(also, questions from August; and since it’s a slow month, I’m going to throw in some questions from comments, too.)
It’s been pretty well established that the eldrae place an immense value on pride and personal achievement, to the point that they hold people in contempt for trying to put on airs of false modesty — but what about those messy situations where they “come by it honestly” in the sense that, however much they do genuinely try to strive for excellence and self-respect, *can’t* take pride in their accomplishments because something inside of their own head won’t let them honestly perceive their own self-worth?
I am, in short, asking about the eldraeic take on that big tangle of warped mentality and self-image which, in various combinations and contexts, goes by such labels as “depression,” “bipolar disorder,” “manic depression,” “obsessive-compulsive disorder” (particularly of the “intrusive thoughts” variety), the “Jonah complex,” and “impostor syndrome.” (I’m guessing that, given their ethical perspective on fraud, that last one especially would appear to put its sufferers in a particularly nasty double bind, at least if they’ve internalized Imperial ethics enough to be concerned by it.)
I also want to clarify that I’m asking at least in part for the historical perspective, back in the days before these things could be fixed with a single quick visit to the local psych-surgeon.
(I take a moment to note for non-long-term readers that the baseline temperament for eldrae is one which we might call hypomanic; the average human is really quite the gloomy, depressive sort.)
Well, you’re going to be in for some suffering, aren’t you?
Not, for the most part, from people going after you for false modesty/humility; by and large, people are smart enough to tell pose from pathology.
But from people who decline to accept your false self-image and will call you on your involuntary bullshit LOUDLY AND DISTINCTLY. Possibly with gestures and other emphatic devices. Get used to being told that you are grievously undercounting your own awesome. A lot. By people who are entirely uninterested in hearing any demurral.
(And also inasmuch as even without psychedesign having advanced to the point where such things are fixable routinely, that doesn’t stop people from trying to help you. If you have a problem – and this applies every bit as much to mental disabilities as physical ones – there will be people earnestly trying to fix that problem.
It’s not like you have to volunteer as a test subject for every new idea that comes down the pipe in fields from neuroactive pharmaceuticals through transcranial magnetic stimulation, alternative-frequency lighting, atmospheric modification, color-aroma environmental treatments and feng shui, all the way to cognitive therapy, guided meditation, religion, and trained emotional support/anti-bullshit service animals – but it’s for sure and certain that they’ll all be on offer. For you, and for science.)
This makes me wonder a couple of things. Actually, I’ve been wondering many things about the Imperial attitude towards games and that liminal line between “game” and “reality”, but I’ll just drop two of the most relevant down the spillway and keep the floodgates barred for later.
First, what do they make, in general, of the idea that a game, by virtue of being a space with differently defined rules from reality, is “just a game”?
- Well, that’s obviously not true, since there are plenty of simulation spaces with differently defined rules from reality that aren’t games. What makes a game a game is that it expresses ludic intentionality.
- They would also like to take issue with the word “just”. A game, like any form of media, is a concretized idea or set of ideas. A game that was “just a game”, i.e., which was neither truthful nor beautiful, wouldn’t be worth playing.
In particular, I’m asking what they would make of the guy who is generally easygoing in the real world, but really gets into the act when he roleplays as the “bad guy” in a game setting, or (for instance) always chooses to play as the Space Nazis whenever everyone plays Space Nazi War Simulator: The Movie: The Game: Limited Platinum Gold Game of the Millennium Edition (with obligatory horse DLC).
On that topic, well –
(A digression, first: namely that there aren’t many play-the-villain games around due to a lack of market, except for fairly anodyne strategy games and the like, for the same sort of underlying reasons as seen in various previous discussions of media and genre. Where PvP conflict is called for, developers prefer to have antagonists who aren’t simple villains; where it’s at least possible to embrace any playable side without soaking your mind thoroughly in filth, and preferably where there’s a pathway to a perfect ending in which with enough hard work everyone can win. In Eldraeverse!Mass Effect, for example, synthesis would be considered the objectively best ending because you can save everyone, even the Reapers.
There just ain’t a whole lot of call for Objectively Terrible People Simulators.)
– while games aren’t real, people are, and choices, they would say, reflect character. If you spend a whole lot of time faithfully roleplaying Space Nazis: The Mass-Murdering Fuckheadry, it does suggest there’s something hinky in your brain-pan.
Much like we might regard people who voluntarily play FATAL, say.
(And especially the implications this has not only in games, but in things like theater, film, etc.)
In such media, of course, things are somewhat different. Someone has to play the Space Nazis, after all, otherwise the protagonists couldn’t space-magic-fist-of-doom them.
And that would be a tragedy.
Also, do they recognize the phenomenon of Video Game Cruelty Potential, and if they find it particularly distasteful (as I’m sure no small number would, based on previous discussions), what sort of measures would they take to implement Video Game Cruelty Punishment whether inside the game world or outside?
Yes, they do, yes, they do, and it’s mostly done via a snifter of Guilt-Based Gaming with a heaping helping of Reality Ensues, for local values of reality. Which is to say, actions have consequences, and asshats have consequences happen to them, either directly or via the fact they’re continuing in a world that responds to their actions and which they made crapsackier. Mostly in-game, but the Xbox Live reputation system has nothing on what the rep-nets’ll do to you.
