The longest-term stakes in the war against terror are not just human lives, but whether Western civilization will surrender to fundamentalist Islam and shari’a law. More generally, the overt confrontation between Western civilization and Islamist barbarism that began on September 11th of 2001 has also made overt a fault line in Western civilization itself — a fault line that divides the intellectual defenders of our civilization from intellectuals whose desire is to surrender it to political or religious absolutism.
This fault line was clearly limned in Julien Benda’s 1927 essay Le trahison des clercs: English “The treason of the intellectuals”. I couldn’t find a copy of Benda’s essay on the Web. but there is an excellent commentary on it that repays reading. Ignore the reflexive endorsement of religious faith at the end; the source was a conservative Catholic magazine in which such gestures are obligatory. Benda’s message, untainted by Catholic or Christian partisanship, is even more resonant today than it was in 1927.
The first of the totalitarian genocides (the Soviet-engineered Ukrainian famine of 1922-1923, which killed around two million people) had already taken place. Hitler’s “Final Solution” was about fifteen years in the future. Neither atrocity became general knowledge until later, but Benda in 1927 would not have been surprised; he foresaw the horrors that would result when intellectuals abetted the rise of the vast tyrannizing ideologies of the 20th century,
Changes in the transport, communications, and weapons technologies of the 20th century made the death camps and the gulags possible. But it was currents in human thought that made them fact — ideas that both motivated and rationalized the thuggery of the Hitlers and Stalins of the world.
Eric S. Raymond, “Today’s treason of the intellectuals”, Armed and Dangerous, 2002-11-28.
July 6, 2016
May 27, 2016
Published on 25 May 2016
Civ 6 Interview discussing canal cities, graphics, happiness, and more!
Description of Civilization 6 from the Official Website:
“Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the next entry in the award-winning Civilization franchise, which has sold in nearly 33 million units worldwide, including more than 8 million units of Civilization V.
Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a turn-based strategy game in which you attempt to build an empire to stand the test of time. Become Ruler of the World by establishing and leading a civilization from the Stone Age to the Information Age. Wage war, conduct diplomacy, advance your culture, and go head-to-head with history’s greatest leaders as you attempt to build the greatest civilization the world has ever known.
Civilization VI offers new ways to engage with your world: cities now physically expand across the map, active research in technology and culture unlocks new potential, and competing leaders will pursue their own agendas based on their historical traits as you race for one of five ways to achieve victory in the game.
EXPANSIVE EMPIRES: See the marvels of your empire spread across the map like never before. Each city spans multiple tiles so you can custom build your cities to take full advantage of the local terrain.
ACTIVE RESEARCH: Unlock boosts that speed your civilization’s progress through history. To advance more quickly, use your units to actively explore, develop your environment, and discover new cultures.
DYNAMIC DIPLOMACY: Interactions with other civilizations change over the course of the game, from primitive first interactions where conflict is a fact of life, to late game alliances and negotiations.
COMBINED ARMS: Expanding on the “one unit per tile” design, support units can now be embedded with other units, like anti-tank support with infantry, or a warrior with settlers. Similar units can also be combined to form powerful “Corps” units.
ENHANCED MULTIPLAYER: In addition to traditional multiplayer modes, cooperate and compete with your friends in a wide variety of situations all designed to be easily completed in a single session.
A CIV FOR ALL PLAYERS: Civilization VI provides veteran players new ways to build and tune their civilization for the greatest chance of success. New tutorial systems introduce new players to the underlying concepts so they can easily get started.”
May 12, 2016
Firaxis has announced the release date of the next version of Civilization, along with a number of changes to the game that may increase the challenge level (and disrupt the current “meta”):
In many ways, Civilization 6 takes its predecessors and iterates on the systems that have come before. There are changes being made to trade, research, religion and more. Based on the limited amount of information so far released, these changes seem to be incremental.
But there is also a big change coming. In previous Civ games, city improvements were mere statistical boosts or manufacturing gateways, rendered prettily with a slightly different artistic representation. You built a wall and your defenses improved and your city, quite clearly, became encircled by a wall. They lived within the city, outside your control.
Civilization 6 is not the same. It demands that you place your city improvements in geographic locations in hexes around the city, which best take advantage of that building’s boosts and functions.
This means that your city upgrade path is no longer a rote event. It is a matter of geographic practicality.
