On “The Swapper”, an Atmospheric Puzzle-Platformer, and the Universe, Maybe?

Before we begin, a brief note or two:

1. I am in no manner at all an expert on theoretical physics, nor do I claim to even fully understand my topics. My purpose of this brief piece was nothing more than to occupy an evening with my fingers hammering away at my keyboard. Were the purpose to be more than that, I would have sought to research the topic further than I have. Thus, any critiques to my potential misinterpretation or faulty recollection of notions about zero-point energy and the like are welcome and indeed encouraged. Considering the purpose of this piece, I did not feel it worth the time to delve back into such material. Point out the faults and I will be made wiser from it.

2. I have just this year discovered the immense pleasure that awaits within a small, humble genre of video games: the puzzle-platformer. In such games, the gameplay is two-dimensional yet uninhibited by this aspect. The joy of the game is not manifested by exploring vast digital renditions of worlds in three dimensions, but rather by pushing one’s mind to solve conundrums. To be poignantly noted, the lack of three-dimensional movement does not detract from the beauty that these games can have the potential to display.

On a visual level, some of the most beautiful worlds I’ve ever explored have been placed before my eyes while playing these games, and the range is starkly brilliant. Limbo’s haunting aesthetic is entirely composed of blacks, whites, and grays. Then there are games like Braid which send you through a world of crisp colors and environments that are reminiscent of viewing the world through a psychedelic-tinted mindset. I recommend with a strong conviction that anyone who considers oneself to enjoy the flexing of mental muscles in combination with powerful imagery ought to investigate this genre further.

Let us begin.

As for the game that brings up the topic of this piece, we have The Swapper. In brief, the premise of the gameplay consists of using a device to clone yourself and to swap your “soul” or mentality from one clone to another. You use this ability to work through a spaceship (cleverly named Theseus; to be noted, I have Noam Chomsky to thank for the knowledge of exactly why this name is so adequate), solving puzzles and uncovering mysteries along the way. Do not worry, I will not provide any spoilers. I would rather one go on to play the game and discover the details for oneself.

Rather, I want to discuss some issues that the game raises about the nature of consciousness. Now, the difficult part of this is that I do not have a set view on what consciousness is. I tend to lean toward a materialistic view in that I do not think there to be anything separate from our bodies that is the source of our consciousness.

This does not mean I believe only in the material and neglect the possibility of what we humans have the tradition to refer to, sophomorically, as spiritual. I think the two sides are ultimately inseparable and to polarize them is to misinterpret the nature of what we consider reality and the universe. To begin with I will offer a few informative paragraphs regarding a theory on the existence of a zero-point energy field.

Contrary to what Syndrome of the Disney-Pixar film The Incredibles would lead you to believe, the common theory of zero-point energy (from what I have gathered using my rather uninformed brain) is not some cool blue light shot from a wrist gadget that freezes superheroes long enough for villainous monologues. Rather, at least according to the author of “The God Theory: Universes, Zero-Point Fields, And What’s Behind It All”, Dr. Bernard Haisch, zero-point energy is something akin to an underlying light/energy that holds together all that we perceive as matter. To be noted is that I disagree with his final conclusion in which he avers that the historical figure of Yeshua ben Yosef, commonly referred to by the appellation of Jesus, as some divine manifestation of this physical phenomenon (though I do not fully discredit it either), but he alludes that it has a form of intelligence that is, most importantly, nonspecific and not individualized. Therefore, the reason behind the existence of “matter” in the first place is so that this unspecialized energy becomes specialized matter, ultimately to the point where it is so specialized that it has the ability to perceive not only itself, but to know that it is indeed doing so by means of self-reflection, as has been marginally achieved by modern homo sapiens.

Our soul then is our matter, and (to belabor the point) vice-versa. All matter, as I presume, must be comprised of the same initial “material,” differentiating only by means of forming itself in various ways with no specific purpose in mind. When one variation of differentiation appears to work and is stable, it sticks or remains (for drastically varied periods of time) simply because it has manifested a form that is coherent with that which is around it according to its level (e.g. the six known varieties of quarks, atoms, amino acids, organisms). The way I view this is sort of as a survival of the fittest, but applied to the manifestations of zero-point energy or whatever the base “material” is. The forms that happen to be stable will remain that way long enough to construct further matter, which will in turn remain stable long enough to construct further complexities of matter until you are presented with entire complex systems such as the human nervous system. I’m assuming that this premier appearance of stable and non-stable manifestations of zero-point energy must have occurred within the first miniscule moments of the big bang (time being relevant only once matter exists in a form other than zero-point energy, which is essentially light and therefore not affected by the dimension which we denote as time).

