One of my collection of odd philosophical notions (and I have a small, if respectable collection accumulated from reading, talking, and a few college classes) is perhaps more influential in my daily life than others. While some lucky sentients have a structured belief system that guides them in their actions, provides moral or ethical guidance, and encourages them, I just have some odd ideas that I have hung on to over the years. Although I have in my collection tenets of many popular and unpopular belief systems, including pantheism, various monotheistic systems, classic pantheons, left hand paths, hedge-magery and such, the unifying idea that I think I lean on the most is not some overly-complicated hacker philosophical cosmology (eg Reciprocality* ), but a simpler, and perhaps more foolish idea.
Video games, particular role-playing games (RPGs) are often held to imitate so-called real life. Actually, I'm pretty sure life _is_ a RPG video game .. or at lest that this outlook proves useful in day to day existence.
To examine this notion, and perhaps disprove it, I will talk about various aspects of life, and of course, various RPGs. I will, for convenience, start with discussions of my life and of games I am most familiar with.
I am a low-grade decker working a day job for a small corp. Along with my mates here, I sit at the desk for long stretches of time, physically idle, but using our workstations and decks to monitor and protect the data of the corps's customers. Actually, we mostly look after the machines that house the data, trying to keep out independent or enemy corps' runners. It's a pretty good gig, actually.It beats the hell out of running (well, driving) pie which I did do for a few months a few years back.
No, I wasn't working for Uncle Enzo's, although the independent pizza shack I was driving for did have a tinge of that from time to time. Years before I was driving pie for them, I had repaired a standalone videogame in their lobby. It had a bad CMOS battery, and was a 486 clone. I found the battery, soldered it in, charged them for *recall* maybe two hours of labour and the parts. They were so happy that the owner of the business, aolder Old World type named Turk, wanted to thank me personally. I could not pay for food or soda there for more than a year after that.
I was about tired of driving, and the money was drying up, when the place got shot up (and some of the staff) while I was out on a run. That and the time the police officer lectured me about a neighbourhood I was lost in, trying to find a delivery ... His remarks went something like,
"Are you crazy?" I was parked, hazards on at a four way stop, looking at the signs. "You can't park here, it's not safe!" *points over his shoulder at the other two patrol cars behind his* "We don't even come in here alone." I agreed politely and went back to the shop. Another fellow delivered the pie. He later went back to prison for possession and an accusation of theft, from the shop, which he might have done. He wasn't all that bright, really.
... helped motivate me to quit driving pie. I ended up leaving behind a couple friends-- no, more like a few dependants. I occassionaly get a pang, a thought, that I should go check on her, on them ... I don't, and maybe I shouldn't.
So, I was never the Deliverator. I did some simple, mostly all legal runs a few years back, all mostly for the same Johnson. She ran a tiny computer shop, and I taught some classes for her, as well as doing a few other things. After that, I worked together with a friend (or two) trying to find enough contract work from corps and orgs to keep us in Mountain Dew, beef jerky, and bandwidth. After about a year of that, we were all fedup with our alleged clients, and each other.
I was never called to testify, but I did have to give a statement. This violated my ethics far more than the actual stupidity that finished off the business.
I have had a few other corp jobs, but I didn't last too long at most of them. The most recent day gig was with a small private corp. I ended up replacing mostof their computer network, rebuilding it in my image, and then running it, with some help from one mate, and then towards the end of that bit, two. It serverd as an excellent place for me to practive up on all sorts of things I hadn't gotten any experience with before. That, knowing a fair bit about computers, and having friends who know people, got me this gig.
So, how is my work like Shadowrun? Little missions, big missions, Johnsons, who-you-know ... I had to get the experience be able to get work of this level, and it supports my Lifestyle (renting half a small house, car loan, credit cards, phone ..), and lets me buy, well mostly whatever I want. I push creds around the Nets to buy most things, pay my bills, and even to pay rent. I hardly ever even have cash, and am dismayed when occassionally a vendor doesn't have a cred-slot. We averted a small riot at the pizza joint around the corner when she agreed to hold our order while we ran up a block to a cash-printing kiosk. Yep, a simple run (for lunch) involved a surprise extra run up the street and back to the food dispensary.
It is true that there isn't much magic involved in my work life. Sometimes the little entities that make the computers function escape, leaving a stench and a small puff of blue smoke. We don't have any undead, that we know of of, but both workstations and users behave like zombies from time to time. And the tech ... it just isn't good enough yet for most of the fancy stuff. No implants, no datajacks, no feelies .. You can fly through the Matrix if you want .. but it's faster to type still.
