For God Gamers
© 1998, 1999 Philip Hyde, PO Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA
"God games" are transcendent games of reality-oriented strategy. They probably evolved out of simple games like checkers and chess and the Japanese game of No - and the transcendent games of literature, such as the (Magister Ludi:) Glass Bead Game of Hermann Hesse and the Interstellar Pig of William Sleator.
Then they moved on to games with more of a base in reality, recent computer examples of which are Sid Meyer's wonderful Railroad Tycoon and Civilization (Phil prefers Version 1 in each case). RR Tycoon is particularly map-and-motion oriented, with only a short 100-year scope on evolution - the evolution of one form of technology, focusing chiefly on locomotives.
The ultimate technology is the computer, and the ultimate computer is the human-cloned brain in the human-cloning robot. Ray Kurzweil in his new book The Age of Spiritual Machines has pushed this line of God-gaming from the realm of sci fi in the Star Trek family of TV series (Spock-7of9-Data) to long-range qualitative prediction based on exponential quantitative series (the acceleration of knowledge in human genome mapping and artificial intelligence). Ray starred as neo-Einstein on an overawed Chris Lydon's show on 1/11/99.
Sid Meyer's Civilization has a strong and informative component based on social evolution with roughly a 6000-year timespan. Many technologies are involved (of which railroads are one) and they are linked in a roughly accurate way - particularly useful to wake up short-sighted Americans to the long, loooong-range inter-connectedness of things, not just in the geological timespans of the natural sciences but also the millennial timespans of most of the social sciences.
Then there is Buckminster Fuller's World Game, now running on computers at the University of Illinois at Carbondale with a membership institute in Philadelphia, we believe. It would be a good bet that the CIA and the KGB have had various models going for decades now too since the former jealously squelched the idea of having Bucky's World Game in the geodesic U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. And there has been an independently invented version of the World Game in the System Dynamics Dept. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The MIT version was pioneered by Jay Forrester through the 60s, with his industrial, national and early world models. Dennis and Dana Meadows took "the baton" in the early 70s and published the results of the World III model in their world-famous Limits to Growth in 1971, along with colleagues Bill Behrens and Jørgen Randers. Phil lost touch with the project in the mid-70s when it had been taken over by Carroll Wilson.
Now of course, there are swarms of corporate and industrial models in all the investment firms. And there are bigger economic models in all the major economies, for example, in the central banks (e.g., in the U.S. Federal Reserve).
But all these models seem to have been impotent with regard to the looming Asian, Brazilian et al. economic collapse. Today's standard economics seems to have some central blindspots and some fundamental contradictions that are not accessible to mathematical analysis. They are, however, accessible to linguistic analysis. We have hinted at some of them elsewhere on this website. One thinks of the selective application of the theory of marginal prices that gives rise to the vehement criticism of what has come to be dismissed, on a tissue of rhetoric, as the Lump of Labor Fallacy. One thinks of the virtually universal vulnerability to G.K. Chesterton's pan-utopian trap. One thinks of countless incomplete paradigms, such as senior:junior::seniority:GAP.
Yet we have all kinds of accomplishments. On the macro side, we've decoded the Mantle's plate tectonics, learned how to fly, even flown to the Moon. We've sent probes past other planets and their moons. On the micro side, we've gone back before the three kingdoms (animal, vegetable, fungal) to the symbiotic origins of the eukaryotic cell, and we're mapping the genome.
Now it's time to put some thought on the more immediate and obvious area between the macro and the micro. It's time to get beyond our blackbox-oriented intelligence-insulting "economic science" which at present is nothing but a free-for-all -- for all our hopes and fears. Standard economics, basking in theory, has long given short shrift to historical economics. Yet one game we would like to hint at here is a game that asks, where is the football of history - or prehistory for that matter? If there is only one football at any one time, and if the world is not so much a matter of different synchronic geographic zones as different diachronic time zones, i.e., evolutionary or developmental zones, what are these more important zones and where, pray tell, is the "football of history" during each one of them?
And is there another game - some simpler, more generalized key to all these social evolutionary time zones? Which of the key lessons have we covered and which have we yet to learn? Can we lay out a little more of the human "curriculum" and make it a bit easier on ourselves - not have to learn absolutely everything the absolutely hardest way, as it were, and even have to relearn it the hard way countless times? We still don't have Einstein's long-sought Unified Field Theory uniting the macro and the micro. Did he miss it because he jumped to mathematics instead of lingering in the much bigger linguistic world of which mathematics is a subset? Can we crack the big code, fake out the rules to some of the much closer, more obvious and possibly, more important parts of this crazy "reality" that we're all in? Can we "operate on our own retinas" in a semantics-intelligence-mind-consciousness sense? How deeply?
These last two are the "God games" that co-evolved with Timesizing and its successors. There will be a book on each of them over the next two years. And then we'll get back to spelling out Timesizing itself for more audiences and markets.