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reality is broken

Creating a Less Terrible Reality…

Impossible.  Reality is not designed, not designed to make us happy, not designed to promote our well-being, and not designed to accord with current psychological research.  While a video game is designed by 1 to 250 people and played by millions, it relies on a very limited design.  Perhaps the design seems endless, as McGonigal’s description of Halo 2, but it is not.  It cannot go on infinitely because it has set restrictions, for example if I were to create something for the Sporepedia, I could not bring that into my Halo 2 game.  So, this is where McGonigal’s ethics become a problem.  If she thinks anyone who knows how to design a game and use technology can create reality, that seems to suggest that she thinks reality is design-able.  So then, who is currently designing reality?  Is there are group of 300 people writing down algorithms somewhere that determines who I will interact with at work tomorrow?  Reality is composed.  Reality is created every single day but it is not designed.  I cannot think of anyone, except young children and wholly naïve people, who believe life is designed for them.  Think of the old phrase “Life isn’t fair”.  It isn’t meant to be.  Life is not a game, and I see no reason why it should be.  McGonigal seems to believe that life should be for her pleasure, at all times, if only she could create a game to do so.  She does not take pride or happiness in life itself, she needs points and levels to do so.  Why should we all be like that?  I agree, it could be fun.  For about a minute.

Back to ethics.  IF we all decided that reality was really as depressing, trivial, and unfulfilling as McGonigal claims and IF we all decided to anoint certain person to fix it – who would we chose?  What theories would we follow?  What about the human hunger for power and greed?  If we escalate this question to the extreme, I cannot help but envision a future in which competing reality designers engage their masses in a full-scale war.  Perhaps virtual, at best, but more likely traditional blood and violence war.  What would be the agenda of these reality designers?  McGonigal never touches ethics.  She’s invested in positive psychology and would probably design reality according to it.  Am I invested in it?  Not so much.  Maybe you’re not at all, but there you would be, with her at her computer designing your life according to the rather shotty references she makes.

I do not design my reality and you do not design yours.  We are thrown into an already existing world, with billions of other humans interacting with their personal reality.  Somebody may tell me what I need to do at work, but they have not designed it.  Human life is interconnected on a global scale, rather than structured according to algorithms and an epic soundtrack.  None of us can create our reality because we are necessarily interacting with the un-created and un-designed reality of those around us.  All that we can control and design is our reaction to and interaction with the world around us.  All we can do is enjoy the dysfunctional, to adopt McGonigal’s point of view for just a moment, reality that we are handed at birth.  However, reality is not dysfunctional.  Reality simply is what is.  It is perfect in itself, and all we can do is love the life we have, take pride in our work, enjoy the company of a billion other people, and help others as much as possible get through the murkiness of life.



4 thoughts on “Creating a Less Terrible Reality…

  1. No doubt there is a level where what you suggest is undeniable. By definition, reality is what is, even if our ability to know that world is fundamentally limited. However as much as the real is transcendant (given to us), it is also immanent and mutable. Our daily lives are filled with experiences that are designed at some level. Take for example the university that we are all involved in right now. It could be designed differently. What changes would we make? What principles would inform those changes? I’m not sure, but certainly such design projects could be undertaken.

    I am not sure what is so objectionable about positive psychology, though it seems like a number of folks in the class have had negative reactions to it. As I see it, it’s a scientific approach to the philosophical question of eudaimonia, the question of how to live a good and happy life. I agree that McGonigal’s book, as a piece of popular nonfiction, does not adopt the citational apparatus, literature review, or other structures of a more academic approach to these questions. Perhaps that’s what makes this shoddy. However the research is out there to pursue.

    Posted by Alex Reid | May 28, 2013, 4:37 pm
  2. To build more what Professor Reid said, there are designs all around in life. Perhaps it isn’t designed by one person or even 300 people, but it is to some extent designed by many people. Every time you put yourself into some kind of structured society, whether its work, or college, you are putting yourself into a design. So yes, reality isn’t designed, its a collection of designs, designed by millions of people. Everyone has some control over the “design” of their life, however small it may be. You also say that reality has no limits, which isn’t true. There are rules that apply to life, both natural and man made. For example you cannot place a glass full of water on the ceiling, or jump into space. So in that respect video games are just reality on a smaller scale.

    Posted by Ben Tarhan | May 28, 2013, 9:29 pm
    • You have made some great points on how all of our realities are collections of designs. We live in a country that has a large workforce of advertisers, engineers, and psychologists that are constantly in league with companies designing our lives and experiences. Have you ever stood in a checkout line, or used money to pay for goods or services? These are portions of your life that have indeed been designed to create a stable and less chaotic world. Advertisers also help design your perception on what is valuable and coveted with car advertisements, clothing ads, and other commercials. The proof of this design is that if our society was to end and the designers stopped would that much of the things that we hold in our eyes as valuable be truly valuable in a universal sense. i am not sure that acid wash jeans would be valuable without someone designing our perception of them.

      I do agree to a point that everything in our world cannot be enjoyable. It is the lows that really allow us to appreciate the highs. The movie the Matrix stated it best when they talked about the Utopia they designed for the cultivated humans and how they rejected it, they wanted the problems and sadness. Even cake doesn’t taste very good if it is all you ever have to eat (Not to mention the other problems with that idea, let’s say vitamins are laced within the cake).

      Posted by diomazurek | May 29, 2013, 12:16 pm
  3. I did not make my understanding of the ‘creation’ or ‘design’ of reality particularly clear. So to clarify, my reality is not designed by me. My reality is an interaction with both the intentional creations and the non-personally-designed realities of others. So, yes, on many many levels each aspect of my reality is designed by somebody, but they do not have a hold on the design of the entirety of my experience. What I find McGonigal to be suggesting is that the whole (meant to be italicized) of reality can be designed according to game structure. There are billions of segments of reality than certainly can be controlled and designed, as you say UB or my views on acid-wash jeans, but on a whole, it is the interactions between these often highly-designed segments which is reality, and it is unpredictable and those interactions may be predictable but not necessarily designable.

    Posted by emmajani | May 29, 2013, 6:44 pm

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