For Your Listening Pleasure...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Subjugation and Genocide

Why do we slaughter each other? Why do we feel the need to utterly destroy anything dissimilar to us? I recently saw this video with some very dear people, and it hung over me for a few days. Thinking about the whole Jedi/Sith genocides brought it back. It's long, but very interesting. If you want a copy, let me know.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Battle Within: Is self-control always a good thing?

I just read an absolutely incredible article about the upcoming Star Wars MMORPG, The Old Republic, and it really made me think about a whole lot more than Star Wars.

MMORPGs are pure evil. They will steal your soul and distort your life. I tell you this from personal experience, addiction is a terrible thing. I in no way condone or support this game, despite how badly I want to play it. I simply use the story behind it and the comments of its creators in my discussion of a dear topic. If you decide to play it and find yourself unable to stop, I can't help you and accept no responsibility for the ruination of your future. You've been warned.

Now that that's out of the way, I'll give a little background on the Force, for those 7 people on Earth who haven't seen any Star Wars, just in case any of them happen to stumble upon this lonely corner of the interwebs. The Force is both a religion and God in the Star Wars mythology, not dissimilar to the "God" concept in Wicca: an omnipresent energy, both male and female, good and bad, dark and light, terrible and beautiful. This energy can be manipulated, concentrated, and directed toward whatever end the user so desires. There are two orders of such users in the Force, the Jedi and the Sith. Throughout the entire story, we are told that the Sith are evil, and practice the Dark Side of the Force, while the Jedi strive for good and defend the world from the Sith menace. I always bought it; Jedi good, Sith bad, boooo Sith.

Then came Episode 3.

In Revenge of the Sith, protagonist and Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker has secretly and illegally married his love, Senator Padme Amidalla, who is carrying his child. He begins having visions of her death, and resolves to find a way to save her. Fast forward. He discovers that the chancellor is a Sith, and wants to destroy the Jedi order. He reports this to the Jedi Council, ready to eradicate this menace, as he has been taught for so long. Then the chancellor offers him the power to save his wife.

How far would you go to save the one you love?

Anakin accepts this offer, saves the chancellor, and rejects his Jedi teachings. Anakin Skywalker is now the most powerful Sith who has ever lived, in terms of raw power. As far as experience goes, however, he is sorely lacking, and his former mentor, seething at his betrayal, beats him within an inch of his life, and leaves him to die while his wife dies delivering his twin children.

This fucked up my entire view of the Jedi/Sith conflict.

Knowing this, put yourself in Anakin's shoes, lying broken, beaten, scarred, burned, having lost everything you ever had. Picture yourself being saved by the Sith, spending countless time being surgically repaired, being confined to a life support system within a suit. You're now the dreaded Darth Vader, and your new Sith mentor has taken control of the galactic empire.

What do you do to the people who crucified you for trying to save your love, and stopped you from saving her, then kidnapped and hid your children?

Let that sink in.

That never sat well with me. Here I was, believing that the Jedi were the good guys, and these evil bastard Sith had to be destroyed. Indoctrinated, I was. Then they slap me with a situation that really hit home. I would have done THE EXACT SAME THING. Tell me that I can save my son from death, all I have to do is renounce the Jedi and align myself with the Sith; I would have said fuck the Jedi, help me save him. If they won't allow me to use an aspect of the blessed Force that will allow me to save a life, then they're not as good as they claim to be. So I guess I'm not cut out to be a Jedi Knight.

But how many of us really are?

Now back to the article. One part in particular really drove home the unease about the Jedi that I've felt since the first time I saw Episode 3, back in 2005.
There were hints of what happened between the Jedi and the Sith in the formative years of the Force. While the Force itself always existed, learning how to use it, and how to train others to use it, took time. "The Force was developed on Tython, discovered by these pre-Jedi philosophers. They came into conflict about what it means and how it should be addressed." Erickson explains. This conflict split the people in two. "What the Jedi call the Dark Side, and what came to be known as the Dark Side, these people believed that life should be about emotion. They believed you should be unrestrained, that the galaxy wants us to love and lust and kill and make art and cry and dream..." he trails off. I imagine him sitting on a throne, lightsaber under his right hand. This conversation started as two Star Wars fans chatting about the expanded universe, but now I'm starting to understand the draw of the Sith.