In Civ 5, combat changed significantly. But combat is merely a system, albeit an important one. In Civ 6, it’s the city itself — the throbbing organ of all Civ games — that is being altered.
The improvements you build in your cities will now actually need to be placed in the tiles surrounding your city and can derive benefits from the terrain if built in better or worse locations. This will probably place an even greater emphasis on finding the best possible spot to found a city, as the long-term growth and development will hinge to a much greater degree on the city’s hinterland than in earlier Civ games.
While I’ve certainly enjoyed the most recent game, I found myself very often following an informal “script” or template when playing Civ V, which Firaxis developers think they’re addressing in the new game:
Why has Firaxis decided to make this change to how cities are structured, to merge the building elements of the city with its surrounding geography?
“We want players to adapt to the map every time they play the game,” says lead designer Ed Beach. “We want people to think on their feet, to respond to being put in different types of terrain, to being put in situations while playing different leaders.”
He says that the “number one” problem the team has identified about Civ 5 is that players often settle on certain strategic paths, and they play the same way every time. For example, when I build cities, I’m almost always looking at Monument, Shrine, Granary, Library, Walls, Coliseum. I rarely change this formula, nor others theirs.
This is why Civ 6‘s cities are different. “It’s as big a change for the economic side of the game as unstacking the armies was with Civ 5,” says Beach. “We want to throw different things at the player at different times and make them have to adapt.”
April 21, 2016
I discovered the Greeks when I was eight, and I came across a copy of Roger Lancelyn-Green’s retelling of The Iliad. I was smitten at once. There was something so wonderfully grand, yet exotic, about the stories. I didn’t get very far with it, but I found a copy of Teach Yourself Greek in the local library and spent weeks puzzling over it. Over the next few years, I read my way through the whole of Greek and Roman mythology, and was drawn into the history of the whole ancient world.
When I was twelve, my classical leanings took me in a new, if wholly predictable, direction. The sexual revolution of the 70s hardly touched most South London schoolboys. The one sex education lesson I had was a joke. Porn was whatever I could see without my glasses in the swimming pool. So I taught myself Latin well enough to read the untranslated naughty bits in the Loeb editions of the classics. The librarians in Lewisham were very particular in those days about what they allowed on their shelves. They never questioned the prestige of the classics, or thought about what I was getting them to order in from other libraries. With help from Martial and Suetonius and Ausonius, among others, I’d soon worked out the mechanics of all penetrative sex, and flagellation and depilation and erotic dances; and I had a large enough fund of anecdotes and whole stories to keep my imagination at full burn all though puberty.
Then, as I grew older, I realised something else about the Greeks — something I’d always known without putting it into words. There’s no doubt that European civilisation, at least since the Renaissance, has outclassed every other. No one ever gathered facts like we do. No one reasoned from them more profoundly or with greater focus. No one approached us in exposing the forces of nature, and in turning them to human advantage. We are now four or five centuries into a curve of progress that keeps turning more steeply upwards. Yet our first steps were guided by others — the Greek, the Romans, the Arabs, and so forth. If we see further than they do, we stand on the backs of giants.
The Greeks had no one to guide them. Unless you want to make exaggerated claims about the Egyptians and Phoenicians, they began from nothing. Between about 600 and 300 BC, the Greeks of Athens and some of the cities of what is now the Turkish coast were easily the most remarkable people who ever lived. They gave us virtually all our philosophy, and the foundation of all our sciences. Their historians were the finest. Their poetry was second only to that of Homer — and it was they who put together all that we have of Homer. They gave us ideals of beauty, the fading of which has always been a warning sign of decadence; and they gave us the technical means of recording that beauty. Again, they had no examples to imitate. They did everything entirely by themselves. In a world that had always been at the midnight point of barbarism and superstition, they went off like a flashbulb; and everything good in our own world is part of their afterglow. Every renaissance and enlightenment we have had since then has begun with a rediscovery of the ancient Greeks. Modern chauvinists may argue whether England or France or Germany has given more to the world. In truth, none of us is fit to kiss the dust on which the ancient Greeks walked.
How can you stumble into their world, and not eventually be astonished by what the Greeks achieved? From the time I was eight, into early manhood, I felt wave after wave of adoration wash over me, each one more powerful than the last.