One aspect of video-game life that helps explain the whole day job thing is the physcological concept of delayed gratification. Although it is possible in life, as in many other games, to just run straight for what you want and try and grab it, your chances of success are not so good. Furthermore, keeping the desired object or status may be quite difficult, for various simple (bandits) and complex (various societal ideas like , um, the guild system) reasons. Depending on the goal, different tactics , or even strategies (!) may show greater chances for success.
A large-scale plan for how to achieve an overall objective is a strategy. A specific technique to gain advantage in a particular conflict is a tactic. Wars should (generally) be strategic and battles tactical. Single envelopment and cavalry are tactics, containment (Cold War) and scorched earth (Boer War) are strategies.
And Calvary is a place in SouthWest Asia. A famous Jewish carpenter died there, on a hill called Golgatha ("place of skulls" ?). Cavalry are mounted soldiers, such as knights and tank crews. I suppose some sort of dreadful mnuemonic such as, "The cavalry raced uphill to Calvary." might help some of you.
Ahem. Delayed gratification, or earned rewards, can be explained with Skinner's behaviourist psychology. Skinner's work dealt with encouraging and dicouraging specific behaviours using rewards and punishments. He worked with mice and pigeons, using food pellets and, well, electrical shocks as motivators. Skinner further classified rewards and punishment into positive and negative, where positive consequences add something and negative consequences take something away. A small electrical shock is a postivive punishment for the vast majority of the sentient population, but not getting your daily shock would be a negative reward for those same sentients. Gifts or candy are positive rewards, and no television for a week is a negative punishment. Commonly in Skinner's experiments the consequence is administered immediately after or even during the desired behaviour. The further the consequence spatially and temporally from the behaviour to be modified, the less effective the consequence. This and the need for consistency in consequence for behaviour modification were first outlined in Pavlov's research (with drooling dogs) and refined by Skinner's work. Skinner was able to clinically induce superstition in his pigeons by randomizing the disperal of rewarding food pellets. Pigeons quickly began to repeat behaviours or positions that coincided with food delivery, causing them to move strangely, make noises, or sleep.
It has often been speculated that humans would do poorly in one of Skinner's experiments. Certain wry individuals have made speculation on the creation of superstition in those pigeons and various common human religious practices.
Humans exhibit stubborness to a much greater degree than may other test subjects. A human can refuse to perceive an event or refuse to act on a stimulus metrely by thinking hard enough. In fact this relates to a popular definition of humanity, as expressed in Frank Herbert's novel Dune*. In the openeing chapter of the novel, Herbert's characters straighforwardly define the difference between animals and humans as the ability of a human to use their mind to overcome their instincts. This phenomenon which I initially labeled stubborness explains many things about the human condition. The specific ability to choose to ignore an instinct has no doubt preserved us from our much better equipped competitors. Intelligence, thumbs, and language skills don't do any good against an strong and well armed foe (say, a smilodon (sabre-toothed tiger)) unless you have the time and space to use them. In the Reciprocality papers it is proposed that this very ability to wait, and particularly that to amuse ourselves internally led directly to many sociological and neurological develops, and shaped human society.
Being able to resist instinctual urges, at least for a time is the essence of delayed gratification. Many concepts of human society are based in this, and there are several aphorisms in use that re-enforce it, such as "Good things come to those who wait.", "Rome wasn't built in a day.", and the like. It is held that things that are valuable must be hard to obtain, and that valuable things, once obtained, must be hard to keep.
Readily available consumer credit does tend to screw with this quite a bit. Whereas once, to purchase an expensive item, one had to forgoe expenditure and save up ones resources, usually for some agonizingly long time. With credit, once can unwisely, yet easily, circumvent this, and can in fact literally buy things that one cannot afford. The current economics of home sales in the USA serves as an example of this. Various economist predict record numbers of foreclosure in the next few years, as people who were able to finance expensive houses at historically low rates of interest find that they cannot actually make the regular payments, and are forced to surrender their homes to fianciers.
It circles most of the way around once you have fallen into this trap. Once you have borrowed a substantial sum of money, you find yourself putting aside a small portion of your winnings every term to meet your obligations, as if you were saving to buy something in the future. You already have it, but haven't payed for it.