to our social systems; whereas France had the nobility, the United States had our natives and our slaves.  One set of targets are plainly less socially disruptive to kill.  When Andrew Jackson ignored the constitution and the supreme court to send the civilized tribes to Oklahoma; the whole history of our treatment of this country’s natives in fact; these were a missed symptom.  When the desperately poor of this country went west en masse simply to seek a life outside a ghetto, and the robber barons maintained their reign unquestioned, that was a missed symptom.  When the Mormon religion was persecuted in this land of religious freedom and they were forced to seek their promised land in Utah, that was a missed symptom.  And so on, and etc.  There was a prophylaxis by which every element volatile to the new establishment of wealth and political power in the United States was moved west, by choice or by force.  In more established countries such a thing would have been impossible, and what was really exodus under the guise of manifest destiny would have been a short but extreme period of violence instead.  Our national identity would have consolidated under such pressures.  Instead, a dangerous love of order, even above mercy or truth, was distilled by the osmosis of its would-be targets into areas of greater freedom.

So, this country is uniquely polarized by geography.  Lately due to the recession it has had to weather a resurgence of poverty, one of the traditional elements of a social powderkeg.  We have a law and order fetishism that would make the Jacobins blush, embodied in our prison industrial complex which is fed mostly by non-violent drug offenders.  Our country is also uniquely educated; our system produces technicians, intensely capable of plying modern trades (finance, software, the engineering professions, law…) but lacking philosophical, historical, or political education, critical thinking skills, or even the inclination towards such things; white collar professionals proudly boast that they are free from “useless knowledge”, that they are above “meaningless language”.  Are they really?  No, of course not.  There is a vacuum in these people’s worldviews, and by consciously turning up their nose at academic knowledge they ensure it gets filled with junk.  This is why so many American professionals are drawn to political extremism even of ostensibly defunct or plainly anti-realistic kinds.  Popper warned about this, as did Havel, and many others.  European intellectuals almost as a class predicted this would happen, and long before it came to pass.  The United States is a country with rich and diverse traditions, pragmatic people, and a dearth of its own philosophical culture which it resolves through foreign import and intellectual thrift; we make a few ideas go a long way.  Well, so was Russia.

It’s hard to explain precisely what’s terrifying me about this country today, because there are only ingredients, which have yet to consolidate into anything definite.  I can sense them trying to do so.  By the time they do, I think it will be too late for me; fringe elements are always the first to go, sometimes so much long before the problem is apparent that the two things are not even recognized as related by history.  Solzenitsyn states that the mass arrests of 1937 and 1938 are widely regarded as the beginning of Stalin’s purges, even though some 15 million peasants were disappeared almost a decade before then; easy targets.  

“This wave poured forth, sank down into the permafrost, and even our most active minds recall hardly a thing about it. It is as if it had not even scarred the Russian conscience,” says Solzenitysn

Prior to fascism in earnest, a rising fascist state “takes out the trash” so to speak.  It does not cause alarm for the same reason one can mass deport the Cherokee, violate one’s own law in doing so, and remain a populist figure; for the same reason slavery didn’t stand out as a contradiction to the constitution.  What use is prescience anyway?  If one reacts too soon to an indefinite threat, one only helps to consolidate it and give it shape, give it excuse.  John Brown did this, and only by luck did the chips fall favorably.  I don’t think I have the reflexes to react at the exact right moment, given such a small window of opportunity.  Nor do I think I have the wit or the good fortune to set things in motion in a way that leaves things better off than where they began.  So, I am just sort of left to watch as the circumstances of my future death develop.  Que sera sera.

Some things seem apparent about the future.  Contrary to the insistence of leftist revisionists, no fascist state has ever really been plutocratic.  Our country seems poised to become the first.  The conjunction of law and order fetishism, the conflation of wealth and character, the just world fallacy, and this country’s worship of financial success seem to be perfectly suited to enable this.  What is most ironic about this country’s love of wealth is that it stems from a romanticism that was born in the west, a worship of everymen who built fortunes and powerful families largely independently of established infrastructure.  Our country is today not nearly as ossified as some would think in terms of wealth, but it is nonetheless telling that corrupt corporate executives today fancy themselves as James J. Hills, even as they steal from the taxpayer in the form of subsidies and bailouts; that Wall Street traders, who use automated software to game the market, consider themselves Red Adairs; and that all of these people, even as they plunge the country to its death through insider trading, complex gambits with derivatives, incompetent management, short-sighted policy, general moral hazard, and the looting of the public treasury, quote Ayn Rand readily and without the slightest hint of irony.  There is a class of people in this country who have stolen this country’s authentic ideology and convinced others it rightfully belongs to them, simply because they thought it sounded nice and that is the sort of thing they have done professionally for hundreds of years now.

