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Implications of Considering Simulation Theory

In my previous post for this task, entitled Simulation Theory & Conjectures of Post-Humanity, I broke down the reasoning behind Bostrom’s hypothesis that we are living in a computer simulation. Assuming, as this theory argues, that it’s not impossible that we are living in a simulation, henceforth I will discuss the implications of considering these ideas.

Simulation theory is a somewhat hollow area of study, simply because it’s “not functional information” (McEvoy et. al 2018). Besides being aware that a simulation is happening, a discovery of this variety doesn’t matter(ibid) in that it would not physically change anything about the way we live our lives – albeit under the weight of “existential dread”. Outside of being “philosophically interesting” (Staggs 2013), there’s little that understanding this theory will actually do to benefit the human race. For me, the notion of researching something so inexplicably pointless is fascinating in itself in that these studies often lead to unforseen insight into perpendicular issues – which I’ll explain more toward the end of this piece.

Human relationships with computers

Various ideas about the relationship between humans and computers pulse through the mainstream media like blood through human veins. This media, both fictional and through news media, varies on a huge scale, from science fiction media which inspires blatant fear of technology in the minds of viewers, leading to public resistance of technology (Kitzinger 2009), to media which greatly misinterprets or underestimates the capacity of that same technology, as was seen in the reporting of human cloning research in 2013 (Condic 2013). We are already struggling with the notion that computers can mime humans online, through bots for example, and it’s difficult to determine whether you’re interacting with a sentient biological human over the internet. This has us feeling somewhat disconcerted (Magid 2017); we (as a race) designed and built computers for our own benefit, we view them as inferior to us.

 

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We both underestimate and overestimate the potential of the average computer  (source)

 

It is only by “historical accident” that computers are so strongly associated with numeracy, when in truth they have fundamentally very little to do with numbers (Newell et. al 1959). A general-purpose computer has the capacity to read, move, generate, compare and associate symbols. If an abstract combination of these abilities is programmed into the computer, more complex processes can be computed (ibid) – including a potential human simulation. The idea that the joke is on us and everything we interact with, ourselves included, may be a piece of code (or the equivalent), is unimaginable. It’d be like learning that horses have actually been racing us in the Melbourne Cup, or that stamps collect us as hobbies.

Humanic Concepts of Simulation

We humans are an exceedingly arrogant species. Obsessed with where we came from and where we’re going, we have strongly debated two core paths of existence for centuries:

  1. Evolution
  2. Creationism

Simulation theory does not discount either of these systems, and may indeed exist alongside one. If we count atheism as a belief system, we could theoretically claim that simulation theory could also exist alongside it, however some have come out and blatantly rejected this via a Reddit thread within the Change My View sub Reddit, in which a critique of science practice and how it understands the development of humanity unfolds.

 

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We don’t know where we came from, but imagining a computed universe is a relatively new form of creationism (source)

 

When imagining a computer simulation, we tend to picture a video-game-style contract between the player with the remote control, and the digital universe locked in the screen – but this is not necessarily how a true simulated society would operate (McEvoy et. al 2018). Therefore we have an adjunct bias to the notion of binary simulation that impairs our ability to objectively consider quantum, or other,  possibilities. Similarly, when we imagine that we might exist in a simulation, our minds tend to form a picture reminiscent of The Matrix (1999) (Zimmerman-Jones 2015), which Bostrom argues is inaccurate. In The Matrix, the conscious human mind is not simulated (ibid), meaning that biologically-conscious human minds enter a simulated world. Bostrom argues that in the case of a ‘real’ simulation (and I use the word ‘real’ with trepidation), our minds would be simulated matter also (ibid), reaching a clause called substrate-independent (Bostrom 2003). This means that human consciousness would not be dependent on a biological brain and could thus be replicated by a computer.

This bias carries through our use of the word ‘simulation’. In their podcast entitled Two Cyborgs & a Microphone: Fourty-Two (sic), McEvoy and Shank unpack the way we look at the purpose of our lives through religion, and argue there is little disparity in definition between ‘simulation’ and ‘religion’ in practice:

Most of the world throughout history has believed we are in a simulation, but without using those words.

