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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Mathematics

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Written after enjoying Francis Su's new book, Mathematics for Human Flourishing, which slightly changed my view about this type of question.


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Quick notes before blog:


One: A bunch of you mutants who use RSS noted that it was having weird formatting issues. I've deformatted today's blog before posting. Please let me know how it works.


Two: Thanks for the lovely emails, cucurbit-fanciers. I'm sorry so many of you have had trouble growing them - consider trying gourds or cucumbers or melons, which seem less subject to pests in my experience. One reader recommends looking into tatume squash.


Three: I've gotten some requests to host these posts somewhere so people can cleanly share them. I'm looking into it. My one rule is I don't want it to be the least bit interactive, other than through emails, so a lot of the ready-made blogging sites won't work. More to come.


Theory of the Peak Experience I have a deep bias that VR does not have mass market potential. I think it would’ve been shocking to me circa 1989 that for about the equivalent price of a Nintendo NES you could access a variety of fairly immersive virtual experiences, but it just wouldn’t be that popular. However, I suspect if I’d had the option during Winter 1991 to either play Zelda 3 or a VR immersive version of the same game, I would’ve played a lot more of the regular version. I’d have gone for the VR first, but then would’ve played intermittently afterward. I have a theory about why this is, and I suspect it can be generalized. Note, there are two aspects here: first, the expectation that more high fidelity gaming should be better, and second, the ultimately stronger preference for a more “traditional” video game experience. I think the first part - the expectation part - is easy to explain. Humans, especially nerdy ones, tend to want the world to operate on a High Score basis. Our brain tells us that if you take all the easily quantified parameters and amp them up you should get a better experience. Indeed, there are many venues where this is simply true - a plane that gets to its destination faster and has wider seats and tastier food is a better airplane experience. Other than the seats getting so wide they punch a hole in the plane, you can always drag those stats higher to make the trip better. I think at least some religions and ideologies work on the basis of taking complex things like “what is the good life” or “how do I behave ethically” and converting it to something like a High Score framework, with defined rules and categories of behavior where doing more is always an improvement. How do I live a good life? Good news, there’s scripture and the scripture has a list. The problem lies in assuming just about any experience obeys such a similar framework. And that leads to the second part - why is traditional sit-down gaming actually the more enjoyable option? I think the issue is that while you may have thought sitting on a couch with some snacks and a controller was just a point on the path to a Holodeck level experience, it was actually the peak experience of gameplay. Ideal gameplay does not involve maxing out all parameters. A VR headset is more expensive, more interesting to talk about as a technology, more likely to be featured in a beloved sci fi story, and more futuristic generally, but if the goal is something like pleasure, it is lesser. The ape called Human would generally rather have a comfy chair, a third person view, and only partial immersion, so that they can eat some chips or have a friend drop in. VR maxes out one video game parameter: fidelity. And, for most of us, most of the time, that just isn’t desirable. The reason VR isn’t very popular isn’t a need to improve more - it’s that the actual peak experience came at an unexpected place earlier in the history of game design. I think this also helps explain why so many extremely popular games have purposefully simple/unimpressive graphics - another thing that would’ve shocked early 90s video gamers. The only really strong use case I see for VR is porn, and I think understanding why helps get us deeper into the theory of peak experience. The basic deal, I suspect, is that porn is a subcategory of virtual experience where higher fidelity is genuinely desirable, pretty much always. Compare this to, say, the virtual experience of being a knight. I don’t want the actual experience of a stifling, heavy, multi-layer suit of armor. I don’t want the actual experience of sleeping in the woods unshowered for weeks at a time. I certainly don’t want the actual experience of, say, being stabbed or beheaded. I have not had the privilege, but my suspicion is people who do use VR porn, who I understand are a majority of all VR users period, are there to enjoy a brief high fidelity fantasy. They aren’t looking to be emotionally moved, and to the extent they’re looking for escapism, they don’t want to do it for hours or days at a time. So, porn is like the airplane described above - there are clear parameters and when their scores go higher the experience improves. You know what you want, and when you get more of it that’s better. My guess is that the number of experiences that are porn or airplane-like is fairly narrow. Food is a good example of a clearly non-linear relationship. If you cook a lot, you know that there is always this strong temptation to take an amazing ingredient and max it out. Usually this doesn’t work. Cardamom is delicious, but if you use a ton of it in a pie, it becomes bitter. Olives on pizza are great, but if you overload it you get wet greasy pizza goo. The peak experience doesn’t involve blasting all parameters - it involved getting the right balance. Now, here’s what really interests me. In the case of VR gaming vs. traditional gaming, my suspicion is VR will always be marginal. It’ll be kind of like paintball - there will be ultra-enthusiasts who are super into it, and people who go through phases of doing it a TON, but most of us will see it as a neat experience that we do every once in a while. This is a good thing - humans have recognized what the peak experience was (couch, beer, game) and decided to stick with it. This was not a top-down plan - it’s just that there’s nothing pushing us to switch to a high-tech solution and so we happily have chosen not to. There are cases where this is not true. Or, anyway, not true as far as I can tell. Consider longform letter writing, like people used to do on paper. To be nerdy about it, this form of writing scores high on a lot of parameters I value: writing is very expressive when you use a pen; it’s very intimate; it’s private and you won’t be judged; it’s a long form, so you can be expansive; you have room to qualify your meaning so that you can say things that might be impossible to say in the shy world of face to face contact or the rapid-feedback world of social media. The physical and temporal separation from the receiver gives the thing a savor that even the equivalent sort of email can’t match. The letter goes in the mailbox and you