Religion is a scary thing sometimes.  I was tortured by the religious in this country, and that was over a decade ago, when they had little doubt about running the place.  Nobody made record of this.  I have to wonder how the religious are going to respond long-term to the antagonism of, for instance, moneyed homosexuals.  Two men in Colorado went to court and got the state to say to a religious man, “bake them a wedding cake or lose your livelihood”.  This seems to have no function besides antagonism.  If I’m harassed in a store the day after the verdict, is this related?  Has the idea been implanted that queer people are an imposition on the freedom of running a business?  That’s the trouble with being transsexual, is visibility.  It seems like gay men cause problems and then slip into the shadows.  My visibility attracts negative attention, which is then perceived as antagonism, and responded to in kind.  Gay people say, “look, they only hate those people.”  My cause is taken up by extreme leftists, who love all things lowly, including the brazenly criminal.  The right says “look, only communists and other trash will associate with these people, and you will know them by the company they keep.”  Then Log Cabin Republicans say, “Why do you have to associate LGBT issues with anti-american ideologies?”  Queer politics in a nutshell, but this is a digression.

Love of money for its own sake is a scary thing.  People in this country no longer care where money comes from, or make any distinction as to this.  Every rich person is entitled to the same form of speech, and how it rolls off their tongues, self-made men and vicious criminals alike.  Consumption is our only culture.  There is no pride left in work, only pride in how much one makes at work, which is displayed through conspicuous consumption.  People get angry at welfare recipients having iPhones, dressing nicely, owning cars and so forth because it disrupts our one real culture.  Poor people should not have nice things, because otherwise you can’t tell that they’re poor people.  Consumption belies hierarchy, and so consumption needs to occur in clear, socially stratified iterations; if it fails to do so, then laws must be passed to make it so.  Welfare fraud laws cost more than they save, for instance, but remain in high demand; their function is just to police the culture of consumption.  Even drug laws can be understood in this way.  When a rich man rolls up a benjamin and snorts a line of coke, does he want to feel he has something in common with a person living in a crackhouse?  Of course not.  So we raid the crackhouse.  Of course, drugs are an expensive habit.  The poor pay the difference in prison time while the rich enjoy the unstated privilege of their wealth.

Lack of meaningful education and lack of engagement with civic ideas are scary things.  People have learned to keep their heads down.  There are easy labels to dismiss everything now.  You do not need a breadth of knowledge to make money, not even very large amounts.  Money in this country is legal protection, culture, status, personhood, life.  Keep your head down and make money.  If you worry too much you will make others uncomfortable.  Social networking is more important than skill these days.  Be a social person; do not make others uncomfortable; and survive.  Resent those who refuse, regardless of the form or motives of their refusal, even if it’s unintentional for that matter, for their actions are an indictment of you, and they have no right to you indict you.  You are more valuable.  You have money.

The love of order and the ever more rigid taxonomy of human beings is a scary thing.  This country really loves putting people in prison, to the extent there’s a de facto prison of economic and social circumstance waiting for people even if they ever leave the official big house.  Honestly, sometimes even if they never go in the first place, provided it seems like they should be there.  Do we believe in free will?  Not as much as we believe in winners and losers.  A single action draws eternal consequences.  It is not like this everywhere, but second chance is becoming a dirty phrase here.  It sounds like a guilty person sniveling.  In order to believe that our institutions are meritocratic, we have rationalized ludicrous results.  Weigh your heart upon the scales of justice; if it weighs more than a feather, you will be consumed.  Our schools today are modeled after our prisons.  Is it any wonder we have such a docile populace?

How does all of this fit together?  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how much I’m misreading.  If I’m not, I give my country a prognosis of 15-30 years, tops.

