Month: January 2015

Do we all have autism?

Some of the typical ways in which autism can reflect in someone’s behavior are things that you also find (allegedly) non-autistic people doing. I’m playing with the idea that “autism” might, as many other things, just be something that labels a type of personality development that has reached sufficient deviance from the norm (e.g. causing problems to others, subject unable to overcome it even with external input) to be labeled an illness.

A thought experiment is to consider that every human being has so-called autism, but many have it to only a small degree where it is more manageable, more under control, still subject to the mind’s conscious influence.

It would also be an interesting line of thought to examine situation-dependence here. This factor could still draw a line of distinction, because the more someone shows typical symptoms associated with autism, but more in some situations than in others, a simple definition might become less advised.

Comparative thought: Someone is called a criminal not because they did something antisocial, but because they broke the law. Alternatively, we are all committing crimes. It just depends on the standard you apply for what is socially acceptable.

A definition of something that draws a clear line of severity runs the risk of putting the idea in people’s mind that it is impossible to change and profoundly different, when in fact it might just be a relative extreme on the scale of a much bigger problem.

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Alliance of convenience vs. working together for the result

Apparently there is a common confusion, sometimes self-deception, about this difference. When people are working together, look at what it is that made them do it. Explore their motivations. They can vary a lot.

For example, when you look at a game like World of Warcraft, it’s one of the best examples for the worst kind of cooperation: Coerced by a ruleset, coercing loot-crazed egoists to participate in group activities because that’s the way to achieve their personal goals.
This kind of thing masks the real character of a person, and only when put to the test will it reveal itself.
Another type is like the above, but people putting up an act of altruism because they were subject to certain healthy social norms and don’t feel comfortable with themselves being an egoist unless they tell a better story of themselves.
This could lead to another phase where this self-lying is believed by the person themselves. (There’s a nice hint to that in Far Cry 2, or it’s literary source Heart of Darkness.) It’s like NLP, or self-indoctrination.
Then there are people who are not kidding themselves about their true egoistical motives and are OK with them. This is actually a step in the right direction. (Explaining why would require a lot more time. I’ll leave it for you to meditate on.)

All this will be very alienating to someone who is capable of real altruism, is doing sincere introspection habitually, is not just caring for themselves or for others only when it fits into their agenda, and is actually looking forward to enjoy seeing something accomplished, regardless of what’s in it for themselves.
Because it is a bit like this:

There is a game of everybody lying to themselves. It works as long as they all agree to keep playing by the rules. Only if someone introduces actual altruism into the game and the others realize it’s for real, they will fear that their game of deception might have to end. It’s like an insult to them, sometimes even the mere presence, because someone ‘thinks they’re better’ (They actually don’t, but the players ‘know’ (=believe) they’re worse and don’t like to be reminded of that). It’s an insecurity issue. Even if the altruist is understanding enough to not try and ruin their silly little game, it’s the nature of fear to always try to preserve itself.

That’s why it’s so important to sincerely hunt your fears, identify them, and then overcome them. One step at a time. Baby steps is much better than actively giving in to them out of convenience. The more people allow themselves that convenience, the more this burden will fall onto the very few who are too well-spirited to just stop caring and succumb. But, everybody has their breaking point, and they might eventually get majorly pissed and start gunning people down. And then, more than ever, having realized what the world has become, nobody wants to take responsibility, but instead revels in the dramatic rhetorical question “WHY?!” and their self-imposed convenient powerlessness. And those who do understand, but are naive enough to judge those people based on themselves and take it as a sincere question, will get demonized, making everything even worse.
And sometimes it seems things aren’t getting worse quick enough for people to get their shit together.

P.S.:
Someone whose personal aims are beneficial to yours is an ally.
A friend is someone who cares about you regardless of that.
Profound difference.

Real empathy

Just in case you are confused about what empathy and altruism actually are. I will expand on this topic soon, because apparently there really is widespread confusion of egoistic intentions for a shared goal with the goal itself as intention. (UPDATE: https://dowlphinblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/alliance-of-convenience-vs-working-together-for-the-result/)

Thus, first, an anecdote about empathy and doing the right thing.

I used to work for a year or so in the IT department of a non-IT company. It was a crappy job. Way too much to do, so stuff had to be left undone, or done in a way that defeated the intention of saving money that caused the whole massive work load.

When my contract was about to expire and my successor arrived (likely selected because he has family and can more easily be pressured and exploited due to that), I wanted to make sure that he gets proper instruction on how to do the daily business. I had worked out some basic procedures and documentation to get some order into the mess and speed up paperwork.

Naturally, he, although an extra during the transition phase, was quite busy, too. But I had to keep mentioning that we still need to do the briefing on how to do those things. I was not instructed to do it; The boss wouldn’t even have cared or known. I could have just said: I’m outta here soon, see you, suckers. That would have been the easy way for me. Why should I care about them if I never see them again?
But I did care. Imagining how my successor, a good-spirited man, would have to handle the same mess that I did; it pained me. So I actively pushed and urged him several times, and eventually I said: Now or never. Come, look, we’re doing this now.
He commended and thanked me for caring so much. I said it’s the right thing to do. He said he had experienced very different things with people before.