This raises the question of whether we can call simulation theory a religion.  The following points are a summation of the correlation between religion and simulation theory:

  • Many major faiths feature life on earth as an illusionary transitory path toward an afterlife. In simulation theory, illusion is similarly a key concept behind our existence (Staggs 2013).
  • Most religious models require their participants to worship the God/s in some form. This may include inciting war in the interests of the God, or otherwise to “toil as their faithful servants”. If simulation theory is true, it’s likely we are allowing our own invisible creators to learn or experiment with our existence (Staggs 2013; Bostrom 2003), which forges a similar creator/creation relationship to that of major religions.
  • Simulation theory, at least as we understand it, is impossible to prove. This means that considering it as a possibility requires at least as much faith as a typical religion (Staggs 2013; Johnson 2011):

We have no good reason for thinking that God designed our universe. . . Every philosopher knows that it can’t be proven false that our universe is not some kind of “simulation”—perhaps an illusion created by some Cartesian evil-demon, or the dream of some great being (or perhaps our own dream). It could be that we are in The Matrix or a brain in a vat. . . Although there is no evidence that such things are true, there is also no definitive evidence that they are false (hence the sceptical problem). (Johnson 2011)

The majority of creation myths feature an outside agent who builds a system comprised of intelligent beings; this is the essence of all belief systems. In this sense, simulation theory is not far off being its own religion – albeit without its subjects worshipping an elusive ‘creator’ (McEvoy et. al 2018).

Humans are proud creatures (Herbert 2007). The notion of being the product of somebody else’s keystrokes is, collectively, something we find alarming. Even the idea of evolution being so offensive to a selection of humans is evidence of this; why are we so insulted that we might have evolved from apes (Korthof 2014)? We’d like to believe we’re part of a larger plan, of some sort of meaning. 

The Construct of Death

Questions surrounding human death are underpinned by a combination of “arrogant ‘knowledge'” and logical acceptance of the limitations of our own existence. In her examination of thoughts on euthanasia, Prokipiou names four factors in the human attitude toward death: the effect of technology, authority, selfishness and the weakness of  self-criticism and self control (Prokipiou 2016). The notion of death as ‘the unknown’, which is often approached with fear and uncertainty (Carlisle 2013), gave rise to religion. The purpose of religion, according to some critics, is to both recognise and provide a “spiritual response” to these fears (ibid). If we are assuming simulation theory is akin to religious order, we must consider it simultaneously as the product of a society desperate to know its purpose and that which craves understanding in a universe of uncertainty.

 

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Death is a fear that humans have carried with them throughout time – are religion and theories such as this one to diminish our unease about the unknown? (source)

 

Thus it can be argued that the empty questions of “moral and philosophical ambiguity” to which we have no answer are made “soft and comfortable by the warm quilt of religious belief, be it technological or mythical” (Staggs 2013). Staggs goes further to claim that both religion and simulation theory offer simplistic solutions to complex questions about life. He therefore argues we should question why we find simulation theory attractive, rather than whether or not it is true. 

In examining simulation theory, the concept of death becomes even more complex. To determine the value of death in a simulation, we first have to unpack what it means to be real – which is almost a whole new research project in itself. In 1641, Descartes, a philosopher, put forward that even if an all-powerful demon tried to convince him to think he exists when he doesn’t, he would still have to exist for this deception to occur (Descartes 1641). Similarly, Descartes put forward his maxim “I think, therefore I am” (which has subsequently been used to explore creator/creature relationships in popular culture such as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner in 1982) in an ambitious claim that having the ability to question our reality makes us real (Bennett 2017). Thus my current premise is that even if we are mere lines of code typed by post-humans, we still exist in some way.

The notion of death, however, does require we have a ‘self’, or personal agency – which we may not possess in the way we think (Staggs 2013). In this sense, coupled with simulation theory, our ‘death’ may be nothing more than “logging out of (the) illusion” (ibid) – which could expel us from existence permanently, temporarily, or even returning to some other reality instantaneously – which, despite technological connotations, really does not differ from religious notions of death.

 

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As the world moves along the technological road, we need to be considering the implications of our newfound knowledge and ability (source)

 

Questions of defining, sustaining and understanding life are becoming increasingly urgent as we toy with droids, robots and artificial intelligence reaching human capacity – and possibly surpassing it, with vast implications for humanity as we currently know it. This is an issue we ought to consider proactively, before it becomes a reality (Drevich 2017). Here lies the hidden value alluded to in the introduction of this piece.

Digital Artefact: Update

A skeleton of my interactive narrative is currently live. At this early stage it is not possible to access the entire story, but the brief preview is accompanied by a countdown to when the final product will be completed. I am keeping the @simulationmindy twitter account updated with my progress, as well as compiling various resources for use in this project. I have also written a script for Chattr’s video series Kraj Kraj Conspiracies,  presenting simulation theory as a conspiracy for a young, non-academic audience. This video has not yet been published, but when it is I will incorporate it into this portfolio.