What happened to these hedonistic followers of the Force? "They get chased out of the galaxy. In fact, in the lore, chased to the point where the Jedi believe they are dead. This is very close to genocide! The Jedi believe these people to be unredeemable."

He points out that we've only be presented one side of the story. If you grew up among these people, you have a very different story. "You know there is an Emperor, and that he saved your people's very existence, and there is a society out there larger than you, who deemed your people and your religion not worthy to exist."
Now hold on a minute. This paints the Sith in a WHOLE new light. We've been fed the Jedi party line all these years: the Sith are dangerous, they want to destroy the Jedi Council, they want to own everything, they will kill without hesitation.


Well hold on there, partner. If you tried to wipe my people out, left me for dead, and deemed me -- and my beliefs -- unworthy, you'd better believe I'm going to be dangerous. So what's the truth? Are the Sith really evil? Or are the Jedi evil?

Maybe there is no such thing as evil.

I don't have much use for absolutes. What is right under one circumstance is wrong under another. Sticking a knife into a random woman's belly is wrong, right? What if you're a doctor and she needs a C-section? Not so wrong anymore. So the decision really comes down to ideals. Jedi or Sith, Puritan or Hedonist...

Superego or Id.

This battle occurs in each of us, many many times each day. When you see that candy bar, and stop for a split second, your id is telling you that you want it, and should eat it, while your superego is telling you that it's bad for you, and you should keep walking.
Clinical psychologist Don Bannister has described Freud's position on the human personality as being:
"...basically a battlefield. He is a dark-cellar in which a well-bred spinster lady (the superego) and a sex-crazed monkey (the id) are forever engaged in mortal combat, the struggle being refereed by a rather nervous bank clerk (the ego)."

Thus an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are the result of the interaction of the id, the superego, and the ego. This creates conflict, which creates anxiety, which leads to Defense Mechanisms.
If either the superego or id were allowed to totally control a person's actions, that person would be considered societally abnormal, and possibly dangerous. That's why there's a third aspect, the ego, that balances the id's desires against the superego's ideals, factors in societal expectations and norms, and is the "voice of reason." The ego is a good thing.

I've had many conversations about this with people, and have found that many allow their superegos to define their answers in said conversations. I have a lot of trouble believing that they would really allow their child to die rather than kill the threat. If they really would, then I propose that THEY are "evil." But I digress. Really, I've lost my whole direction in this post, so I'll end with one last quote.
We were given a hands-on with the game, but what Erickson said kept running through my head during GDC. Did he really just convince me that the Sith were the good guys in all this? Growing up, being taught to understand and explore our emotions and passions, and then being told this monk-like order had hunted my people to near extinction... it's easy to see the attraction to taking up your blaster or lightsaber against their order.

In other words, to give into your hate.
Sometimes, that really is the best course of action.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Advancing a wee bit faster than I expected...

So just as I discuss the prospects of having chips embedded in our bodies, I find this report that scientists have not only done that, but have figured out how to embed chips INSIDE HUMAN CELLS. I repeat, for those of you as dumbstruck as I was. They have put functioning silicon microchips INSIDE. LIVING. HUMAN. CELLS. As if the fact that they make chips that small weren't bananas enough, they got these cells to survive and continue functioning normally after being stuffed with silicon and transisters. Now, if their theory is correct, they'll be able to program these things to detect and repair cell damage. Just thinking out loud, but I see potential for two things here: immortal red blood cells and cyborg assassin white blood cells.

I think it's time to reboot Osmosis Jones.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Generation (fanbo)Y: How did brand loyalty evolve into part of our identity?

Anyone who’s spent much time around me in the past year and a half or so knows how I feel about Android: I won’t touch another mobile OS so long as Google’s is an option. Most also know how I feel about Apple: Steve Jobs should be castrated and skewered. I feel very strongly about my tech brands, and I’m not alone.