Richard Blake, “Interview with Richard Blake”, 2014-03-14.
August 13, 2015
Published on 24 Jun 2014
In this series, Professor Don Boudreaux explores the question economists have been asking since the era of Adam Smith — what creates wealth? On a timeline of human history, the recent rise in standards of living resembles a hockey stick — flatlining for all of human history and then skyrocketing in just the last few centuries. Without specialization and trade, our ancient ancestors only consumed what they could make themselves. How can specialization and trade help explain the astonishing growth of productivity and output in such a short amount of time — after millennia of famine, low life expectancy, and incurable disease?
May 8, 2015
… possibly the most dangerous barbarians live in the West. These, by being born there, assume they are Westerners by inheritance or osmosis. They also regard Western civilization as “found”, its goodies a stash waiting to be used or distributed. Nor do they trouble themselves as to its provenance, for there has always been plenty more where the stash came from.
For these barbarians Western civilization and its associated quest for God or Truth are a bothersome impediment, a “white man’s culture”, a hundred year old relic ideology nobody bothers with, some irksomely judgmental superfluity that gets in the way of fun and spreading the fruits to arrivals at the border and various victim groups.
For the barbarian the only reality is appearances. Cargo cultists, for instance, believe that function comes from form. If they build something which resembles an airport then gift giving airplanes will arrive there to bring goodies. The 21st century barbarian completely lacks the attitude of Roger Bacon, who lived in the 13th century. Bacon knew that the truth was not a “white man’s” culture — in fact in his day nearly all learning came from the East — but believed the truth was nature’s culture; baked into reality; another word for what used to be called God. Of barbarian ignorance Bacon wrote:
Many secrets of art and nature are thought by the unlearned to be magical. … The empire of man over things depends wholly on the arts and sciences. For we cannot command nature except by obeying her.
In today’s post-Western environment, we’ve forgotten Bacon’s adage.
Richard Fernandez, “Sword and Sorcery”, Belmont Club, 2014-06-23.
November 16, 2014
In Kotaku, Luke Plunkett explains why of all the AI leaders in the game, none are more likely to espouse the philosophy “nuke ’em ’till they glow, then shoot ’em in the dark” than India’s Gandhi:
In the original Civilization, it was because of a bug. Each leader in the game had an “aggression” rating, and Gandhi – to best reflect his real-world persona – was given the lowest score possible, a 1, so low that he’d rarely if ever go out of his way to declare war on someone.
Only, there was a problem. When a player adopted democracy in Civilization, their aggression would be automatically reduced by 2. Code being code, if Gandhi went democratic his aggression wouldn’t go to -1, it looped back around to the ludicrously high figure of 255, making him as aggressive as a civilization could possibly be.
In later games this bug was obviously not an issue, but as a tribute/easter egg of sorts, parts of his white-hot rage have been kept around. In Civilization V, for example, while Gandhi’s regular diplomatic approach is more peaceful than other leaders, he’s also the most likely to go dropping a-bombs when pushed, with a nuke “rating” of 12 putting him well ahead of the competition (the next three most likely to go nuclear have a rating of 8, with most leaders around the 4-6 region).
Update, 16 November: Fixed the broken link.
September 3, 2014
People seem to want to get freaked out about China passing the US in terms of the size of its economy. But in the history of Civilization there have probably been barely 200 years in the last 4000 that China hasn’t been the largest economy in the world. It probably only lost that title in the early 19th century and is just now getting it back. We are in some senses ending an unusual period, not starting one.
Warren Meyer, “It is Historically Unusual for China NOT to be the Largest Economy on Earth”, Coyote Blog, 2014-08-30.
July 4, 2014
ZAM.com has the details:
Civilization: Beyond Earth is set to launch worldwide this autumn on October 24, 2014. Pre-ordering via participating retailers will score you a bonus Exoplanets Map Pack on launch day. The map pack includes six custom maps inspired by real exoplanets:
- Kepler 186f: This lush forest planet is one of the oldest known Earth-like planets
- Rigil Khantoris Bb: Orbiting the closest star to our solar system, the historical records of this arid continental planet’s settlement are well-preserved
- Tau Ceti d: This planet of seas and archipelagos features a booming biodiversity and a wealth of resources
- Mu Arae f: Tidally locked in orbit around a weak star, the southern hemisphere of this planet is a blistering desert where the sun never sets, while the northern hemisphere is perpetually in frozen darkness
- 82 Eridani e: An alien world of scarce water and wracked by tectonic forces
- Eta Vulpeculae b: A mysterious new discovery with unknown terrain
March 31, 2014
Victor Davis Hanson explains why the drop in trust — specifically the peoples’ trust in government — is on a steep downward trajectory:
Transparency and truth are the fuels that run sophisticated civilizations. Without them, the state grinds to a halt. Lack of trust — not barbarians on the frontier, global warming or cooling, or even epidemics — doomed civilizations of the past, from imperial Rome to the former Soviet Union.
