Today, Only a game is an astonishing 17 years old. That's old enough to drive in some places in the world, although actually, there are many countries where nobody regulates driving, so I guess any age would be old enough to drive somewhere. It's been a long strange journey, and it's still a long strange journey, and who knows how long this long strange journey will continue. Thanks to everyone who has read the blog over its long history, and most especially to everyone who has commented - it is always good to know there is still something approaching intelligent life on our planet.
With my Spring social media break behind me, I'm back to writing. However, there's little I can do with my philosophy right now. The conditions for 'thinking together' have been disrupted so radically that even if I were to make the attempt to work through the immediate problems, it's not clear anyone would be able to join me on that journey. This problem is wider than myself, it is a problem for philosophy as a whole - one tied up with the 'end of continental philosophy', which is in itself part of a far greater problem in contemporary human thought... There has been a break in the continuity of knowledge that might already be beyond repair, although the possibility endures as long as our books and libraries remain.
And yet, I need to write. So with this in mind, I have decided to undertake a side project that empowers me look back fondly on the era of human rights (1948-2011) while basking in the fading glow of an optimism for humanity's future that still heartens my soul. So I invite everyone with any familiarity with Star Trek: The Next Generation to join me for WAM TNG, a weekly substack that boldly goes where we've already been... only slightly differently. Here's an extract from the welcome page:
I'm going to write about TNG from a perspective that is all about the production of the show, with a focus on three aspects:
W is for Words, the words being used in the script and spoken aloud have a meaning in the world of the story - words like 'transporters', 'shields', and 'Q Continuum' all mean something specific in the world of TNG. Word like this are exceptionally important in science fiction, in a way that they are not important to comedy and drama of most other kinds.
A is for Acting Roles, the people who speak the words, and who ask us to imagine characters in the fictional world of the story. So important are the people to what we imagine, that a Star Wars movie feels legitimate just because it has hired the right cast to perform it. We, the nerdy viewers, are interpreting what they do in the world of the story - but they are just performing the script and reacting to the other actors and actresses.
M is for Models, Make-up, and Mattes, these SFX props do most of the work of crafting a sci-fi setting. For a Star Trek show, they create the races and locations that provide the great deal of the dramatic tension and interest in what's unfolding. Every spaceship model, every latex make-up design, and every matte painting has a vital role in each story they appear within.
In addition to WAM TNG, I will continue posting content to ihobo.com and Only a Game - I have three scheduled already, one of them (gasp!) about games! - but I have no plans to undertake a large campaign like 100 Cyborgs or Magical Science again, nor do I currently have any further plans for books or video content (although this will change eventually). However, I absolutely welcome comments on anything and everything that has ever run on any of my blogs, and I invite anyone and everyone who wants a discussion about any topic I have ever written about to start a conversation wherever they wish. I would especially welcome engagement with the Ascenturian Saga, but all topics are now and forever open for discourse.
New eclectic essays follow in the weeks ahead.
Off on my Spring Social Media Break now, and won't be back before June at the earliest. Feel free to leave comments while I'm away, as I will respond when I get back to blogging at the start of the Summer months. I am planning to do more game posts over at ihobo.com when I get back, so it might be quiet for a while on Only a Game... or I may not be able to keep my mouth shut, we'll see! (Long-time readers can probably guess which it will be...) Either way, there's a vast back catalogue of philosophical nonsense here that you're welcome to peruse, and if you haven't done so already, I heartily recommend this year's Ascenturian Saga for a rollicking read.
Be good to one another when you can. Your disagreements with others cannot be proof of their evil, but they are opportunities to learn about those others we are sharing this planet with. Go in peace, look with compassion, listen in love, speak your truth, and own your mistakes whenever you can.
With unlimited love,
The game will return later this year.
