Saturday, June 11, 2005

Fire And Forget: An Experiment

While browsing
a blog I came across this link, which sends you off to a game called September 12th, which bills itself as a simulator.

And, really, it's definitely not a game. Or is it?

If anything, I would call it a statement.

It opens with a screen telling you something that I had touched upon in my post on violence. It says:

"The rules are deadly simple.
You can shoot.
Or not."

They show you that terrorists are carrying guns and that civilians are not.

And then you are presented with an isometric view of a bustling city and a large gun sight.

Clicking somewhere, on a terrorist for example, launches a missile.

There are two major catches, of course: One is that there is a time delay, so it is difficult to judge whether you will hit your constantly-moving target. Two is that missiles cause splash damage, so even if you do hit where you aim you are going to kill civilians and destroy buildings.

Well that's no fun.

So here's the experiment. Shoot off a few missiles. Do you feel remorse? I know, I know they're only virtual, but just assume they're not. Let's postulate an Ender's Game scenario, where your actions in a computer simulation are really killing people on the other side of the world. Is it amusing to watch them wail at the destruction happening around them? Are you enjoying yourself?

Remember. You don't have to shoot.

But, well, there's a button.

What if the longer you let the simulation run, the more terrorists were created? Would you feel justified in pushing that button over and over again?

Come on, they aren't real people.

Bonus Questions:
Do you find it strange that a society so concerned with the impact of media violence should still comport its international affairs using the imperalist stylings of a hundred years ago? Or use cowboy colloquialisms like "smoke 'em outta their holes" or "let's roll" when discussing the very real prospect of killing people?

Would it have been cooler if Harry Truman had said "let 'em all burn" to the nation prior to giving the go-ahead to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I mean, what kind of diplomat was he?

Would you be a little disturbed if a friend of yours, after being assaulted, glibly and gleefully took revenge upon their aggressor by destroying said aggressor's apartment building with a bomb and writing off the other deaths as "acceptable losses"? Would it make sense to treat that friend as a very dangerous sociopath?

Is it possible to honestly believe that human beings, as a whole, will ever be anything other than completely awful to each other in every possible way? Is that the definition of "naive"?


Tom said...

"What if the longer you let the simulation run, the more terrorists were created? Would you feel justified in pushing that button over and over again?"

If you look closely, you'll see that it's not actually how long you leave the simulation to run that creates more terrorists. Each time you bomb, civilians gather to mourn the dead and then they actually *turn into* terrorists.

Deacon said...

It seems I had not looked closely enough. That makes the simulation even more interesting.

However, I feel my question still stands. What if, even with your benevolence, they still created new terrorists, without your aggression? Are you justified in your methods nevertheless?

It just reminds me of the passages in the Bible referring to Sodom and Gomorrah and how many righteous men are necessary in order to spare the cities from destruction.

How many terrorists are enough to say, "Here, now we may kill innocents and chalk them up to acceptable losses?"