Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Positive Dystopia

I really love N-dropout procedures in psychology experiment design - they seem philosophically cute because they're a bit of code that matches remedial efforts (especially relevant in memory studies) so nicely to where they're needed. I particularly like a variant on the standard notion where instead of correcting/retesting at the end, tests/retrials are mixed back in, but there are a number of other interestig ways to do it... Mmm... They're also fun to code. Unlike any of my previous experiments, I coded a significant portion of this one in Perl instead of the awful E-Prime environment/language that we use for most of our stuff.

Sometime earlier I was talking about English language fluency, but couldn't think of a really good example - one that I recalled today was "to ask". In English, "X asks Y." is an awkward sentence - "to ask" normally doesn't stand alone - unlike "to query", to flow properly it needs an indirect object. I'm not sure if this is a formal rule of English, but I would at least call it poor style to violate it. The few instances where I can recall "to ask" being used sans Indirect Object, the Indirect Object was implied and nearby in another sentence, while I've often found "to query" being used in a simple Subject-Object sentence.

Authoritarian Dystopian novels are political entities as well as literature - definitive of the genre is an authority (usually a state authority) telling people how to live according to its ideology. I like the genre, but I wonder at people who read too many of them because of the politics they inspire - in real society, the risks incurred by too little steering are obvious from a political economy/philosophy point of view, but it'd be tough to make a novel that grabs the imagination along those lines (Max Barry's Jennifer Government and a few "postcyberpunk" novels might handle the matter to various degrees of care). While running another pilot of my current experiment, I was thinking about the coercion involved in the normal concept of authoritarian dystopia, in particular if it would still fit the genre if the state provided dehumanising options to people on a large scale, knowing that human weakness often makes us choose things that won't make us happy. Changed notions of family often are present but peripheral in the genre - much more common are attempts to supress love. What if we imagined a society whereby not-quite-real expert systems (assume no strong AI in the story) gave people a surface-satisfying replacement for flesh-and-blood relationships, and made that option widely avaiable, so people who go through inevitable bumps and dips in their relationship with real humans eventually satisfice with such a thing? What if we imagined a society where people accepted a number of other synthetic "good enoughs" that are enough on the surface but lead people to .. something akin to a midlife crisis that lasts their whole life? Television satisficing biological needs to be around each other, etc etc. Dystopia? I'd be tempted to call it "Eating Styrofoam", but that would be too simplistic - there would be "some substance", and it would need to stress the dangers of individuals taking the easy way out in a society/economic system that makes that easy. ... it might take a lot of work to flesh out the idea and make it coherent though. Maybe "Twinkie Gourmet" would be a good title, if it wouldn't result in a nasty lawsuit :)

To my surprise, I'm probably playing an impromptu game of soccer after work today. Spiffy!


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