Posted by: bracehare | December 15, 2011

Metal Gear Rising: Thoughts and Impressions

 

That feeling you just felt was the voice of a million fanboys crying out in terror.  This video at the moment stands at a ratio of roughly 3:2 for likes vs dislikes, and IGN (while admittedly a joke of a website) even ran an article saying that Rising will destroy the series.  Which is of course absurd, as it implies that MGS4 didn’t already do the job.  That is what makes all of these fanboy outbursts truly precious.  I have had ambivalent feelings about Metal Gear Solid 3 for some time now, but I’m beginning to realize that it was both a swan-song and an ultimatum.  Both MGS1 and MGS2 had important messages about personal agency and meaning, established against the backdrop of both individual lives and social phenomenon, which were used to prove the existence of freedom by suggesting the possibility of its antithesis.  However, in MGS3, the death of The Boss; both narratively and ludologically; signals the death of the series.  The player is forced to kill her by the mission, by the requirements of the game, and even by the mechanics of the game if they prove too stubborn to follow through.  The essential message here is “Fuck it.  Forget all that stuff about personal freedom.  You’re a puppet and that’s all you ever will be”.  It comes at the end of a game which is much less bleak in general.  Without being actualized, the insult can’t really be extended to the point it subsumes the series.  Of course, then Guns of the Patriots comes along and you literally play as a puppet.  The ending of MGS3 was a threat, and then MGS4 was its execution.  With extremely rare exception, this flew over the heads of the so-called fanbase and the gaming press alike, who lauded the game with perfect scores all around.

The joke went ignored because of a fundamental flaw in the way the average person “reads” games.  The story of a game rarely has primary significance to a player.  Instead, it’s an aesthetic; an embellishment which exists only to enable and contextualize the actions of the player.  This is why the average player doesn’t care whether they’re playing as a puppet or a person.  They just need an excuse to get to the next goal, and they don’t dwell overly long on the implications.  This of course explains the commonality of the “puppet” trope.  It is easy to write consistently, and in a way which works with the aesthetic of a game.  The result is a lot of subtly dehumanized characters, from Gordon Freeman to the Bioshock protagonist to the entire crew of Mother 3.  The MGS series has suffered from its need to be commercially appealing.  Instead of remaining an effective vehicle for important messages, it’s been forced to acquiesce to complaints from 30 year old manchildren that “Raiden is too girly”, that the gameplay isn’t enough like Call of Duty or Battlefield, that the plot is too complicated, etc.  MGS4 was the death of authorial control.  It was a finely tuned modern shooter with minor stealth elements which turned Raiden into an excuse for stylish cutscenes and which reduced the plot to “The patriots control everything and everything is nanomachines”.  Sure, the cutscenes were twice as long, and equally portentous (and pretentious) despite now lacking substance of any kind, but that was just part of the joke.  It was too subtle though.  This is why I love Rising.  This is why Rising exists.  It is the progeny of the same sense of humor as MGS4, but dumbed down for the target audience.

We are living in the shadow of MGS4.  Metal Gear Rising takes all the stupidity of the previous game and presents it without the trappings.  MGS4 was an enabler, like the friend who encourages you to drink well past the point of cogency at any event where alcohol is present.  Rising is more like the friend who overdoses after injecting a speedball and leaves you realizing how hollow, fleeting and superficial your lifestyle is.  The reaction of the fanbase to Rising is a colossal case of missing the point.  It’s a few hundred thousand people saying “Substance abuse is bad, and some people would drag me down into it, and I don’t want any bad influences in my life.  Only alcoholics”.  I say fuck that.  I personally love the hell out of excess when it serves as a form of honesty, and that’s exactly what Metal Gear Rising is shaping up to be.  It eschews hypocrisy in favor of toxicity.  It’s not the game the fanbase needs, but it’s the one it deserves.  Of course nobody gets it.  They don’t understand the way in which it’s a reaction to its predecessor; the way in which it’s effectively required by it, in fact.  The series was beloved by its nominal fanbase not for its content but for appearances.  In MGS4, the content was removed without anyone noticing.  Now with rising, the aesthetics are changed slightly, and suddenly everyone is going “where did my content go!???”  This would be hilarious, in much the same capacity as tricking a dog into chasing a non-existent ball, if not for the fact that it corresponds to the death of a series.  Hell, honestly it’s funny anyway.

– Jessica Evans

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