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The Bureau Drawer

“Do you know what a poem is, Esther?”
“No, what?” I would say.
“A piece of dust.” (Sylvia Plath)

mask1
If I pull off my mask and tell personal stories online, a lot of people won’t know how to respond. Of those who do, some may use it against me in the workplace. I can’t even control if people close to me, people the story is about, read it. WHY then, do I possess such a strong desire to write online? (Image: Favim)

We exist in an odd shell. Fragility is a rich, red blood and society is a shark – but you’re protected by a shark net. You’re just bleeding out in the ocean, dying slowly, whilst the predators circle you menacingly without knowing how to attack. Emotion spills out of us like those electric red laser beams robbers have to duck and leap through to get the jewel in the centre – except the jewel in the centre is smooth efficiency and the robbers are our workplaces and broader society. It’s masculine, it’s capitalist, and, when you stop to consider its implications, this ideology we obey like soldiers is downright heartless. Kris Christou has shaped this complex ideology into one sentence:

The stigma attached to vulnerability in society is extremely insensitive and inherently wrong (The Clear Pane of Soundproof Glass).

People don’t know how to react to what Michael Adams calls heart stuff. He won the 2017 Calibre Prize for his essay Salt Blood about freediving, suicide and family. If anybody has a firm grasp on navigating the terrain of stark vulnerability, it’s Michael. He reflected on a personal story he once narrated to an audience:

You kind of spill your innards and they politely clap at the end . . .they don’t know how to respond.

ballet
There’s a certain beauty which exists in vulnerability. We as a society are yet to fully unravel it (image: Nico Nordstrom)

I think this is why we are so scared of vulnerability; we don’t seem to see it much and therefore we do not understand what is ‘expected’ of us in response. The sheer irony is that we all have these vulnerabilities and, if they were expressed more, perhaps we would all be more confident in dealing with others’. This notion of sonder: that every person has an intricate, flame-filled life as deep as our own, was discussed by Maddy Cook in her post The Value in Life:

Perhaps if a few more people had this realisation, and could acknowledge that others around them are going through issues and break ups and family problems and cancer and mental illnesses… maybe the world would be a bit more compassionate?


Writing in Public: A Brief Recap

I wrote The Antagonist was a Good Man, a recap of the influence of family violence on my life. I then published a literature review which discussed the ways in which we conduct autoethnographic analysis on ‘tabooed’ narrative topics, including domestic violence and suicide. It is a Fragile Promise sprung from a class discussion on the workplace implications of what we write online. In this piece I ended with the tentative conclusion that if a potential employer wants to use my personal stories in a decision to hire me, he or she is most welcome. I just don’t think that threat is a good enough reason to stay silent.

Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you – George R. R. Martin

mask
Considering the threats of public writing is like having tape wrapped around my jaw (image: Pinterest)

I’ve found it difficult to move on from this; not possessing an answer to the questions of public writing feels kind of like I’ve been gagged. I’m beginning to accept that there probably won’t be a straightforward answer whilst the internet maintains its current constitution, as much as my inner mathematician (my alter ego who is allergic to grey) struggles with this.

I attempted to break down the questions I am asking to figure out where my thoughts should travel next.

mindmap.jpg

I started with a heading and followed my thoughts via words and arrows. I tried to answer each question with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However I was left with three unanswered questions, which I’ve highlighted.

  1. Given that I cannot completely control who reads my work on the internet, is this a good enough reason to not publish?
  2. What happens if ‘the antagonist’ comes across these posts?
  3. If not the internet, where?

One

I believe silence is a dangerous sound. Do you remember those huge, rainbow parachutes we used to run under in primary school? The teacher would yell “one, two, three!” and we’d wave it in the air. Twenty-something six-year-olds would then run frantically underneath, trying to secure a handle on the opposite side.

parachute
Image: Carly3

 

That moment of chaos, when each person is running at each other, ducking and weaving to reach the other side. That moment reminds me of silence. I don’t mean the peaceful, sleepy kind, I am thinking about the silence that lazily sits back to watch chaos ensue. Is it fear? Avoidance of conflict? Why are we so resistant to tell bad stories? Why are we so resistant to hearing them?

Forming a decision to not publish my stories on the basis of ‘not knowing who might read them’ feels like silence to me. It feels like I’m the kid holding up the parachute, letting potentially dangerous events unfold. When I’m lifting up the handles, I can see parents screaming at each other, small children screaming. A teenage boy seizes a bottle of Jim Beam and sprints outside in fury. He empties the entire bottle onto the garden. His father is livid. We need to drop the parachute, break the harsh silence and burn the stigma. Advocacy in public writing is a new concept for me and I will touch upon it in a later paragraph.