know you won’t hear for a long time. No hovering over the keyboard or looking at a screen. And because you’re not looking someone in the eye or anticipating their instant response, it’s strangely easier to be honest, even sentimental. Plus the fringe benefits: you leave behind correspondence that’s thoughtful and meaningful and made more personal by the use of actual handwriting. Something that maybe descendants of yours will one day read. You also improve as a writer, and as a thinker, because you have to formulate not just short statements, but full cohesive notions. We’ve largely given this up. I have lately started writing long form emails to people, and sometimes even getting replies. With a few people, this has resulted in delightful and ongoing conversations that are unlike anything I could get browsing reddit or twitter or what have you. This was something I had to start doing as a conscious decision and it’s been incredibly rewarding. This leads to an excellent question: what the hell is wrong with me? Why is it that I know what the peak video game experience is, despite not playing many video games, yet I had to get cerebral to identify the peak experience of communication with friends. I think there are three things wrong with me, and likely with you too: first, the speed of email is just pragmatically useful for work. We all appreciate that person who responds to your email in 3 minutes, night and day. Not just because it’s handy - it means projects get done faster, and the world works more efficiently. Conceded - on the parameter of efficiency, email, or email-like messaging systems, win. Second, and related, email and social media offer the chance of instant feedback. Truth be told, most of us would choose rapid reactions positive or negative over the charming experience of just waiting. Note that this sets up email vs. letters as different from couch-sitting vs VR, because videogaming is a pure act of luxury. There’s no reason to ever diverge from the peak experience because efficiency and feedback from friends are not the goal. Third, I’m tied in with you people. If YOU don’t write letters, I have no one to write to, nor to hear back from. I’m in this ecosystem and the habitat is gone. A similar example, I suspect, is singing. People used to sing at home and play instruments for each other. In Darwin’s papers, somewhere he does a cost-benefit analysis of whether to get married, and one of his notes in the plus column is music. To be married was to have music in the mid 19th century. Most exotically to me, men used to gather in pubs to sing together - not as a special thing or a singer’s meetup or an affectation. There were whole books of ballads and such just so you could sing together. There’s an old aviators’ song that goes back to World War I, about a dying pilot, and which would’ve been sung by airmen in bars. I found a version of it online (https://www.musicanet.org/robokopp/usa/pooravia.htm). Here’s my favorite portion: "Take the magneto out of my stomach, And the butterfly valve off my neck, Extract from my liver the crankshaft, There are lots of good parts in this wreck. "Take the manifold out of my larynx, And the cylinders out of my brain, Take the piston rods out of my kidneys, And assemble the engine again. I love this verse. It’s obscure now, but for me it does everything. It’s a little silly, and you can imagine tipsy pilots singing it in a beer-hall. But it hits two serious notes - one about putting self before others and one about continuing to fight at all costs, both of which I find stirring. Again, this seems to me something like the peak experience of song. No in our imaginary pub sings as well as Celine Dion. You’re lucky if there’s music of any kind, and you can be sure it won’t be hooked to a speaker. But in doing the thing that music does - of unifying the group while moving the individuals - it’s hard to imagine better. Somewhere in his essay collection, Once There Was a War, Steinbeck wrote about how in World War I, the song of the war became the almost-nonsensical Australian ballad Waltzing Matilda, but that World War II hadn’t produced anything like that. When I first read that, I felt foreboding for Steinbeck - from his vantage in the 1940s, he didn’t know he’d already entered the era of mass media dominance. The songs of that war would be from people like George Formby or the Andrews Sisters or Marlene Dietrich. Top down, not bottom up, and I think in a way that was not bad, but which was lesser than the peak experience. Again, it’s clear why you’d move on from the peak experience. Once you can have the Andrews Sisters, how much do you really wanna hear drunk Dave shouting in the pub about crankshafts? Even if you do, it’s so easy to just play a record, rather than having to make your own music. Speaking for myself, as much as I love these old songs, I think it’d feel like it was an affectation. And, again, the habitat for it is gone. With both email and with singing, and I suspect with many things besides, something like perceived quality on one or two parameters moved people from the peak experience to a lesser experience. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately - the other day I enjoyed an essay by Ryan North, where he lamented how in the early Internet you could go whole weeks having only positive experiences on the Internet. Anyone who was around back then likely remembers the feeling. I don’t want to argue that the early 2000s were the peak experience on the Internet - I don’t think they were, mostly because no really knew what they were doing yet. I also worry I’m at the extremely middle-aged risk of imagining my early 20s were the best time on Earth. But, I don’t in fact feel this way - no in my early life wrote letters, and I’ve had to learn it myself. I came around to it due to the discovery that I love epistolary writing collections. TH White and PG Wodehouse are especial favorites, but letter-writing in general was once a great genre of book writing, now mostly gone. I have no nostalgia for it, because I wasn’t around - but I do wish it were still with us. In terms of my own reaction to genuinely sharing Ryan’s feeling that the modern algorithmic and centralized Internet really is worse in many ways than it was in the past, I think it’s more productive to look at individual parts of modern Internet life and see where, in particular, they have fallen short of the peak experience. Those are places where, at least in your own life, you can make repairs. That is in part why I’m doing these blogs. I’ve found that for me, a genuine peak life experience is a good essay by an author I like. Unlike on social media, I find when I read an essayist who’s skilled, I don’t obsess over whether they’re right or wrong. Rather, I enjoy the words and let them shape me. I enjoy inhabiting someone else’s brain for a little while before returning to mine. I don’t suspect I’ve given you a peak experience here, but if you did read this, and it gave you a way of imagining the world that hadn’t occurred to you, or simply had a few clever phrases, you probably had a more genuine, more enjoyable experience than most of the communication you do. If so, consider asking yourself why you don’t do it more often. Zach


