PVP and Society

I was just reading the quarterly tech section of the newest issue of The Economist and on one page there was an article about off-shore, deep-water wind turbines and another about bridges with sensors that detect stress and structural problems. When I saw these two new technologies I thought of two things, Global Warming and those two bridge failures last year and how there is profit and opportunity in crises. In today’s world any form of “demand” even if it is for the alleviation of suffering, or the prevention of catastrophe can be transformed into a market demand for one service or another.

It occurs to me that the future can be summarized as a time in which all human effort is consumed by entertaining ourselves or cleaning up our messes. Of course some of the time will be spent overcoming truly natural obstacles, like hurricanes or disease or even possible meteor collisions. Here’s the thing though, those are problems based on the two less complicated systems we live in, the former including the laws of physics (earthquakes et al) and the latter concerning living systems (bacteria and viruses).

For humans it is only a matter of time before we acquire enough data and concoct solutions to problems like that, as they are based on an ultimately finite number of variables. In this way they are much like playing any video game offline, by ones self. Figure out how it works, determine the problem, and execute the solution. Sure some games require finesse or skill, but in the larger world, problems like that can be overcome with precision tools in the engineering and science fields.

Humans can overcome any problem in the physical and living systems with enough time, but the third system, the conscious system, the one we make up as observers is different. As long as we have free will we add an unpredictable dynamic to the challenge.

Look at it this way: imagine there is a huge meteor barreling toward Earth – it hits, we all die. In real life we would not call Bruce Willis, we’d call a bunch of engineers and science types to do a bunch of calculations, then we’d get the hard-hat wearing types to build some stuff and then we’d solve some frickin’ problems. It’d be that great unifying threat so many movies predict (Independence Day), that brings the world’s people together for a common cause, a true crisis of “Man vs Nature”.

On the other hand, imagine a slight variation in the story, if the meteor hits, we don’t all die, only the people who live in the country it lands in die. Now what’s the outcome? Suppose it’s Nigeria, or Isaral. Or France, Mexico, Russia or the U.S.A. Different outcomes would sprout from every different variation. Suppose it is predicted to land in Nigeria. Some people will want to cooperate and save Nigeria, others will want to be more opportunistic. Some people don’t like Nigeria and still others just want to get a chance to watch a whole country be destroyed by a meteor on TV.

Just imagine all the precious space minerals that might be on that meteor. And with No one left alive in nigeria, who will control the mineral rights to it? Once you have to account for human behavior the variables sky rocket and the outcome is no longer predictable. In other words it is more challenging.

When it is everyones’ crisis, everyone works together to solve it. As soon as it is not, you’ve got to consider politics, economics, culture etc.

Video games used to by quite difficult. Beating them was the challenge, the obstacle, and winning was the accomplishment, the summit. They were proxies for natural challenges, but nowadays, as with everything else, competition, head-to-head play, is more often the common experience. More and more of the challenges in life are human rather than inanimate. Climbing the mountain is predictable, doing it faster than your competition, now that’s the challenge.

As we progress in our dominance of the natural world, we further eliminate the challenges it posed – space isn’t the Final Frontier, we are.


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