Rebirth of Reason

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Post 0

Friday, October 11, 2013 - 7:24pmSanction this postReply
This is sort of like an 'Ayn Rand Sighting' for geeks and techies and whatnot. Here is a 10-video playlist (5-10 minutes each video) that was posted to YouTube 4 years ago, but had escaped my attention. Apologies if it has already been linked to around here.

YouTube is one of the very few websites that drags-on for me (loads, for me, at a super-slow pace), so I did not have the patience to view anything but the first video (total waste of time; 9 minutes of video game screens and basic video game history) and the last video, where one of the creators admitted that he thinks that Objectivism, if carried to the "extreme", will inexorably result in the kind of dystopia portrayed in the game.

I played Bioshock back in 2008. I liked the detail of the graphics and I liked to see Rand's work concretized into a colorful, animated art form -- but was turned-off by the cut-throat, existentialist, clamor-in-the-darkness, will-to-power, "a-stranger-and-afraid-in-a-world-I-never-made"* aspects of the game. Playing the game was like seeing the world through the eyes of Heidegger or Nietzsche. What a terrible feeling! Nightmarish, even.

Caution: If you are like me, then you can only play the game so long before you throw up in your mouth. The cool Objectivist banners begin to lose their appeal as you inevitably descend into a the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-still-my-enemy monkey-wrenched barbarism. Definitely not for the faint of heart, nor for the pure of soul. Measures a 4.5 on the anti-man, anti-life, nihilo-fatalism scale.



*a quote from the poetry (Last Poems, XII) of AE Housman:
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man's bedevilment and God's?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 10/11, 7:34pm)

Post 1

Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 9:03pmSanction this postReply

I'm somewhat surprised Bioshock has received little attention from the Objectivist community. Surely there are gamers within the community who would pick up on the popular Bioshock series. The Bioshock series is littered with references to Objectivism and Rand. It would be difficult to not see all the references.

I like these kind of games (first person shooters), but there are certain themes within them that irritate me. For example, not to long ago, I played a popular game called Borderlands 2. Do you know who was the ultimate bad guy in this game? A corporation, of course! It's cliche at this point.

I never got into Bioshock for the reason that I perceived it to be just another smear-job on Objectivism. To this day, I'm not sure what it really is.

Additionally, what is with this fear of "extremes"? And what does "extreme" mean in this situation? Does it mean the acceptance and application of Objectivism? Is fully believing in something, regardless of what that something is, bad?

"Remember folks, murder in moderation, never in the extreme."

Post 2

Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 10:18amSanction this postReply

I know what you mean. I mean, if there were a video game parody of Marxism, called something like BioTyranny (or BioSlavery), there would be tons of comments on it! The lack of commentary on BioShock is mysterious.

As for Borderlands 2, I never played it, but I have played Borderlands with the add-on content (where an arms dealer refers to you as a "band of corporate raiders"). James Cameron likely stole the idea of Avatar from the Borderlands game, rather than coming up with the material himself -- a kind of soft, literary plagiarism.

As for the recent revolt against extremes, it's just a growing pragmatism (a logical reaction to the earlier rise of existentialism in the world):
Epistemologically, their dogmatic agnosticism holds, as an absolute, that a principle is false because it is a principle—that conceptual integration (i.e., thinking) is impractical or “simplistic”—that an idea which is clear and simple is necessarily “extreme and unworkable.” Along with Kant, their philosophic forefather, the pragmatists claim, in effect: “If you perceive it, it cannot be real,” and: “If you conceive of it, it cannot be true.”

What, then, is left to man? The sensation, the wish, the whim, the range and the concrete of the moment. Since no solution to any problem is possible, anyone’s suggestion, guess or edict is as valid as anyone else’s—provided it is narrow enough.

To give you an example: if a building were threatened with collapse and you declared that the crumbling foundation has to be rebuilt, a pragmatist would answer that your solution is too abstract, extreme, unprovable, and that immediate priority must be given to the need of putting ornaments on the balcony railings, because it would make the tenants feel better.

There was a time when a man would not utter arguments of this sort, for fear of being rightly considered a fool. Today, Pragmatism has not merely given him permission to do it and liberated him from the necessity of thought, but has elevated his mental default into an intellectual virtue, has given him the right to dismiss thinkers (or construction engineers) as naive, and has endowed him with that typically modern quality: the arrogance of the concrete-bound, who takes pride in not seeing the forest fire, or the forest, or the trees, while he is studying one inch of bark on a rotted tree stump.


Post 3

Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 10:28amSanction this postReply
After re-reading that link above, it is possible that James Cameron is innocent of idea-plagiarism. One guy said that the work on the film, Avatar, preceded the work on the video game, Borderlands -- but that is mere conjecture (until proven). Another possibility is that the same special effects artists worked on both projects. At any rate, here's what one guy said:
Okay... now I just watched Avatar last night again after really getting into Borderlands... there are many many similarities beyond just the name of the planet: Pandora.

-Planet name: Pandora
-Avatar Uplink / New-U Teleport : pretty much identical
-The moon cycles; if you look at the sky in the movie, the appearance is quite similar to the sky in the game; the gas giant in the movie, the moon in the sky in BL
-About 4 minutes into the movie, when Jake Sully's shuttle comes out of orbit and lands on the planet, there is a giant digger in the background, exactly like Thor in the Salt Flats.
-The Personal Armor Mech that Colonel Miles Quaritch wears at the end of the movie is almost eerily similar to General Knoxx.

Those are the major similarities I noticed...

Some smaller similarities; the flying Banshees are similar to Rakk
The viperwolf (the black nocturnal guys) are similar to Skags.
I noticed these things, too.

You know ... [thinking] ... if James Cameron "created" a movie called Atlavatar, or something like that ... and, if inside of this movie, there were these innocent and productive innovators who withdrew from society because they were being increasingly oppressed by a growing totalitarian police state (unjust laws or selective enforcement of the law, secret police, spying on the citizenry, etc.), then I'm sure he would be "called out" for that -- I.e., too many similarities to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.



(Edited by Ed Thompson on 10/13, 11:07am)

Post 4

Monday, October 14, 2013 - 9:14amSanction this postReply
Speaking of Avatar (which I have not seen), "unobtainium" has a long history of its own. See the Wikipedia article for it. It was used in the movie The Core (2003).

Post 5

Saturday, November 2, 2013 - 4:39pmSanction this postReply
No surprise here when it comes to the distorted view of Objectivism portrayed in Bioshock. That is really the mainstream view of Ayn Rand's ideas. How many times have we all heard that Ayn Rand's books are all about rich people sticking it to the poor people? On internet forums, it's sometimes a bit entertaining to describe I book I read in which all of the bad guys are rich, corporate types who are in bed with corrupt politicians. The everyday working stiffs who end up starving to death are portrayed as victims of those corrupt relationships and the damage they cause to all of the individuals in that society.

After I carry on like that for a bit, I usually have the Occupy Wall Street types eating out of my hand. That is, until I finally reveal that the book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

The Objectivist antipathy toward charity or claims based on need get all of the press, and then the story gets spun into one where Objectivists are portrayed as fascists. Given the current trend toward distrust of the corporate / political relationship, Objectivism could really profit from a marketing campaign that focuses on that aspect of Ayn Rand's work.

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