The United States can withstand the untruth of a particular presidential administration if the permanent government itself is honest. Dwight Eisenhower lied about the downed U-2 spy plane inside the Soviet Union. Almost nothing Richard Nixon said about Watergate was true. Intelligence reports of vast stockpiles of WMD in Iraq proved as accurate as Bill Clinton’s assertion that he never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.
Presidents fib. The nation gets outraged. The independent media dig out the truth. And so the system of trust repairs itself.
What distinguishes democracies from tinhorn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities are our permanent meritocratic government bureaus that remain nonpartisan and honestly report the truth.
The Benghazi, Associated Press, and National Security Agency scandals are scary, but not as disturbing as growing doubts about the honesty of permanent government itself.
February 28, 2014
If you play Civilization V (I do, but nowhere near as much as I played the games in the Civilization II line), you’ll recognize this argument right away:
“What?! Are you crazy?! You never do that! You fool!”
People got a little crazy during a routine design meeting in the Firaxis Games offices, where the developers of Civilization V take strategy very seriously. A designer talking about his recent playthrough to a large group of his gathered colleagues casually mentioned he didn’t like the starting position of his settler so he moved it that turn to look for greener pastures. The reaction was immediate. Half the designers in the room erupted in anger and disbelief — while the other half vehemently defended the move. They ditched what the meeting was supposed to be about, and instead argued for or against a specific move in the first turn of a Civ game. Clearly, this issue was very important. Sid Meier once said that all good games were a series of interesting decisions, and it’s a testament to the power of Civilization that even the first decision could evoke such a strong reaction in the current Civ team at Firaxis.
But why? Why is moving your settler or not so important? It’s a question I’ve struggled with in my own time with the series. I spoke to Firaxis to figure that out, and maybe discover if there’s empirical evidence to support either decision beyond individual play style. The three developers I spoke to were Ed Beach, lead designer on the last two Civ V expansions, Peter Murray and Dennis Shirk, and they all had very different positions on the Settler Dilemma.
On that particular question, I’m agnostic. I usually build a city on my first turn, unless the starting location is so terrible that the game looks to be lost right from the start (and if it really was that bad — all desert or all tundra — restarting is probably the smarter move).
August 7, 2013
The answer, according to Jake Song and 2K Games, is Civilization Online:
You might have heard about a little project called Civilization Online, a new MMO in development based on the popular Civilization series of turn-based strategy games. You also might have heard that XL Games CEO Jake Song, of ArcheAge and Lineage fame, is overseeing the project as Executive Producer. But chances are, that’s really all you have heard. Until now, that is.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Song, XL Games Senior VP Jung Hwan Kim, and Producer Garrett Bittner from 2K Games to get the scoop on the project. Follow along for all the juicy details about building up civilizations in a new open world environment, including crafting, PvP, and more!
With Civilization Online being such a departure from his previous projects, I had to ask Song why the switch in genres? His answer came easily: He’s a big fan of the Civilization series. Actually, Song’s first response was: “Because there are too many fantasy games!” Then after a chuckle he talked about how he enjoyed the franchise. According to Bittner, from 2K Games’ perspective, Song was an obvious choice to ask to participate due to his high quality work as well as being a fan.
But even though the MMO is based on the series of strategy games, CO is not to be mistaken as simply an online version of turn-based warfare or a continuation of the canceled Facebook game. In fact, Civilization Online will definitely be a MMORPG, where players are a single character within the civilization — as opposed to, say, a unit of armies — and will influence a persistent and dynamic world by helping to advance their civilization through the ages.
February 10, 2013
For all of those thousands of years, most important communication in civilization has been vertical, and almost always from the top down.