(This isn’t to say you can’t play any of the strains of renegade Shepard, to go back to my Mass Effect example. You can play Commander Grouchy Maverick No-Time-For-Your-Bullshit just fine, with a side-order of throwing mercenaries out of windows and punching disingenuous assertions, quipping all the while. The petty backstabbing, being an bastard to your crew, and casual genocide, that’ll come back to bite you in the ass.)
((Now, the people who spend time tormenting their Sims and starving their virtual pets, they’ve probably already come to the attention of the Guardians of Our Harmony and been cured of their nasty case of cacophilia, or else just plain euthanized.))
And another thing that comes to mind: You’ve mentioned that the eldrae don’t really do “friendly insults,” but do they do “in-character trash talk”? And is there a general understanding (on this and other matters) that “What happens in the game, stays in the game”?
As long as it remains strictly in character and in-game, yes. There are already strict social rules about proper management of one’s valessef, and this is just an extension of those.
What is origin of the Photonic Network? Who created its founding AIs? Or is it actually an abiogenesis silica-quantum civilization?
The ancestors of the Photonic Network dates back to one of the Precursor periods (specifically, the passage of the spinbright circumgalactic migration through the area of the Worlds in roughly -102,000), but since said ancestors weren’t sapient at the time, they didn’t pay much attention to recording historical information. (Trying to get useful information out of their ancestral data is like, for example, trying to deduce the 21st century from a random Linux machine’s /var/log/syslog.)
It is commonly assumed that they’re somehow connected to the spinbrights, but since most of what’s known about them comes from archaeologically-recovered trash dropped in passing, that doesn’t help very much.
Here’s one that possibly keeps the Fifth Directorate up at night: What if it’s possible to obliterate all free will everywhere in a stroke simply by gaining root access to Elsewhere and tampering with the source code that governs the mechanisms of sophonce itself?
“Well, then, we’d be utterly, cosmically, and paracausally fucked, wouldn’t we?”
– abstracted final report, OPERATION EPOCH SHATTER,
on CASE EPOCH SHATTER BRAAAAAINS
A couple questions (regarding this):
First, echoing the unanswered comment in the Slate Star Codex link: What of “Goodness” / “Virtue” — the third leg in the classical triad of transcendental values?
“What is virtue if not the bringing of truth into conformance with beauty?”
Virtue, in this worldview, is that quality which makes the world-as-it-is closer to the world-as-it-ought-be.
Second: What would the eldrae make of the notion that — as was common in much classical and medieval thought here on Earth (cf. http://www.iep.utm.edu/m-aesthe and https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/beauty/#ClaCon ) — not only is there an Absolute Beauty such that any perfectly rational creature with perfect knowledge who encountered an object instantiated with its properties must necessarily recognize that it is perfectly beautiful (and therefore that any sophont that doesn’t recognize it as not merely beautiful but The Most Beautiful X Possible Anywhere-and-When must necessarily be either imperfectly informed or imperfectly rational, and in either case objectively wrong); but that such a standard must necessarily exist in order for Beauty to have any meaning as a concept whatsoever?
(There are, needless to say, multiple scholae of aesthetics.)
The first thing to mention, obviously, is the distinction in concept between the words aelva (“beauty”, which is objective) and delékith (“pleasing”, which is ambijective). (There is also méskith (“attractive”, which is even more ambijective.) But equally important to note is the place structure of the word – aelva literally means:
SUBJECT is objectively beautiful in aspect ASPECT by aesthetic standard STANDARD
This would reflect the view of the majority of those scholae that there are multiple types of beauty, and as such multiple associated standards of it. (Although a definitive catalog has yet to be produced.) Very few of said scholae would argue that the path between beauty and ugliness is a linear scale rather than a fractally branching tree, although some would argue that the various end points all reflect a single law of metabeauty. Of such debates are many academic papers made.
Now, if you want a more straightforward philosophical debate, consider the problem of whether ugliness is likewise multiplex, or singular. (In this case, most would say singular.)
Of course, each of these standards must necessarily exist. Any concept that can’t be quantified doesn’t exist.
So have the eldrae ever encountered anything like the Worm-in-Waiting?
Not in the specifics, but it’s an old galaxy filled with Precursor-era leftovers, elder-race Powers, and other assorted weirdities. Everyone runs into one sooner or later. The relevant scientific discipline, however, is pretty clear about the appropriate response to barely-understood offers from incomprehensible entities.
– Applied Theology for Beginners
– Intermediate Applied Theology
“Unless you have yourself progressed in understanding to the point that the deal on the table is as clear as the most perfect vacuum: still don’t. And if you have, don’t try it without an angel to watch over you.”
– Advanced Applied Theology for Fully Bonded Practitioners,
Classified By Independent Auditors As In An Ongoing State of Self-Aware Rationality:
An Inadvisable Guide
There’s a reason they call people, organizations, and governances that try this sort of thing “necromancers”, and it ain’t for the cool robes; it’s because a ridiculous percentage of the time you’re making a Faustian bargain without even knowing it, and will end up as a perversion’s finger-puppet.
(And as it’s the end of the day right now, you can have the last three on Saturday.)