Every time I finish a campaign at Only a Game, I like to say that I have 'gone to the Green Room' i.e. written a post to mark the end of the collection of themed of essays. We were first there in September 2006 for the Metaphysics Campaign, then again in February 2008 for the Ethics Campaign that ran for nearly a year, then there was a long break until the two-year epic that was 100 Cyborgs, which finished up in the Green Room in August 2020. Now here we are again after the Magical Science Campaign, a 16-month affair that started as just a few remarks about pseudoscience, and ended up a critique of the dire state of scientific discourse and the damage caused by this collective failure.
In the early days, when blogs were still a lively source of community, I'd have more than fifty people to thank for their sustained engagement; nowadays I'm lucky if I get a single comment to any piece. However, it has not been a complete comment-desert this campaign and I would like to extend grateful thanks to Chris Billows, Babette Babich, Ian Tyrell, Ari Cheslow, José Zagal, the Reverend Ian Tattum, Nicholas Lovell, Rob Briggs, Sree, Nathan Frost, Tobias, Joaquín Ágreda, Thomas Olsen, Michael Pereira, Psuke, Erlend Grefsrud, Rob Hewson, Anwen Fryer Burrows, Yehuda Berlinger, Sébastien Chaume, Sean Payne, Paul Gestwicki, and the always excellent Matt Mower, along with anyone else who shared their thoughts at some point in the proceedings, either here or in the culture battleground that is Twitter.
That's all from me for now, as I will be off on my Social Media Break next week, with my last connected day being some unspecified point before 5th May. In the meantime, I leave you all with my unlimited love and respect, and please do drop off a comment in the Green room if you found any part of the Magical Science campaign engaging, thought-provoking, or illuminating.
Thanks for playing!
The game continues later this year.
Next Tuesday, Only a Game returns for the final set of pieces before my Spring Social Media Break in May. There are six in all, exploring utopias, cultural disarmament, gender wars, viruses, public health colonialism, and finally, scientific truth and political reconciliation. These eclectic essays conclude the Magical Science Campaign that began over a year ago in January 2021. Thanks to everyone who has been joining me on this journey!
It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to my ludicrous superheroic alter ego Doctor Multiverse, appearing in a series of 15-minute videos on Doug Lain's Diet Soap Media starting Saturday 19th February! From Balrogs and Daleks to thought experiments and science fiction, Doctor Multiverse: Renegade Philosopher is a mind-melting journey into the moral multiverse, with yours truly as your guide.
I've been writing essays at Only a Game for nearly 17 years, and I have never come close of running out of things to write about. But I've been mindful for some time that the zeitgeist for the exchange of ideas is now video. There are disturbing costs to this transition that we do not acknowledge or indeed yet understand, but there are also remarkable possibilities, and it is with these potentialities that I hope to now supplement the power of my essays to foster understanding and forge peace.
Four episodes will run in this first series, and I shall not be posting new essays until they are over - but fret not, my philosophical nonsense resumes in writing once again on March 15th, and I plan to link the Doctor Multiverse episodes here in the meantime. I welcome discussion on these or anything else you'd care to engage on.
Tune in this Saturday for the debut of Doctor Multiverse: Renegade Philosopher!
It's been rather a long social media break this time... partly, I have simply been too busy to attend to this side of my affairs, and partly I have not desired this kind of contact since it has not entailed much if any productive discourse recently, and so is merely aggravation and abuse, which I can understandably do without. But I cannot hide forever. There are matters at hand that need attending to.
What is coming up, you might reasonably ask...? Well, starting next Tuesday (11th January), a new five-part serial begins. Nicknamed "The Ascenturian Saga", it is not officially part of the Magical Science Campaign, but that campaign is not officially over either; rather, I see what is about to happen this year as a coda to Magical Science that is also its own mini-campaign on cultural disarmament. This will be followed in mid-February with my video debut as Doctor Multiverse: Renegade Philosopher on Diet Soap Media, about which there will be more anon.
All my philosophical projects this year are aiming at peace through cultural disarmament, and I have two specific fault lines I am targeting: the pro-vaxxer/anti-vaxxer fault line that fuels the nonsense, and the trans activist/lesbian feminist fault line that fuels the culture war. As ever, there are severe problems with aiming for peace in these particular battlegrounds...