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acdha
4 days ago
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Plus ça change!

“A bunch of you mutants who use RSS noted that it was having weird formatting issues. I've deformatted today's blog before posting.”
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brennen
3 days ago
Howdy, fellow mutants.
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vitormazzi
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Brasil
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astranoir
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Great, thoughtful blog post
brennen
7 days ago
Yeah, I'm really enjoying these.

On the Dangers of Cryptocurrencies and the Uselessness of Blockchain

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Earlier this month, I and others wrote a letter to Congress, basically saying that cryptocurrencies are an complete and total disaster, and urging them to regulate the space. Nothing in that letter is out of the ordinary, and is in line with what I wrote about blockchain in 2019. In response, Matthew Green has written—not really a rebuttal—but a “a general response to some of the more common spurious objections…people make to public blockchain systems.” In it, he makes several broad points:

  1. Yes, current proof-of-work blockchains like bitcoin are terrible for the environment. But there are other modes like proof-of-stake that are not.
  2. Yes, a blockchain is an immutable ledger making it impossible to undo specific transactions. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be some governance system on top of the blockchain that enables reversals.
  3. Yes, bitcoin doesn’t scale and the fees are too high. But that’s nothing inherent in blockchain technology—that’s just a bunch of bad design choices bitcoin made.
  4. Blockchain systems can have a little or a lot of privacy, depending on how they are designed and implemented.

