Ran Prieur's latest insight on virtual worlds
IMO this is the best bit Ran has written in years. From ranprieur.com :
"For many people, time is not a gift, but a burden, to be filled with alcohol and television and other palliative technologies." My disagreement is not with that sentence exactly, but with two ideas that might seem to follow.
One is that it's bad to have fun, or that all this fun stuff is distracting us from rising up and making a good society -- as if we all agree about what a good society looks like and how to get there. This whole way of thinking is based on an assumption about the purpose of life: that merely having a good time is a bad use of your life, and the correct use of your life is trying to make a better world.
Humans have been trying to make a better world for thousands of years. In many ways we have failed and accidentally made a worse world, so we should be skeptical of making a better world as a noble goal. And to the extent that we have succeeded, we should appreciate and enjoy the ways the world is better, instead of being like an ambitious person who is never happy in the moment. Sometimes the path to a better world is doing something that seems fun and useless, and it leads to somewhere unexpected.
Notice that people who condemn TV and video games and recreational drugs never condemn books. Of course books are better in some ways, but the thing that's best about reading can be good about any entertainment: it can expand your consciousness and show you other ways of being. I think even spectator sports are helpful because they generate public stories that are more honest than the public stories in politics, so someone who follows sports can more easily recognize political bullshit.
A reader sends this article from the Guardian about Eve Online, a massive multiplayer sci-fi game that has outlived similar games by making good decisions to keep players interested. People play games because they're better than society: they're a better fit for human nature. When we understand this, there are at least two directions we can go: make political decisions to make society more like a good game, or make society as stable and harmless as possible, and use it as a platform for artificial worlds.
There's another way to look at the meaninglessness of modern society, and this brings me to the other idea I disagree with: that it's bad to have too much free time, and we need a society in which our time is automatically filled with meaningful activities.
I mean, I wouldn't hate that, but I think it would deprive us of the challenge of finding meaning through personal struggle and transformation. People take wilderness survival classes because they want to learn to find food and shelter through their own skill. If everyone needs a big economic system to give them food and shelter, that system has too much power. So here's my personal vision of how to make a better world: imagine if nobody needed religion or political ideology or economic growth or technological progress or personal status climbing to make their life feel worth living, if none of those things had power over us, because we would all know how to create our own meaning or find it in whatever little things are around us. And a life with lots of free time and no ready-made meaning is a great opportunity to learn that skill.
Can we not see?
Everywhere, the signs shout of the impending madness on the horizon. If only we could see what the gnomes once witnessed: The world cannot be shifted with mere material action, it must be transformed through pure conscious force. This is the only way.
Good What May
Is there no blessing so cursed, no curse so blessed? For what we spit may be blasted into the inferno, never before to be seen again once more. What eyes may envision the hideous streak of their forgotten battle?