Two

I can’t control who reads my writing once it’s posted online – but there are steps I can take. I would never post certain pieces on Facebook; it’s too populated. My family, friends, colleagues and more exist there. Everybody knows who I am. On Twitter, I am far more comfortable sharing my thoughts. It’s less persona-based and more of a conversation-driving platform. This means that outside my following, most people who come across my work are searching for something of that nature specifically. On Reddit, this is even more true. Reddit is driven by a culture of anonymity and it values information above persona. This means that those who read my work are reading it, and will inherently judge it, based upon the value of its content, rather than because I wrote it.

social media
A very rough idea of how we can distinguish between social media platforms which are ‘safer’ to write personally on; I think the less persona a platform embodies, the less ‘searchable’ it is, and  the safer it is to publish personal content for discussion.

Choosing to share my work on Reddit and Twitter is hardly a foolproof mechanism, but it’s something. I drew the above graph to articulate my current thoughts: as the level of persona on a social media platform decreases, the ‘safety’ of posting public writing increases.

What would happen if my own antagonist came across some of my recent posts? I think it would hurt him. He would recognise it as truth, he would recognise it as a pain that he caused. Maybe it would strike up a conversation that’s never been had. Honestly, I’m not sure it would be a good thing. A lot of silence exists in my family – but I think it should stay this way.


Three

My writing stays in my drawer. It’s dusty in there, but it’s where my stories live. This made me remember a theme that interestingly appears across several of Sylvia Plath’s poems; the bureau drawer:

From The Bell Jar:

There was shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people’s eyes and smiles, and shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth

From A Secret:

An illegitimate baby-
That big blue head-
How it breathes in the bureau drawer!
‘Is that lingerie, pet?

tinkerbell
Bureau drawers have stories too (image: Deviant Art)

I adore this concept. It’s secretive and mystical, it’s feminine and it’s planted firmly in my mind as I plan the rebranding of this blog. We put things in a drawer because it is convenient, neat or they need a home. Sometimes we put things in drawers to hide them.

Despite admiring the concept of hidden words in a bureau drawer, I want my words to be more than that.


And . . . Four

Kate Bowles has nudged me to consider a fourth question; who is it for? There’s a process by which experience shifts from therapeutic writing to advocacy. But this is tough when your story includes someone else’s story. Advocacy isn’t something I’d come to consider until now. Has my writing unintentionally shifted from the therapeutic to the advocator? What am I advocating for?

In Finding a Voice: Without Apology, Tanya Dorey-Elias reflects on her experience of public writing with anonymity, and on her experience with the internet as a safe space:

It’s been positive but not without some bumps and at times terror – once something is exposed it is not easily hidden again . . . If there is one thing that this experiment has taught me is the need, at least for me is that open only matters if it challenges and empowers.

Right now I don’t have an answer for this question – nor the other three, for that matter. I’m content to sit with this and think for a while longer.

At this point in my early public writing career, and after having read several intriguing and thoughtful BCM311 blog posts this week, I’d like to think I’m becoming an advocate for empathy. If that’s not a legitimate entity, perhaps it should be. Every person has stories which are impacting them in various different ways as they carry forward with their lives.

-Claire

 

Mechanics of the Game Prototype

After establishing a thematic narrative for our card game, it is essential to structure the story using some mechanics.

Mechanics

Game mechanics provide the framework for players to interact with one another and the game itself. We are working on creating a physical prototype that we can experiment with. The importance of this step is explored in the video above:

When you can actually play your game, you’ll discover all sorts of things that you didn’t account for when you were just designing the game in your head.

When engaging with the prototype it will become more apparent where the mechanics break down or have gaps. It will allow us to engage in our own story and alter the experience if necessary.

Our Game Mechanics

  1. Turns: Each player will take their turns individually in a clockwise rotation until the game ends.
  2. Actions: During their turn, a player can play a maximum of three cards: one action card, one relaxation card and one assessment card. The story of these cards can be understood in my previous blog post.
  3. Randomisers: We have incorporated action cards which act as disruptors to the static gameplay.
  4. Scoring system: relaxation cards (which are not directly used to win the game, but definitely help to build up assessment cards and keep them safe!)

In this game, relaxation is treated as a currency; something to invest in, save, and use to protect against the ‘life’-inspired spins thrown from the action cards. The deck itself must be shuffled prior to gameplay to inspire randomness. Whilst a lot of the cards are standard and repeated throughout the game, several will challenge its mechanics. For example, wild cards for assessments, a “just say no” card, which will counteract any action card played by another player, and various cards designed to let a player steal or swap an assessment (or full collection of assessments) from others.

action2
An example of an action card which disrupts the mechanics of the rulebook

Capture mechanics are also implemented in this game through the use of assessments. The aim of the game is to collect three lots of three assessments for one subject. Although players can retrieve these cards through the deck and the first dealing, they can also steal and trade between each other according to the permissions of various action cards.