Happening before gravity had a chance to assimilate in such a manner as to have the potency to slow the flow of time, there was plenty of “time” during which matter had chances to evolve. Due to existence being comprised almost entirely of miniscule elements, the relativity of time must have been almost negligible.

For example, were an entity to orbit a heavenly being (e.g. planet or black hole) that exhibited a massive pull of gravity, time would flow slower for said entity than it would for individuals nearer an object of a lesser gravitational force. A greater gravitational pull is associated with a greater level of mass.

Then, perhaps only once objects began to congregate in an amount that could be considered mass, and began to decay in degrees back toward their original state, did time begin. Change is time. Thus, without change there is no time. In terms of the big bang, there was nothing that came before it because there was no matter to decay. If this was so then there would be no time. If things existed in a non-changeable state then there would be no passage of time. Things would be as they were, not as the would become. Only once the “becoming” part began would time be relevant or even existent.

The big bang was nothing more than, and could have then been nothing more than the expansion of the universe after having begun to congregate in a manner that would ultimately result in decay. But, in doing so, it pushed itself ever further and further apart. For to be something in a state of change is to be separate from that which is not in a state of decay.

Individuals speculate that a majority of reality is nothing but empty space. That is, from what I gather, zero-point energy that has yet to coalesce into something that exists in space-time. That which has become entwined in the relative being of space-time is ultimately doomed to either run out of its energy, or dissolve into the natural state of pure entropy that zero-point energy demands.

I also recall reading somewhere that some theories point to matter being nothing more than energy vibrating at different wavelengths. The difference between being in a state which we denote matter and one which we denote as being energy is nothing more than vibrations and frequencies. I apologize for this digression.

Now let us return to the issue brought forward by The Swapper and the actual Swapper device that is featured in the game. The device allows the player to not only create clones of oneself in an instant, but to also swap control between the clones. So, what I have theorized is that the Swapper device has the puissant ability to alter the manifestations of zero-point energy around it. The creation of the clone is the tearing out of nonexistence, a being that is identical to the user in terms of chemical construction.

The actual swapping of identities is slightly more difficult to construct in a materialistic manner. I propose that again the device is compelling non-individualized zero-point energy to individualize. However, the materialized clone is not a stable entity as it is not the product of nature in the same way that the original user is, by being constructed by the time-consuming process of natural selection from the time of the Big Bang. This is why when a clone “dies” it does not take long to dematerialize back into nothingness, as it is inherently unstable; it simply ceases to exist. The hidden power of the Swapper device though is that it can transfer stability of existence from one entity to another (from the original user to the clone). The clone then becomes the conscious and stable original and what was once the original is now left in a state of instability as a clone.

So, a soul is Swapped not so much as it is an inherent existential stability that is transferred from the original to the clone. Could a device like this actually be created? I highly doubt so, or it would at least take centuries of studies on energy and physics. Does a game exist now that can cause one to ponder the nature of consciousness and what it means to be one’s own self? Yes. It is called The Swapper. Go play it.

On Fawkes and the 5th of November

It’s that time of the year again, the fifth day of November. The day on which Facebook newsfeeds are saturated with “Remember, remember the 5th of November” and protesters can be seen doing their protesting with faces concealed beneath Guy Fawkes masks.

Our dear Mr. Fawkes, champion of the underprivileged and downtrodden, no? The elected symbol of anarchists, pseudo-revolutionaries, and the hacker group known as Anonymous. On this day, individuals seem keen on displaying just how in they are with progressive culture through demonstrations that they are fans of Fawkes.

From what I have gathered, individuals and groups alike are electing this man’s image as a representation of their cause. But, the historical Guy Fawkes (or Guido Fawkes) was much less concerned with destroying all corrupt edifices, and more concerned with destroying the Protestant-focused authorities in England to make way for the implementation of a rule in which authority was to be held by those with Catholic sympathies. Had the Gunpowder plot succeeded, the end result would not have been the end of tyrannical oppression, but rather the shifting of power from one corrupt group to another group that has an extensive history of corruption, violence, and perversion. The terms ‘Catholic Priest’ and ‘child molester’ seem to be nearly synonymous in the minds of many individuals. Though I do not agree with making this correlation, there have been multitudes of cases in which it has been demonstrated to be applicable to various priests (but so too have there been cases where individuals of any given profession have been shown to be pedophiliacs, the priests just get the most press coverage; I digress).