There’s nothing on that list that I disagree with. (We can argue about whether proof-of-stake is actually an improvement. I am skeptical of systems that enshrine a “they who have the gold make the rules” system of governance. And to the extent any of those scaling solutions work, they undo the decentralization blockchain claims to have.) But I also think that these defenses largely miss the point. To me, the problem isn’t that blockchain systems can be made slightly less awful than they are today. The problem is that they don’t do anything their proponents claim they do. In some very important ways, they’re not secure. They doesn’t replace trust with code; in fact, in many ways they are far less trustworthy than non-blockchain systems. They’re not decentralized, and their inevitable centralization is harmful because it’s largely emergent and ill-defined. They still have trusted intermediaries, often with more power and less oversight than non-blockchain systems. They still require governance. They still require regulation. (These things are what I wrote about here.) The problem with blockchain is that it’s not an improvement to any system—and often makes things worse.

In our letter, we write: “By its very design, blockchain technology is poorly suited for just about every purpose currently touted as a present or potential source of public benefit. From its inception, this technology has been a solution in search of a problem and has now latched onto concepts such as financial inclusion and data transparency to justify its existence, despite far better solutions to these issues already in use. Despite more than thirteen years of development, it has severe limitations and design flaws that preclude almost all applications that deal with public customer data and regulated financial transactions and are not an improvement on existing non-blockchain solutions.”

Green responds: “‘Public blockchain’ technology enables many stupid things: today’s cryptocurrency schemes can be venal, corrupt, overpromised. But the core technology is absolutely not useless. In fact, I think there are some pretty exciting things happening in the field, even if most of them are further away from reality than their boosters would admit.” I have yet to see one. More specifically, I can’t find a blockchain application whose value has anything to do with the blockchain part, that wouldn’t be made safer, more secure, more reliable, and just plain better by removing the blockchain part. I postulate that no one has ever said “Here is a problem that I have. Oh look, blockchain is a good solution.” In every case, the order has been: “I have a blockchain. Oh look, there is a problem I can apply it to.” And in no cases does it actually help.

Someone, please show me an application where blockchain is essential. That is, a problem that could not have been solved without blockchain that can now be solved with it. (And “ransomware couldn’t exist because criminals are blocked from using the conventional financial networks, and cash payments aren’t feasible” does not count.)

For example, Green complains that “credit card merchant fees are similar, or have actually risen in the United States since the 1990s.” This is true, but has little to do with technological inefficiencies or existing trust relationships in the industry. It’s because pretty much everyone who can and is paying attention gets 1% back on their purchases: in cash, frequent flier miles, or other affinity points. Green is right about how unfair this is. It’s a regressive subsidy, “since these fees are baked into the cost of most retail goods and thus fall heavily on the working poor (who pay them even if they use cash).” But that has nothing to do with the lack of blockchain, and solving it isn’t helped by adding a blockchain. It’s a regulatory problem; with a few exceptions, credit card companies have successfully pressured merchants into charging the same prices, whether someone pays in cash or with a credit card. Peer-to-peer payment systems like PayPal, Venmo, MPesa, and AliPay all get around those high transaction fees, and none of them use blockchain.

This is my basic argument: blockchain does nothing to solve any existing problem with financial (or other) systems. Those problems are inherently economic and political, and have nothing to do with technology. And, more importantly, technology can’t solve economic and political problems. Which is good, because adding blockchain causes a whole slew of new problems and makes all of these systems much, much worse.

Green writes: “I have no problem with the idea of legislators (intelligently) passing laws to regulate cryptocurrency. Indeed, given the level of insanity and the number of outright scams that are happening in this area, it’s pretty obvious that our current regulatory framework is not up to the task.” But when you remove the insanity and the scams, what’s left?

EDITED TO ADD: Nicholas Weaver is also adamant about this. David Rosenthal is good, too.

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bronzehedwick
8 days ago
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Crypto is one of the rare cases where if we burn it to the ground it will help our species survive.
Jersey City, NJ
acdha
8 days ago
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Green's “rebuttal” was disappointingly weak — to be honest, I read it expecting the end to be that he'd picked up some lucrative consulting work from a cryptocurrency company.
Washington, DC
sirshannon
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pdp68
8 days ago
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"This is my basic argument: blockchain does nothing to solve any existing problem with financial (or other) systems. Those problems are inherently economic and political, and have nothing to do with technology. And, more importantly, technology can’t solve economic and political problems. Which is good, because adding blockchain causes a whole slew of new problems and makes all of these systems much, much worse."
Belgium
chrismo
8 days ago
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#tech
ReadLots
8 days ago
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If we can just move all of the fraud into the blockchain, maybe then it can have purpose - keeping the scammers busy in crypto and leaving us outside of it alone.
GaryBIshop
9 days ago
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Well said!