The Rule Book

We have constructed our rule book in an infographic style for simplicity:

the balancing act final.png

Target Audience

Our game is both inspired by and aimed at university students. Therefore it’ll be in our best interest to manufacture a game which is inexpensive, small and easily distributed. School students are also a potential audience for us, as they share some characteristics with the university/college demographic we’re appealing to.

Cost

Some preliminary research on printing costs suggests we could produce a game pack for less than $10, not including a potential bulk-producing discount if we were to assume economies of scale. So far we have kept costs down by using the free online design tool, Canva, to design our cards. We could add a low to moderate mark-up to generate some sort of profit whilst keeping the game low-cost to consumers.

Distribution

Online distribution is a valid option for us. Eventually it would be ideal to place the game exclusively in hobbyist game stores and university stores.

Gamifying the Work/Life Balance

The Concept

Game design is an art you don’t truly appreciate nor consider until you attempt it. Ashleigh, Bec, Zoe and myself had been brainstorming ludicrous narratives at random in an attempt to create a unique game. During our conversation, the struggle of maintaining decent grades, working and sustaining some sort of social life arose – and our idea was born. We decided to build a game around the concept of balancing those three areas.

The original blueprint was named Escape the HECS Debt. It was effectively a reiteration of The Game of Life, but instead of imitating life events such as having children, purchasing insurance and building careers and salaries, our game was inspired by students at the University of Wollongong.

After a conversation with our tutor, Richard, regarding our game design, we realised our design was overly complicated for such a simple game loop. The game play did not allow for any strategic thinking or creativity from its players. Whilst sticking to the same theme of the student’s work/life balance, we’ve created a fresh format.

The Aim

The aim of the game is for each player (student) to complete enough assignments to pass three subjects in order to complete the semester first. Assignments (in card form) can be collected from the deck, dealt out in the first hand, collected as compensation for tutoring and other services, or stolen from other players.

Game Pack

 

monopoly.jpg
The structure of our game, entitled The Balancing Act is based on some of the mechanics behind Monopoly Deal. (source)

 

Our current blueprint is based on the structure of Monopoly Deal. The game pack comprises of a deck of cards. This deck includes a variety of assessment cards for different subjects, for example law, history and engineering (3 assessment cards for the same subject is equal to passing/completing that subject), denomination cards of relaxation (each has a short story, such as “grab a coffee before class, + 3 relaxation”) and action cards. These are varied; several wild cards, force-swap assessment cards, and payment cards demanding relaxation points from other players.

 

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Beginning

Each player (4-8) is dealt five cards, which they hold facing away from the other players. The remaining cards form a deck at the centre of the playing space.

Middle

The middle of this game consists of the players attempting to balance their relaxation and assessment cards to combat the surprises thrown at them by the action cards.

Game Loop: On a player’s turn, he or she can play one card from each category in front of them (action, relaxation and assessment). This may include:

  • Placing a relaxation card in their ‘bank’
  • Placing an assessment card into their ‘portfolio’
  • Playing an action card against another player

NOTE: a player does not have to play all three cards each loop.

For example, player one may place a +2 relaxation card and an English assessment card in front of them during their turn. Player two can then play an action card requiring +3 relation denominations for tutoring services. Because player one has only got +2 relaxation in their bank, they must also pay player two with their English assessment.

End

The game concludes when one player has successfully collected three lots of three matching assessment cards and therefore completed three subjects.

Simulation Theory & Conjectures of Post Humanity

The day I realised there was a good chance I didn’t actually exist I was web surfing Google, looking for something academic to support my BCM112 Digital Artefact, The Life of Mindy. I came across Nick Bostrom’s simulation theory and, assuming it was satire, read it through eagerly. Upon realising its depth and logic, I delved into it further. As an avid searcher for the meaning of life (looking at I Ching for Digital Asia and exploring fate and the psychic universe), this seemed like something I needed to know about. Although simulation theory adds flavour to the conversations on life and consciousness, it somewhat challenges these other ventures of mine, given that there’s a significant chance that our memories, personalities, human experience and emotions may be nothing more than freshly-typed code.

This blog post will introduce the idea of post-human study with a focus on Bostram`s ideas, and outline my digital artefact blueprint.

See the source image
We may never be certain of where we came from, yet there’s still room for viable prediction (image: Eric Lacombe)

Studies of future humanity are notoriously unreliable, for we are a fair distance from accurate prediction, and further again from concrete information. This does not mean, however, that the area should not be studied. It is viable to measure the intellectual growth of humanity against technology to establish predictions of what future humanity may resemble.