Yeah, I have, too. Plenty. But I am not like those people. I cannot. Better be sickened by them than be sickened by myself.
Those other people choose the fool’s way, the easy one: They are being egoists and convince themselves they are not. And then you have to keep figuring out whether someone you meet is for real or playing pretend. (Finding that out is beginning to become second nature to me.)

Steam reviews’ “funny” tag: another corporupt approach

Just yesterday I thought of making a humorous remark as a review for a game, since I’m an entertainer at heart. At that point I also (again) had the thought that it might make sense to have more rating buttons than just for “Was this review helpful?”, because people tend to confuse whether it’s of use to them or whether they can confirm it’s an accurate review.

And then, today, I noticed that there is now a “Funny” button under reviews.

They are taking all the fun out of fun by trying to cram it into a system.
As someone on Reddit pointed out so well: “It’s not going to be funny if you know it’s going to be funny.” Another one pointed out that now people will try to be funny because of the systematization of it, because it’s being rewarded, which is as corrupted as people faking emotions on Youtube videos in order to get more advertising revenue. It takes the spirit out of it.

–> Corporuption

The whole point was that joke reviews and such are an occasional spontaneous phenomenon outside of the norm, fueled by passion, not cold calculating strategy. Only grumpies will take issue with this little bit of chaos in our order-sickened world, and even if your review got tons of negative ratings from said grumpies because it was for the LOLs, you could find comfort in the passion that made you do it.

And now they’ve built a ghetto for comedians.

Especially after my recent World of Warcraft 10 day trial and realization that this kind of control-freak corporate mindset (which is shared by many equally-minded users) has continued to spread there, I am so sick of this crap!

For reasons that even with these words can not be accurately shed light on, I am now even less motivated to write Steam game reviews than I already was.

This might make people resort to less funny/entertaining acts of chaos again.

Master-slave mindset blocking fruitful interaction

Fruitful communication often needs to work both ways. But I sometimes notice a phenomenon in interactions with people, actually not just limited to communication, but also cooperation, where they feel the need to establish a master-slave role distribution (meaning one-directional – one sender and one receiver). This would mean for example that as soon as you do an inquiry (asking a question), it will become difficult to make the other person accept a message from you. They, not in good control of their ego, probably due to a frequent habit of using it in order to achieve success in our society, will begin to assume the role of the ‘wiser’, the ‘superior’.
The same can happen when seeking someone out for help. Personally I had this a lot where I eventually realized they are more in need for my help than the other way round, and that we could actually help each other due to this, but at that point they already were in a mindset that they were supposed to provide a service, thus seeing me as an inferior.

I want to again remind you that ideally we are all teacher and student at the same time.
This requires that when someone comes to you for any kind of help, you accept it as a new life experience, by being open and perceptive to what’s in it for you. Everything that happens in your life can start having a meaning/purpose if you allow it. This raises the value of your experience in this life and thus appreciation for it, and in turn the people involved. This can help cultivating humility, empathy and serenity.

The less you live the student role through the course of your life, the higher the need for that that may arise, and vice versa.
Remember, health comes from balance. You can be at your best (while maximizing other people’s chances to be, too) when everything is present in just the right amount.

Bug made WoW quest better

WoW is so bad these days that a bug actually made a quest more fun (oldschool).

http://www.wowhead.com/quest=24707

This quest is a nod to Don Quixote. You assist Maximillian and eventually face a huge dinosaur, and you two flee horseback and have to defeat the ‘dragon’ by throwing rocks at it (and occasionally stomp-stunning it to gain some distance), each of which reduced its health by maybe 0.1%. It fit the whole absurd theme of the quest chain so much, how it took minutes of riding around, aggroing all kinds of bystanding wildlife, and eventually killing a huge t-rex by throwing hundreds, maybe even thousands of tiny rocks at it. It’s almost a parody of the whole boss battle mechanics in WoW where you hit often huge bosses with your tiny weapons until they die.

I shared my excitement about this quest with my guildmates, because that quest felt so oldschool, so unconventional, so immersive, making you a part of an odd experience so totally not like the dull streamlined and idiot-proof quest design pattern one usually encounters in WoW.
And then my guildmates asked why I didn’t just throw armor pieces. And I was like: “Huh? What armor pieces?”. They told me Maximillian should have given me some armor pieces to throw at the beast, which would have reduced its health by a big chunk. But I couldn’t remember anything like that.

So back then I wondered: Could I really have overlooked it; missed the moment where Max activated the armor-throw option for me? I doubted that, so I assumed that at the early time when I did the quest, Blizzard might not have added that option and added it later. I thought it was lame of them to massively nerf the fun out of that quest.