Think of a church bell (or before that, and in other places, a drum or a gong): a means of communication far too expensive in a primitive society for an individual to own, one with extremely low bandwidth, conveying simple imperatives that individuals had been conditioned from earliest childhood to obey: wake up, serf! Come to prayer, serf! Go to work, serf! Come back to prayer, serf! Go to bed, serf!
There was no talking back to the commanding bells.
Over the centuries, nothing changed except the bandwidth. By turns we had Big Ben, Rudy Valee, D.W. Griffith, Arthur Godfrey, I Love Lucy; but there was no way to talk back to them, either. Nor to the “news” thrust upon us by media controlled or even owned outright by authority.
Then, suddenly, the whole situation, the entire 8000-year-old structure of human interaction, was pitched on its ear. The Internet landed with a crash and knocked communications sideways, making it an egalitarian — “peer-to-peer” — undertaking. Information traveled uncontrollably, in both directions, to the anger and distress of those who still believed that they were in authority. (One politician, a wealthy former governor and senator has recently announced that he’s leaving politics, having previously claimed society would be better off had the Internet never been invented.) And all the pus, 8000 years of dictatorial threats and dirty lies, burst out with the fall of power.
Humanity will never be the same again. This is change at the most fundamental level conceivable, barring the evolution of new limbs or individuals developing gills. As a student of history, I believe it to be more significant than Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, possibly more important than the invention of writing itself. And authority, as it disintegrates, is striving hysterically to bring it all back under control. But it’s too late by at least a decade. We have the idea of laterality now, and it cannot be disinvented or unlearned.
L. Neil Smith, “‘And That’s the Way It Is…'”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2013-02-03
June 12, 2012
I don’t mean playing the game for that length of time (I’m sure there are still fans who do that now and again), but playing the same session for that long:
I’ve been playing the same game of Civ II for 10 years. Though long outdated, I grew fascinated with this particular game because by the time Civ III was released, I was already well into the distant future. I then thought that it might be interesting to see just how far into the future I could get and see what the ramifications would be. Naturally I play other games and have a life, but I often return to this game when I’m not doing anything and carry on. The results are as follows.
- The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.
- There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.
-The ice caps have melted over 20 times (somehow) due primarily to the many nuclear wars. As a result, every inch of land in the world that isn’t a mountain is inundated swamp land, useless to farming. Most of which is irradiated anyway.
-As a result, big cities are a thing of the distant past. Roughly 90% of the worlds population (at it’s peak 2000 years ago) has died either from nuclear annihilation or famine caused by the global warming that has left absolutely zero arable land to farm. Engineers (late game worker units) are always busy continuously building roads so that new armies can reach the front lines. Roads that are destroyed the very next turn when the enemy goes. So there isn’t any time to clear swamps or clean up the nuclear fallout.
H/T to Charles Stross for the link.
December 30, 2011
Occasional commenter “Lickmuffin” sent a link to this article saying “Overly optimistic outlook here, I’m afraid. What good is digital storage when there won’t be any electricity?”:
We were discussing the dark ages, which not only were characterized by the disintegration of the Roman political order, but also the loss of an immense store of practical technological knowledge: agricultural practices and implements; construction techniques — it would take until the 19th century for Europeans to match the Romans’ road-building prowess — war machines; distribution and warehousing; science; art (which in Roman times was the realm of artisans, not self-absorbed “transgressive” pricks).
I said that I think we are headed for a “soft dark ages.” That took him aback. “How are we headed there,” he asked, “and how would they be ‘soft’?”
I answered his last question first. They would be “soft” because unlike what happened in Roman times, we have the ability to store gigantic amounts of information in small spaces. One person can carry around encyclopedic knowledge on a flash drive. Multiply him by the millions, and you have a vast repository of recoverable knowledge that is private, widely dispersed, and replicated many times over. No matter how determined or persistent this era’s barbarians — Marxists, Muslims, Democrats, unionists, academicians — they simply would not be able to track down and destroy all modern technological knowledge.
But beyond furtive individual efforts at hiding and protecting the knowledge we would need to create a New America or a New West, there would be vaster, more organized, more collective efforts to protect knowledge until better days. I suggested to Bob three institutions or concepts that would become the next dark ages’ hallmarks: The new castle fortress; the new monastic life; and the new Europe.