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Solved

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There's another philosophical problem solved. This is easy.


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christophersw
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This is the answer I should have given on my Ethics final...
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Astronomer Hotline

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Employment statistics have to correct for the fact that the Weird Bug Hotline hires on a bunch of extra temporary staff every 17 years.
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Foreword

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I would like to thank patreon typo squad for finding several errors with my fellatio book.


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jlvanderzwan
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Oh la la!

“Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting,” Ten Years On

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John Scalzi

Ten years ago this week I thought I would write a piece to offer a useful metaphor for straight white male privilege without using the word “privilege,” because when you use the word “privilege,” straight white men freak out, like, I said then, “vampires being fed a garlic tart.” Since I play video games, I wrote the piece using them as a metaphor. And thus “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” was born and posted.

And blew up: First here on Whatever, where it became the most-visited single post in the history of the site (more than 1.2 million visits to date), and then when it was posted on video gaming site Kotaku, where I suspect it was visited a multiple number of times more than it was visited here, because Kotaku has more visitors generally, and because the piece was heavily promoted and linked there. 

The piece received both praise and condemnation, in what felt like almost equal amounts (it wasn’t; it’s just the complainers were very loud, as they often are). To this day the piece is still referred and linked to, taught in schools and universities, and “living on the lowest difficulty setting” is used as a shorthand for the straight white male experience, including by people who don’t know where the phrase had come from.

(I will note here, as I often do when discussing this piece, that my own use of the metaphor was an expansion on a similar metaphor that writer Luke McKinney used in a piece on Cracked.com, when he noted that “straight male” was the lowest difficulty setting in sexuality. Always credit sources and inspirations, folks!)

In the ten years since I’ve written the piece, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, the response to it, and whether the metaphor still applies. And so for this anniversary, here are some further thoughts on the matter.

1. First off: Was the piece successful? In retrospect, I think it largely was. One measure of its success, as noted above, is its persistence; it’s still read and talked about and taught and used. Anecdotally, I have hundreds of emails from people who used it to explain privilege to others and/or had it used to explain privilege to them, and who say that it did what it was meant to do: Get through the already-erected defenses against the word “privilege” and convey the concept in an interesting and novel manner. So: Hooray for that. It is always good to be useful.

2. That said, Upton Sinclair once wrote that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” In almost exactly the same manner, it is difficult to get a straight white man to acknowledge his privileges when his self-image depends on him not doing so. Which is to say there is a very large number of straight white men who absolutely do not wish to acknowledge just how thoroughly and deeply their privileges are systemically embedded into day-to-day life. A fair number of this sort of dude read the piece (or more perhaps more accurately, read the headline, since a lot of their specific complaints about the piece were in fact addressed in the piece itself) and refused to entertain the notion there might be something to it. Which is their privilege (heh), but doesn’t make them right.

But, I mean, as a straight white dude, I totally get it! I also work hard and make an effort to get by, and in my life not all the breaks have gone my way. I too have suffered disappointment and failure and exclusion and difficulty. In the context of a life where people who are not straight white men are perhaps not in your day-to-day world view, except as abstractions mediated by television or radio or web sites, one’s own struggles loom large. It’s harder to conceive of, or sympathize with, the idea that one’s own struggles and disappointments are resting atop of a pile of systemic privilege — not in the least because that implicitly seems to suggest that if you can still have troubles even with those many systemic advantages, you might be bad at this game called life.

But here’s the thing about that. One, just because you can’t or won’t see the systemic advantages you have, it doesn’t mean you don’t still have them, relative to others. Two, it’s a reflection of how immensely fucked up the system is that even with all those systemic advantages, lots of straight white men feel like they’re just treading water. Yes! It’s not just you! This game of life is difficult! Like Elden Ring with a laggy wireless mouse and a five-year-old graphics card! And yet, you are indeed still playing life on the lowest difficulty setting! 

Maybe rather than refusing to accept that other people are playing on higher difficulty settings, one should ask who the hell decided to make the game so difficult for everyone right out of the box (hint: they’re largely in the same demographic as straight white men), and how that might be changed. But of course it’s simply just easy to deny that anyone else might have a more challenging life experience than you have, systemically speaking. 