For the nonsense, peace might potentially be obtained by putting the pro-vaxxers and the evidence-based medical research community back into discourse (the genuine anti-vaxxers are largely tangential to peace here, and were never truly the root problem). Alas, this is a path made excruciatingly difficult by now-ubiquitous censorship on these issues in both traditional media and social media. But because pro-vaxxers are emotionally committed to the sciences, being merely temporarily divorced from the research community and its essential disagreements as a consequence of the ongoing censorship, there is perhaps some hope for reconciliation here once the fear begins to subside.
However, since the nonsense has been turbo-charged by the blue-red fault line in the United States, the Senate Midterms are both an opportunity and an enormous risk. De-escalation without reconciliation will mean worse to come in the future... I hope to contribute in some small way to restoring medical discourse and thus the old ideals of clinical medicine and informed consent, and if that's not possible I will fall back to defending 'underground science' as long as is necessary. But I dread the harms on this path, which have already been horrific, particularly in Africa and southern Asia, although not for the reasons that are usually assumed by 'Westerners'.
For the culture wars, peace is hampered by the absence of recognisable spokespeople for the trans activists. This makes the hunt for gender armistice exceptionally tricky. On the plus side, the red-blue fault line is tangential here - this is a war fought internally to the 'left', although oft exacerbated by the tactless remarks made by denizens of 'red' States. I desperately wish for peace and a restoration of the Rainbow Alliance, but the attitudes of non-compromise that have grown up around this fault line make it exceptionally challenging to attain any kind of armistice now. But I could not live with myself if I did not at least try to broker peace here, although it will be walking upon a path of thorns to be sure.
Not everyone wants peace, alas, but such is always my goal. To that end, I leave you with a quote from Immanuel Kant's optimistic treatise of 1795, Towards Perpetual Peace:
One cannot expect that kings philosophize or that philosophers become kings. Nor is this desirable, for holding power unavoidably corrupts the free judgment of reason. Yet both kings and king-like peoples (those which rule over themselves in accordance with laws of equality), should not allow the class of philosophers to diminish or fall silent, but rather should have them speak publicly, for this enlightens the business of government, and, because by its very nature it is incapable of forming mobs and clubs, this class is beyond suspicion of being mere propagandists.
With unlimited love to you all,
There is one final post to run, then my Autumnal Social Media Break begins. It will run throughout November. In my absence, the robots will continue to share shiny things, but I won't be there to reply. You can still reach me through the usual email channels if you need me (via the ihobo contact link if you haven't emailed me previously).
I currently have no plans to run anything in December..
I am uncertain whether this current campaign is concluded... I presume it is not, as I have not yet written about Truth and Reconciliation, which I would expect to be the final bookend. Still, it might not be a bad idea to take a break. However, my work-in-progress serial, Rethinking Intellectual Property, is only half complete, and I can't reasonably go back to that until we have restored some kind of civil society whereby that discussion could have a meaning. But I have some half-developed ideas riffing on science fiction themes that might be a good place to take us in the Spring. Goodness knows we could use some fresh ideals about now.
If you can spare a moment to leave an encouraging message about my blogging while I'm away, it would mean the world to me. With my family 4000 miles away right now and no sign of the US Embassy getting even close to reviewing my immigration paperwork, I am in a rather lonely place. Even if I won't be reading these messages now, I would love to find something other than nothing here when I get back. Thanks in advance to anyone who leaves a supportive message.
I leave you all with my unlimited love and respect and, in half an hour, something to think about.
I do not make this offer lightly.
There are some terrifying people in our world but I still extend my welcome to everyone who is able to talk respectfully, no matter who they are.
Even if I cannot bear your politics, or (worse) your tactics, I still welcome you to speak here - indeed, I want to hear what you have to say. Now, perhaps more than ever, we truly need to talk, because we seem to have forgotten how to do it.