There has been significant discussion on the evidence that may suggest we are in a simulation for decades. These conversations ignite from a variety of fields:

“Look at the way the Universe behaves, it’s quantized, it’s made of pixels. Space is quantitized, matter is quantitized, energy is quantitized, everything is made of individual pixels. Which means the Universe has a finite number of components. Which means a finite number of states. Which means it’s computer. That infers the Universe could be created by lines of code in a computer,” said Rich Terrell, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, California Institute of Technology.

universe
The universe is made up of consistently repeated numerical patterns and formulae that strongly resemble digital design (image source).

A post-human society, in Bostram’s paper entitled The Future of Humanity, is comprised of at least one of the following characteristics:

  • A population of more than one trillion people;
  • Each of these people has a life expectancy exceeding 500 years;
  • Most of the population possess a cognitive capacity at least two standard deviations above the current human maximum;
  • Most of the population have close to full control over the sensory input (what we perceive through our senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing);
  • Psychological suffering is diminished; and/or
  • Any other similar change of a high magnitude comparable to the aforementioned criteria.

We are slowly moving toward this in several ways, including preimplantation genetic diagnosis, the notion of the ‘designer baby‘, and cyborg-esque enhancements to the human form.

BOSTROM’S THEORY (2003)

Given the steady growth of computing power across the past several decades, it is plausible that the human race (as we know it) will have the technological capacity to manufacture a detailed simulation of humanity, with conscious but unaware participants. Given this premise, it would be exceedingly arrogant and irrational to assume we are not the product of an original race’s simulation – or, indeed, the product of a simulation’s simulation. We are not entitled to believe we may one day create a simulation without considering the likelihood of being one ourselves.

Nick Bostrom uses reasonably simple probability to digest this idea and suggest three core (and roughly equal) possibilities, one of which must be true:

1.Our current human society is unlikely to reach a post-human level

The potential for mass human extinction is sometimes predicted as the result of natural causes, like rogue asteroids, a plague, global warming-related natural disasters or volcanic eruptions. More pressingly, humanity itself is seen as the biggest threat to its own survival. The Doomsday Clock, in early 2018, was set to two minutes to midnight, signalling a “perilous and chaotic” entry into the year, even after 2017’s warnings of nuclear activity. Human behaviour, both on an individual and a collective level, is wildly unpredictable. The threat of nuclear warfare, inaction over climate change or resource inefficiencies for a growing population may destroy the planet before an asteroid ever gets the chance. Science writer Janine Benyus predicts that by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages. Given previous societies that have grown too fast, exhausted their resources and turned on each other to fight for what was left before collapsing, there is a legitimate chance that our civilisation will collapse under itself in the not too distant future.

earth
Natural disasters are no longer the only threat to humanity’s survival (image source).

Another threat to human survival, which has increasingly been explored in science fiction media since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), is that the technology we create will evolve beyond our control and destroy our civilisation. A perpendicular idea is that technological civilisation as we know it will collapse, but primitive humanity will remain behind indefinitely, never reaching post-human level. It’s widely accepted that humanity is around 200 000 years old, but it’s difficult to predict its exact end. J Richard Gott uses probability, at a 95% accuracy margin, to predict humanity will go extinct some time between 5 100 years and 7.8 million years from now – a fairly useless margin based purely on numbers and time, not society and its practices, nor nature.

If any of these hypotheses hold true, we are unlikely to reach a post-human phase.

2. The post-human race is not interested in running a simulated human universe

Assuming humanity continues to survive and evolve at its current technological rate, we can assume we will someday possess the knowledge and quantum computing ability to run a simulated society – but this does not necessarily mean we will do so. Bostrom offers reasonable suggestions as to why a post-human society would be unlikely to design and run a simulation. Firstly, technology may evolve in a different – potentially more ‘vital’ – direction, leaving insufficient resources to invest in a simulated society.

See the source image
Is it arrogant to assume a post-human society would devote resources to study a society such as ours? (Image: Neriak)

Even if a simulation is on the cards, strong, enforceable legislation may be enacted to combat its creation. Depending upon the social trajectories of the time, there’s a decent chance that making a simulation could be deemed unethical, due to potential suffering inflicted upon the test subjects or inhabitants, depending on the purpose of the experiment. Bostrom argues that creating a human race is not necessarily immoral from today’s perspective, particularly as we tend to place a high value on the existence of humanity, yet we cannot say for sure that this view will carry forward with future generations.

