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
February 10, 2013
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 Though long outdated, I grew fascinated with this particular game because by the time Civ III was released, I was already well into the distant future.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.
July 3, 2011
This one’s for the misanthopes! See, guys, at least one person understands your plight:
If you have a round peg that doesn’t fit in a square hole, do you blame the peg or the hole? You probably blame neither. We don’t assign blame to inanimate objects. But you might have some questions about the person who provided you with these mismatched items and set you up to fail.
[. . .]
Now consider human males. No doubt you have noticed an alarming trend in the news. Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. The current view of such things is that the men are to blame for their own bad behavior. That seems right. Obviously we shouldn’t blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point. Blame and shame are society’s tools for keeping things under control.
The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, “Here’s your square hole”?
The way society is organized at the moment, we have no choice but to blame men for bad behavior. If we allowed men to act like unrestrained horny animals, all hell would break loose. All I’m saying is that society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness. No one planned it that way. Things just drifted in that direction.
H/T Gerard Vanderleun for the link.
September 23, 2010
I received my copy of Civilization V from Amazon.ca yesterday, but I was in town all evening, so I didn’t sit down to start installing it until 10:30. I figured I could install it, twiddle about with the new UI, and still get to sleep by midnight. I probably could have, except you can’t play Civ V without registering an account with Steam. After creating the account, you apparently have to download the whole game (no idea why, as there’s a DVD-ROM in the package), and because I was online at peak hour for west coast gamers, the connection speed left more than a bit to be desired.
At around 11:30, the game finished downloading and I was able to actually start. “Oh,” I said to myself, “they’ve included tutorials. That’s nice of them. I guess that’ll cover the changed UI elements. I’ll try ‘em.” I spent the next two hours just playing the tutorial scenarios.
It certainly does have the “gotta play just one more turn” thing down pat. It’ll do nicely to cover the gap until Guild Wars 2 is released.
September 22, 2010
No, not by me . . . my copy hasn’t arrived yet. It’s from the Guardian:
Fans of Sid Meir’s seminal strategy game tend to be purists — one reason why 2008′s Civilization Revolution was so panned by some for slimming down the formula in just about every respect.
Yet for all its limitations, the console version addressed many of the problems that the old PC franchise had ignored for too long, and the proof is here for all to see. Civilization V returns to Civ IV‘s epic scale but combines it with CivRev‘s emphasis on simplicity and clarity. As a result, this is probably the best (or at least the most user friendly) version of the game since the original and certainly the best-equipped for the now-obligatory multiplayer mode.
The first thing PC owners will notice is the interface. Heavily influenced by CivRev, it’s a thing of minimalist beauty designed to display information clearly and succinctly. This also has the effect of allowing pride of place to the new-look World Map, which is now a thing of shimmering beauty as your empire develops into a tableau of fields, factories and road networks. Zooming in and out is smoother than before and it makes the game annoyingly easy to keep playing.
If nothing else, it should keep me occupied until Guild Wars 2 is released.
Update: Just got an email from Amazon.ca, providing me with a bonus code for the “Cradle of Civilization Map Pack”. I ordered this long enough ago that I don’t even remember what this might be (or, more likely, it was added after I pre-ordered).
Update, the second (at 23:15): Yep, my copy arrived tonight. While I was in town for an appointment. Can anyone explain why they bother to ship you a DVD-ROM when you have to download the game through Steam anyway? Because it’s peak time somewhere in North America, I’ve been downloading for over half an hour and just got to 47%. At this rate, I’ll maybe get half an hour of gaming before I turn into a pumpkin . . .
May 30, 2010
. . . the plundering, the lack of invention, the barbarians and above all Diocletian’s red tape did for Rome in the end. As the empire disintegrated under this bureaucratic burden, at least in the west, money lending at interest stopped and coins ceased to circulate so freely. In the Dark Ages that followed, because free trade became impossible, cities shrank, markets atrophied, merchants disappeared, literacy declined and — crudely speaking — once Goth, Hun and Vandal plundering had run its course, everybody had to go back to being self-sufficient again. Europe de-urbanised. Even Rome and Constantinople fell to a fraction of their former populations. Trade with Egypt and India largely dried up, especially once the Arabs took control of Alexandria, so that not only did oriental imports such as papyrus, spices and silk cease to appear, but those export-oriented plantations in Campania became the plots of subsistence farmers instead. In that sense, the decline of the Roman Empire turned consumer traders back into subsistence peasants. The Dark Ages were a massive experiment in the back-to-the-land hippy lifestyle (without the trust fund): you ground your own corn, sheared your own sheep, cured your own leather and cut your own wood. Any pathetic surplus you generated was confiscated to support a monk, or maybe you could occasionally sell something to buy a metal tool off a part-time blacksmith. Otherwise, subsistence replaced specialization.
Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, p. 175
February 18, 2010
I was a huge fan of the Civilization series of games, starting with the original game and running through the series, although as I mentioned back in 2005, I wasn’t enjoying the later releases as much as I had the earlier ones. To my surprise, there will be a follow-on Civilization V available later this year:
Funny story, I was musing about a Civilization sequel just yesterday while out for a run, and lo and behold, 2K Games says it’s in development as I’m typing this. What’s more — and I have to admit, somewhat unexpectedly — it’s still being developed for PC.
What’s Civilization? Surely you jest . . . but in case you’re serious, it’s pretty simple: One of the most important turn-based strategy video game in the history of the medium. Also: A pretty spot-on history simulator (in terms of history’s broad strokes and ideological angles, anyway). The general goal — to conquer the world by diplomatic or less-than-diplomatic means — hasn’t changed much since the original debuted in 1991, but as they say, the journey is all, and that journey’s generally improved by leaps and bounds with each installment.
Calling Civilization V‘s new engine “astonishing,” 2K says the game has been rebuilt “from the ground-up” with a brand new combat engine, more sophisticated diplomacy, and expansions all around to existing features.
Here’s the web site for the upcoming game. Yeah, I’ll almost certainly buy it, even though it may be coming out around the same time as my current gaming addiction’s next release (Guild Wars 2).