I welcome with an especial warmth all the outcasts, the misfits, and the besieged; the metaphysical vagabonds, the ethical enigmas, and the wild and beautiful freaks who make this world wonderful without ever realising that they had this gift.
I welcome everyone who has made a mistake and not been able to realise it, or who came to understand yet could not bear the truth revealed. I greet with open arms all those whose world barely hangs together after suffering through all the distractions, lies, and confusion inflicted upon us by the powerful, the deluded, or the complicit.
I welcome all you desperate immigrants - legal or otherwise - whether you have fled from the ruins of a life that my nation or its allies intentionally or inadvertently bombed into oblivion, or are just hoping to eke out a life somewhere new. I have been - and am about to be again - an immigrant, but I have not suffered like many of you have since I am a white, English-speaking male, and can “pass” almost anywhere that the desperate pin their hopes.
I welcome the unvaccinated, these new lepers, accused witches, and despised untouchables who face segregation and hatred on all sides. All those with medical beliefs outside the majority I welcome, all those who are told they are vile by panicking hordes. They call you ‘anti-scientific’ with a sneer, yet ironically those who revile you still have (like everyone else, alas) quite a slender grasp of the complex puzzle box that even the simplest of empirical investigations represents. And even they, for all their ill-begotten hatred, are welcome here.
I welcome all those iridescent trans folks who are suffering still - even (especially?) all those outcast trans folks in the shady corners of discomfort who risk being abhorred if they admit that their own beliefs diverge from the party line. So too I welcome those lesbians and their allies who staunchly defend a regimented view of sex that is not my own, but that is logical, consistent, and clearly crucial to your understanding of being in the world. Whichever side you find yourself, whether in this heartbreaking culture war or any other, you are welcome here.
Please know that no matter how we disagree I will never tell you what you are obligated to believe about politics, medicine, sex, gender, patriarchy, God, the Goddess, hot dog buns, or anything else. Every 'ought' I speak depends upon the principle it follows from, but it is up to you and you alone to choose those principles you must follow. And whenever someone tries to silence, deplatform, marginalise, abuse, ignore, or demonise you - or anyone else engaged in peaceful discourse - I will always lend my support to your free speech, and the freedom of thought it defends. How could I do otherwise...?
I won’t say I don’t take sides - even journalists lie to themselves when they think they can play at neutrality - but I want to listen. I want to hear what troubles you, I want to know how others have marshalled pressure against you, and if you have been excluded I want to include you here, even (especially?) if you are not welcome elsewhere. Because nothing good comes from seeing other people as demonic. Even those grotesque dictators, those Nicolae Ceaușescu and Idi Amin who brutalised the innocent, they too were still human, all too human.
So, be welcome.
Be welcome whoever you are.
Be welcome whatever you believe.
Be welcome here for as long as you can talk respectfully. Yet even if you lapse into demon-scrying screeds, I will still forgive you. I must. For you are my sisters, my brothers, and everything in between and beyond.
Be welcome, and please, no matter how difficult it may be, no matter the extent of our pain, distrust, or fear, let us try to talk.
The origin of the opening image is unknown to me, but if anyone can identify it I will add the attribution. As ever, no copyright infringement is intended and I will take the image down if asked by the respective rights holder.
After worrying about what comments would be waiting for me I have eventually returned to find... no comments. I suppose that is not the worst outcome. However, at this time I have no plans to return to Twitter in the near future, and I am not resuming posting articles until I complete my dialogue with Babette Babich on vaccinations (which is ongoing). I am reachable via blog comments or all the other usual channels in the meantime. I am not saying I am never coming back to Twitter, only that at this time I am evaluating whether Twitter is a tool I can morally justify engaging with.
I note that robots may post to Twitter on my behalf in the meantime, and I apologise for not being there to respond... but if you actively want to talk to me, there are plenty of good options for doing so.
I hope everyone is well and that we might return to collaborating towards living together some day soon.