The trajectory of human development may progress so that future civilisations have no legitimate interest in examining past (or different) societies. While this would involve a strong push away from our own desires of understanding today, it cannot be discounted as a possibility.

3. We are living in a simulation

Assuming humanity doesn’t face mass extinction, or reach a post-human stage uninterested in developing such as simulation as we are imagining, it is plausible – or, as Bostram argues, almost certain – that we exist ourselves in a computed simulation. It’s worth noting that, assuming the initial post human creators allow it, it’s perfectly possible for a simulated society to develop into a post-human society and thus generate its own simulations. Therefore it’s possible there are a plethora of realities, all existing at different levels, and it is reasonable to suggest that the post-humans simulating our own world are simulations themselves. It is unclear whether this simulation would be the work of a large-scale corporation or a single hobbyist.


Bostrom argues that if our humanity goes on to create a simulation in the future, the first two probabilities are almost certainly void, and we’d have to assume we are simulations ourselves. However, the technological cost of maintaining a post-human simulated society may be intense, in which case it’s likely our simulation would be terminated before we reach a post-human stage, in which case possibility one becomes more likely.

It’s worth noting that any simulation is unlikely to be immaculate and thus experience glitches. Some prophesise that the ‘creators’ have the ability to rewind and wipe anything that gives away the experiment. Others suggest that Deja vu, lucid dreams and the supernatural are perhaps examples of these glitches live in action.

Digital Artefact: The Life of Mindy

 My artefact will be based on another ‘version’ of Mindy Farmer in an alternate universe to the one she existed in for BCM112 and DIGC202. I plan to illustrate and explore the future of humanity through simulation theory, using The Sims as a platform. I’ll examine the potential relationship between creator and creation through an interactive narrative I’ll construct to illustrate Bostrom’s theory in practice, and its implication for humanity today – no matter which possibility one believes in. In accounts published separately on the blog, I will consider the implications of simulation theory on how we imagine the future to be, and look at dystopian fictional media such as Divergent and The Matrix to explore the idea of human experimentation by superior humans.


(This post has been reblogged on The Life of Mindy, the website for my artefact).

Chin Music: Analysis of User Experience

Image taken in BCM300 Seminar Week1

Chin music is a twist on classic memory card games. It requires its users to effectively compose their own rap. The game is produced by Invincible Ink. It plays out in a style reflective of the iconic car-trip game or icebreaker, When I Went Shopping; each player must remember and recite the entirety of the deck before adding their own card on top. Many of the words are onomatopoeic (“biff, boffo, whack”), creating tongue-twisting, awkward sounding raps absolutely bereft of logical meaning.  The results resemble a truncated Shakespearean soliloquy. 

Rulebook: Design v Play

Because reciting the rap incorrectly means collecting the entire deck of cards, and thus having a smaller chance of winning, it was imperative to memorise the phrasing effectively. Interestingly enough, if you could ramble on with enough confidence, your bluff could go unnoticed. If the next person repeats your bluff and you call them out on it, they have to take the deck. This tactic sneaks around the rulebook but is a legitimate form of play, which made the game significantly more interesting. On a separate note, ‘calling out’ a player for messing up a round took immense effort, and thus we ended up letting a lot of mistakes slide to avoid reading through the whole deck! Player analysis  undertaken via user experience can shed new light on game theories, given that much of the current literature in this field assumes games are “defined and constituted by rules”  (Mosca 2017 p.587). 
See the source image
The ability to side-step the rules and create a different user experience in this game is akin to the classic user experience v. design pattern we often see illustrated in infrastructure design (image source: UX)
The small box of cards was bereft of any rule book; instead, a QR code and URL on the bottom of the box leads the user to a PDF file online. The rule book is a comedic companion to a game story that’s easy to enter; it’s one of those rule books that doesn’t really need to be read. It starts out with acknowledgements, giving a sincere thanks to a person named Casey, who inspired the designer at a bus stop, and also to Aryn, who “talked punchin'”. It’s also intentionally careless and vague with certain procedures:
Determine who’s going to be the first player, by a roll of a die or a coin flip or who has the longest middle name, or some other method that strikes your fancy.
Fists Gem 3
The graphics on the website also reinforce the rap battle theme of the game (source: Inkspace).
The game itself thus becomes another hip-hopping, too cool for school, teenage dropkick-esque player in the game. The packaging even has its own comically swaggering demeanour, stating clearly:
Bring yer mam! (sic)
*cringe*
The game’s aesthetics cleverly reinforce its personality (image taken in BCM300 Seminar Week 1)

Authenticity in Web 2.0 Culture

Authenticity:

NOUN

  1. the proven fact that something is legitimate or real, Online Dictionary
  2. not openly false, Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age
  3. fake version of foreign cuisine/art/music that appeals to white pseudo intellectual hipsters, Urban Dictionary

SYNONYMS

reliable – realistic – life like – true – valid – lawful – bona fide – unattested – rightful


Somewhat ironically, the best real-world definition of authenticity we can hope for is articulated the most effectively on Urban Dictionary, a platform that calls on the unregulated masses to establish definitions for a variety of terms. These definitions, I would argue, have a firmer grasp on language’s use than the legacy hardback versions.