Widespread fanboyism is a fairly new phenomenon. Our generation, known as Generation Y, seems more emotional than generations past. Whereas I grew up used to hearing people say “I think,” while walking around the campuses of Columbia I mostly hear people say “I feel.” I have people argue with me all the time, often vehemently, about various products: Microsoft vs Sony (Anthony), Apple vs Google (Elvin), Square-Enix vs Blizzard (Rob)… and that’s only technology. Think of how you feel when someone puts on music you don’t like, and how you feel when your favorite song comes on. Have you ever classified someone based on their clothing style? Further, have you ever felt some level of animosity toward that person if their style was significantly different from yours? Be honest here, you’re only admitting it to yourself. I won’t tell, I promise.

In no way am I innocent of this. When it comes to my identities, I’m borderline psychotic. I love my music, games, and gadgets passionately – but I hate others with an almost equal passion. The other day, I was discussing this with Rob and explaining my view on how Generation Y is adopting new identities, and he brought up an interesting idea. Maybe the old identities are becoming irrelevant now because of a cultural shift. Children are being raised and taught away from racism and societal roles for men and women are crippling sexism. Could it be that we just need something new to align with and fight over? Are the new identities simply replacements, or a proper expansion? What do you think?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Humanity Enhanced: Robotics, Cybernetics, and Nanomachines.

According to a German study, about 1/4 of respondents said they would be willing to have a chip implanted beneath their skin if it offered some concrete benefit. An interesting study to be sure, but one that leaves one burning question: What the fuck is wrong with the other 75%?

To try to answer this question, I studied a Buzz thread discussing the topic, and asked a few people I know informally. The only reasons anyone gave for saying no were paranoia and religion.

First off, if you really think the government is after you and that not getting a chip will keep you safe, you have serious problems indeed. Wired magazine held a manhunt of sorts, in which an editor attempted to disappear. A bounty of $5,000 was offered to the public. Evan Ratliff never made it a month. Now please explain this to me: if an average, law-abiding citizen with time to prepare and motivation to hide was unable to remain hidden FROM OTHER CITIZENS for a mere month, what makes you think that the United States government wouldn't be able to find you, with all your credit cards and cellphones and all the resources in the world at their disposal? At this point, a goddamn gps tag on your forehead wouldn't make you any more trackable. Take off the tin-foil hat and grow up.

Then there's religion. Christians who believe in a literal interpretation of the bible have decided that microchip implants are the mythical "Mark of the Beast." I mean really, this is the same group that claimed Galileo was doing the Devil's work by spreading the heresy that our Earth revolved around the Sun. Until they realized he was right. Oh, and that astrophysicists should stay away from the origin of the universe. Until they spun it to imply that the Big Bang proves the existence of God. I could go on forever... but I won't.

While not on the level of an electronic chip implant, we do have some preliminary advancements in the field enriching lives around the world as we speak. Among the most common are cochlear implants, enabling the hearing impaired to live much more productive and satisfying lives. Prosthetics are everywhere, and advancing by the day into true cybernetics. A team of scientists at my job has improved upon a type of nanomachine that could be used to regulate insulin in diabetics. The future of humanity is scientific and technological enhancement. Why fight it?

Resistance is futile.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here...

Welcome to my little experiment. What started on Buzz as a test to gauge interest in my random musings pretty much failed miserably. Hard to tell if anyone is interested if nobody reads it, yanno? But I keep writing, because I'm stubborn like that. Only problem is Buzz won't let you use html markup with a manual entry. So I created this in order to import marked-up posts into Buzz. I'll maintain both until either I get a clear sense of whether or not this is worth my time, or I lose interest. In the meantime, enjoy the ride, and feel free to comment.

Tin-foil hat time!

This is nuts. It appears the planet is well on its way to going poof, what with massive methane leaks, earthquakes shortening days, Texas-sized patches of garbage in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and weird quarks squirting out of a heavy ion collider. Time to blow this pop stand.

I wonder if 2012 will hit the