3. Speaking of “easy,” one of the problems that the piece had is that when I wrote the phrase “lowest difficulty,” lots of people translated that to “easy.” The two concepts are not the same, and the difference between the two is real and significant. Which is, mind you, why I used the phrase “lowest difficulty” and not “easy.” But if you intentionally or unintentionally equate the two, then clearly there’s an issue to be had with the piece. I do suspect a number of dudes intentionally equated the two, even when it was made clear (by me, and others) they were not the same. I can’t do much for those dudes, then or now.

4. When I wrote the piece, some folks chimed in to say that other factors deserved to be part of a “lowest difficulty setting,” with “wealth” being primary among them. At the time I said I didn’t think wealth should have been; it’s a stat in my formulation — hugely influential, but not an inherent feature of identity like being white, or straight, or male. This got a lot of pushback, in no small part because (and relating to point two above) I think a lot of straight white dudes believed that if wealth was in there, it would somehow swamp the privileges that being white and straight and male provide, and that would mean that everyone else’s difficulty setting was no more difficult than their own.

It’s ten years on now, and I continue to call bullshit on this. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor and I’ve been in the middle, and in all of those economic states I still had and have systemic advantages that came with being white and straight and male. Yes, being wealthy does make life less difficult! But on the other hand being wealthy (and an Oscar winner) didn’t keep Forest Whitaker from being frisked in a bodega for alleged shoplifting, whereas I have never once been asked to empty my pockets at a store, even when (as a kid, and poor as hell) I was actually shoplifting. This is an anecdotal observation! Also, systemically, wealth insulates people who are not straight and white and male less than it does those who are. Which means, to me, I put it in the right place in my formulation.

5. What would I add into the inherent formulation ten years on? I would add “cis” to “straight” and “white” and “male.” One, because I understand the concept better than than I did in 2012 and how it works within the matrix of privilege, and two, in the last decade, more of the people I know and like and love have come out as being outside of standard-issue cis-ness (or were already outside of it when I met them during this period), and I’ve seen directly how the world works on and with them. 

So, yes: Were I writing that piece for the first time in 2022, I would have written “Cis Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.” 

6. Ten years of time has not mitigated the observation about who is on the Lowest Difficulty Setting, especially here in the United States. Indeed, if anything, 2022 in the US has been about (mostly) straight white men nerfing the fuck out of everyone else in the land in order to maintain their own systemic advantages. Oh, you’re not white? Let’s pass laws to make sure an accurate picture of your historical treatment is punted out of schools and libraries, and the excuse we’ll give is that learning these things would be mean to white kids. You’re LGBTQ+? Let’s pass laws so that a teacher even mentioning you exist could get them fired. Trans? Let’s take away your rights for gender-affirming medical treatment. Have functional ovaries? We’re planning to let your rapist have more say in what happens to your body than you! Have a blessed day!

And of course hashtag not all straight white men, but on the other hand let’s not pretend we don’t know who is largely responsible for this bullshit. The Republican party of the United States is overwhelmingly straight, overwhelmingly white, and substantially male, and here in 2022 it is also an unabashedly white supremacist political party, an authoritarian party and a patriarchal party: mainstream GOP politicians talk openly about the unspeakably racist and anti-Semitic “Great Replacement Theory,” and about sending people who have abortions to prison, and are actively making it more difficult for minorities to vote. It’s largely assumed that once the conservative supermajority of the Supreme Court (very likely as of this writing) throws out Roe v. Wade, it’ll go after Obergefell (same-sex marriage) as soon as a challenge gets to them, and then possibly Griswold (contraception) and Loving (mixed-race marriage) after that. Because, after all, why stop at Roe when you can roll civil rights back to the 1950s at least?

What makes this especially and terribly ironic is that when game designers nerf characters, they’re usually doing it to bring balance to the game — to put all the characters on something closer to an even playing field. What’s happening here in 2022 isn’t about evening up the playing field. It’s to keep the playing field as uneven as possible, for as long as possible, for the benefit of a particular group of people who already has most of the advantages. 2022 is straight white men employing code injection to change the rules of the game, while it’s in process, to make it more difficult for everyone else. 

So yes, ten years on, the Lowest Difficulty Setting still applies. It’s as relevant as ever. And I’m sure, even now, a bunch of straight white men will still maintain it’s still not accurate. As they would have been in 2012, they’re entirely wrong about that. 

And what a privilege that is: To be completely wrong, and yet suffer no consequences for it. 

— JS

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samuel
45 days ago
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Both this essay and the one it’s referencing should be required reading. I use this metaphor a whole lot.
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