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We’re entangled in a spiral of transparency, authenticity and employability (source).

Although social media culture advocates for “transparency and openness“, the edited persona must remain simultaneously business-friendly, true and savvy. At the same time, the manner by which others approach and communicate with our online presence must be monitored meticulously. You can maintain the cleanest Twitter account in the digital sphere, but if your friend posts a picture of a drunken night out and tags you, it’s all over. Therefore our social media identity is a self-conscious one by definition. Web 2.0 ideology explicitly requires the self to be constructed as we would a tangible product. So where does this expectation of authenticity fit in?

This generally involves, according to Alice Marwick, a gruelling combination of immaterial and emotional labour:

The self is immaterial in that it is digital, and emotional in that it involves using real emotional affect when presenting oneself and interacting with others. (Marwick 2013)

Establishing a somewhat authentic persona can incorporate a magnitude of negative emotional costs which are often side-lined. This work can involve reiterating personal stories for online publication to the point of “extreme discomfort or vulnerability” (ibid). These stories can be potentially damaging, in a career sense, yet personal branding is increasingly correlated to employability. This is seen through young graduates constructing their social media in a way that represents the values they associate with their chosen field, given that many employers will extensively research a job candidate’s online presence before hiring them.

Young journalists in the United States, for example, have admitted to intentionally appearing apolitical on their social media pages so that prospective employers would see them as objective. They then found that once they were hired, employers expected them to fashion and maintain a personal brand via social media relating to their work. A significant issue with this is that the main persona is not the only person with the ability to contribute to the social media profile, and one must constantly be on alert for friends who post incriminating images, for example, of a lit night out. The amount of effort required to monitor this over a plethora of social media platforms that make up a persona is staggering.


Identity:

NOUN

  1. the conception, qualities, beliefs and expressions that make a person (online dictionary)

In self-branding culture, authenticity relies on our ability to ensure that each decision we make is rooted in being true to ourselves – but what is the self? The authentic self, we can conclude, is very much a social construct, a phenomenon we can relate back to Urban Dictionary’s open-sourced definition of the word. We are simultaneously told to be ourselves online within a virtual framework characterised by the surveillance of self-presentation, often with severe consequences within the physical corporate sphere. This becomes especially intricate in an internet arena without any established guidelines on media etiquette.

eyes
Source

Even while trumpeting authenticity, Web 2.0 enthusiasts generally accept the idea that one should self-censor online (Marwick 2013).

This is the ultimate paradox enframing the social media paradigm. The social media sphere is far more socially progressive than its corporate physical shadow, making the two severely incompatible. We still have rigid distinctions between what is acceptable social behaviour and what is acceptable workplace behaviour. When the two combine, there are no guidelines on how to process this information. Logically, we cannot sustain a Web 2.0 culture of personas both completely transparent and corporate focused, so we need to work on changing definitions and practice to combat the instability between self-branding culture and the corporate western world.

 

 

A Stranger’s Welcome Back to UOW

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Hello, it’s me (source)

My seventh semester at the University of Wollongong – an institution for young adults with anger management triggered by crap parking – started on Sunday. I arrived on campus and pulled into an almost-empty car park. I’m the first to admit I’m not the greatest at parking, and when I ended up just over the line, I didn’t bother to straighten up. It was mid morning on Sunday; I was running late, nobody was around and nobody was likely to turn up – or so I thought.

carpark

Image

Shock, horror – I was wrong. When I returned to my car several hours later, in all its diagonal glory, cars were crammed everywhere. Probably unsurprisingly, on my windscreen, somebody had tucked a note. It was saturated with rain. I unfolded it with the utmost care and precision. It read, nice parking – NOT.

It was fifteen degrees and pouring with rain. The fact that my slightly obtuse park had inspired a complete stranger to halt their day, kneel in the heavy rain to pull a notebook and pen out of their bag and scribble me such an observant, thoughtful critique, inspired me deeply. It was borderline romantic (well, almost).

It was truly a wonderful way to begin the semester. I feel like I’ve finally embedded myself into UOW culture, and earned the full experience.

At least I didn’t end up on Buy and Sell.

Onward and upward from here 😉