Now I read the comments on that website and realize… it was just a common bug that made the armor-throw not work. It was unintended.
But it was a lot more fun. (Although the impatient whiney babies that Blizzard attracts with the game who want everything fed on a silver spoon and shun any type of effort would disagree.)
When I later tried the quest again, I had the armor-throw option, and it filled me with a feeling of disappointment. As if I had been given a quest completion coupon that I simply had to redeem at a machine. It took the spirit out of the quest.

And this is one of hundreds of examples of how Blizzard kills the game’s soul. (Which was never remarkably strong, but the creative designers clearly try to put their passion into the game to the degree they’re allowed to do.)

If you wanted me to concisely summarize what I think is wrong with WoW, I would say: WoW is absolutely not like indie games. That’s what’s wrong.

Game time tokens are translating two-class society into the game realm

The game time token (as used with the name PLEX in EVE Online, and the idea having been announced for World of Warcraft) is another feature with metagaming aspects. Another thing that translates the dominant business mentality into the game. People with good income can buy wealthy-status ingame and with it fund the continued play of those who are ‘poor’ in RL but got lots of time, and they’re working for ingame currency and then burning it up just to be able to continue playing, which of course pleases the business, but puts the non-wealthy player in a dependency relation not unlike wage slavery. After all, they’re spending a considerable amount of time with just making sure they can continue playing. And this more direct tie-in with real money value will likely also rot people’s motivations even more, like guild leveling did by creating guild ad spamming. It creates a survivalist and greedy atmosphere.
It is a two-class society in the making. The rich are benefitting off the poor.
After EVE Online with its players spending much time ship-spinning in the hangar, doing their regular business transactions, World of Warcraft now has something quite similar with garrisons. And after EVE Online’s PLEX, World of Warcraft will adopt yet another feature from them. World of Warcraft is getting increasingly inspired by the one MMO that is more rotten than itself. Which was to be expected when you understand the whole problem complex. For Blizzard there is only one direction. Business pressures dictate them onto a course that has passed the point of no return long ago, and they willingly subjected themselves to those masters.

The Romanticization of Weapons

I’m watching a swordmaking series on Youtube, and on one video, someone commented that their kid watches the series with great excitement, but that at the end, when they slash pumpkins, bottles and such, they now have a guy do this in a zombie-slayer theme, slashing apart an anatomically relatively realistically looking zombie bust, and that this gives their son nightmares, and was asking them to remove it.

Now I was thinking back to that and it hit me how much people are in denial about an inconvenient fact that pop culture helped to blur:

Swords are weapons of war, meant for killing people.

All the pop media over a long period of time managed to give people the delusion that there is a moral difference between watching a sword fight and watching a shooting range. Swords have been ‘quaintified’, because they are not the weapon of choice in our times due to being inferior to guns.

Then again, even tons of computer games are all about shooting and killing, yet people make a troubling distinction between the act and the visualization like there’s a moral highground. It is conditioning the mind in an unhealthy way.
Yes, I myself would make a practical distinction, but I don’t kid myself that it’s a personal preference. If someone depicts gun violence in a shockingly realistic way (apart from the question whether that is glorifying violence), there is no right or wrong to their choice of depiction. It might be understandable to say that, for example, computer games with horrible depictions of violence shouldn’t exist, but they do, and people should stop twisting the focus on the depiction. That’s just realistic. Instead it should be discussed whether the gun violence depiction itself is desirable. Because if you start kidding yourself about the origins and nature of what you see, that becomes exploitable. For example, you see a US soldier blow a ‘terrorist’s’ head apart and you might be outraged that this is shown. But what about outrage about the act of violence itself? When you merely read about those things, it’s so easy to be fine with it, because you are not confronted with the full reality that comes along with it.
This also stifles the development of empathy.

When your young kids are playing, for example, the MMO World of Warcraft, they are playing a war game involving bloody violence. There are no bullshit excuses like “but it’s medieval”. You could just as well let them watch Game of Thrones. The only difference there is a more realistic depiction of the consequences of the actions that you also find players doing in World of Warcraft.
A huge part of entertainment media is still based on exploiting violent and death-oriented behavioral patterns and whitewashing happens to any degree necessary to make it acceptable to people who like to fool themselves.
If you allow your kids to play with toy guns, you’re conditioning them for violence and conflict. If you allow them to play with rubber swords, you’re doing the same thing. The difference is purely formal.

If Hitler was ruling these days, he might get inspired by Whack-a-Mole and there would be “Whack-A-Jew” browser games, and because it is fun and trivial, people would develop those associations and stop seeing jews as human beings. Because that’s a popular propaganda strategy for making people do horrible things: You have to make them feel good (about themselves) while they’re doing them.

Bottom line: It is alright to admire the skill that goes into the swordmaking craft, but it might still be a subject matter that’s reserved for a mature audience – for people who are not kidding themselves and can make distinctions and educated decisions.
All that’s bothering me (in many cases) is people deceiving themselves, not seeing things as they are. Because then they are not acting based on reality, which means they are shaping a different one with their actions, and if it’s based on conflict and violence, that’s not a good starting point. If you can change the world, why choose to do so for the worse?