#1 12-10-23 20:04


The Meaning(less) of Form

I've mostly been semi-lurking (in that I have played, by myself, for as long as I can, which is the forth level.  I throw in the towel; this is now impossible for me to get by myself) but I've noticed that the puzzles hardly interest me as much as journal entries, and to a lesser extent, the documents.

This has me thinking about the larger ideas.  I may have missed this discussion, but I see timelines, character lists, and puzzle codes, but not a lot on the themes that seem to be arising from whatever narrative has been threaded into the hierarchy of this platform.

Things that interest me:

There is this persistent idea of what I will call the arbitrary nature of reality propagated not just by JPs personal opinions but by the opinions of the architecture of the game itself--what the game chooses to give us, and how it presents that information.  To that end, the game seems to be leading us to a philosophy that the realities we live in today (to say nothing of the base reality, if such a thing exists) are democratically conceived.  Our reality, the pre-BR reality, is at best a sort of free market and at worst a working anarchy.

In one of the programs we are shown dozens of paper bills, bills which are worth nothing now, and which through the looooong repetition of the game have been rendered meaningless in another way (or was that just me?  Man that puzzle was the worst test of patience for me since I got cats). But more directly, and I think this was the same puzzle, we are given pieces of a newspaper article detailing the immolation of a counter-fitter during a time when much of the paper money on the market was being forged. What was her crime? If it were outside of this game, the answer would be clear.  She broke the law, or upset the economic balance of her country.  But in the context of the game we're not given a kind picture on world economies.  Nor are we even confident that money HAS any meaning, so I'd say her crime was in breaking the agreed-upon illusion of her social world.  She didn't just quit making believe, she reminded everyone that they were subject to a subsuming reality--she reminded everyone that they were children. Simply: She broke the laws of pretend.

What leads me to this also is the way that Metacorp is shown to have created an arbitrary economy which it tenaciously defends, and the 1984 feel of its methods.  Metacorp seems to be the dictator of pretend. Of course, these ideas are derived from the so-called form of the game, something like the way that there is a certain connotative message behind reading a poem over a novel at a wedding even without knowing the denotative message.  The form itself is the harbinger and holder of meaning.  But (and I will acknowledge that I am choosing this somewhat arbitrarily, because as much as I have thought about these things, I am not great and keeping great track of them) JP seems to agree with this idea of pretend order, and the actual order it allows:

Q: ...?
A: I started to realize, even at that time, that there is no such thing as the market. The market isn't a person. It's not an entity. It's not an interlocutor.
It isn't real.
Q: ...! ...!! ...?!?
A: I don't mean that the market doesn't have real effects. Stories are fictitious and they can still have very real effects. Even so, there's no such entity that exists in a unified form. The market is a word that we use to describe a bundle of effects and relations. We use it to conjure a very particular cluster of assumptions and desires. Market is a word. Like system.

He could as easily be speaking of language itself.  That there is nothing, inherently, meaningful about any of what we use to "humanize" the world and our existence, and that all of it stands like a stack of cards we either agree upon allowing to stand, or are forced into allowing to stand.  To avoid, as JP calls it, deletion.

Which reminds me of another message of the form--that so much seems to depend on computer code. Programming surely has a different kind of weight to a programmer than to the average person, but I would say that since none of the game requires actual knowledge of code (none that I have experienced, anyway) we are assumed to be laypeople when it comes to code, and so it is at once mystical and sort of meaningless. Our economy might fall any moment in a black swan event, and this is being dictated primarily by something 1. isn't alive, and 2. is indirectly related to the source code we keep idly browsing through for extra goodies.  All this is to say that computer code itself, meaningless to us directly, is in control of economies, which are also meaningless to us directly, and yet these impacted (nested?) pretend-systems are as like to kill us, and as difficult to exactly predict, as the melting of the ice caps.  The two may, in fact, be related.


I understand the fascination. Underground vaults filled with tons and tons of

gold, fixed
in place by guards, security, sheer weight, American confidence. This treasure,

inert as
a corpse, grounds the floating, flowing, fictional stuff we trade quicker than a

That static store sets an entire world in motion. This is magic. This is true

in reverse.

Alchemy: making something valuable out of something valueless. Economy: making something valueless out of something valuable. True, too, of language, of games, of communication and cognition.


#2 12-10-24 04:52


Re: The Meaning(less) of Form

I've been thinking about the code issue lately, too. Has anyone read Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning was the Command Line? He says that GUIs are metaphors for the underlying mathematics of the code- which have some kind of truth or reality- and thinks more people ought to learn to interact with the code instead of allowing the structure of the metaphors chosen by particular OS's to shape their thought. So far, it seems like what we've been getting in the source (the journals and messages from Eva) are more reliable than what's on the page itself- does the game agree that code is more reliable than the user interface? Are we avoiding having our thoughts directed by MetaCorp by checking the source?

It also reminds me of one of the interview sections, where the Founder is discussing programs learning how to lie. That kind of throws a wrench in Stephenson's picture- if even something that's basically made of math can return an incorrect result.

(forgive the fragmentary nature of my thoughts. It's late.)


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