Perhaps what we have to blame for this misinterpretation of history is the graphic novel, and subsequent film, V for Vendetta. Guy Fawkes is mentioned briefly and only as a means for the storytellers to establish his image as one that is to be associated with a drive to end tyranny. In the film, the Catholic church is portrayed in a negative light by the very individual who roams the streets in a Guy Fawkes mask. Perhaps he was doing this out of irony and the purpose was lost on me.

Now each year, people flood the social network world with snippets of “Remember, remember the 5th of November” in order to get nods from fellow misled Guy Fawkesian supporters (those who accept the history portrayed in V for Vendetta rather than investigate for themselves). Also, for a group of people who seem to want to protest peacefully (a.k.a. not blowing up and murdering plenty of people) I find the use of the Fawkes image to again be a disconnect. It is just as incompatible as those who use the image of Jesus to violently attempt to enact change (the Crusades?). Fawkes sought his goals through attempted violence and the ending of other human lives. Groups such as Anonymous seem much less into the whole ‘let us blow shit up’ than the ‘let us do some computer hacking shit wherein no one loses limbs’.

I understand that the Guy Fawkes image means something different now, but with its origins in mind, I do not see how this came to be so. Were one to strut about peacefully in a Guy Fawkes mask four hundred years ago, everyone would be confused. If you supported Guy Fawkes, you supported killing the Protestants in order to get some good old Catholics up on that throne, or parliament chair, or whatever those weird British government people sit on when doing their government stuff. Now, a Guy Fawkes mask seems to mean ‘Yeah, I got stoned the other day and watched V for Vendetta. I’m not a fan of all that government shit but I think this mask looks cool, so I’ll wear it, walk around telling everyone to remember the 5th of November because Hugo Weaving was doing it. Then I’ll go home and play some Call of Duty.”

Ok, I know this is a horribly generalized case, but the point is: fuck Guy Fawkes. He sounds like he was a douche, seriously.

On Autonomy and Why Grandeur Ought to Enhance It

I felt the need to disclose my ideas on this topic after reading through an article posted by one of my acquaintances on the social website Facebook. The article in question concerned Brittany Maynard, a young woman who elected to utilize physician-assisted suicide rather than wither away due to her having an inoperable brain tumor. The author of the article, John Piper, seemed against her choice to do this, citing her lack of autonomy and putting forth claims that one’s life does not belong to oneself but rather to the Christian deities.

This mentality comes as no surprise, having, for a majority of my years, been around individuals who operate by this manner of thought. The Christian self-loathing proclivity is one of their more well-known tenets after all. Now, normally I am content to remain silent, to observe and qualify on my own without serving up my own counter-opinion on such issues. However, as I read through the article, one phrase seemed to be in such utter opposition to my own views that I have subjugated myself to a response.

The phrase in question appears toward the end of the article:

“For there is one thing that standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon does not do for you: It does not enhance your sense of autonomy. It makes you feel small and vulnerable in the presence of greatness and majesty.”

Why do we allow ourselves to feel small and vulnerable in the presence of greatness and majesty? Should not the response be the opposite? Without your mind to observe it, the Grand Canyon is nothing but another gorge, nothing more than a chaotic array of rock formations formed over a period of countless years. Without your ability to qualify your perception of them, the stars, mountains, and planets are nothing more than combustive gasses, bumps on the earth, and compressed matter respectively.

A human mind is what gives these phenomena beauty. Your mind. Without your mind, there is no beauty, no method to be impressed. Admitting something is grand ought not to coincide with a shrinking feeling of the self or the thought that one is insignificant amidst such immense grandeur, but rather an exaltation of the self ought to be felt. Without your presence, events would carry on as they always have. But, by observing and recognizing the qualities in something that contain what your mental construction of beauty is, you are simply serving your own mind. Just because events are unfolding on a massive scale does not imbue them with intrinsic beauty or greatness. The mechanisms of the human mind are their source of whatever qualities we might attribute to such events and objects.

The only semblance to humility that I would accept in such a situation as observing the structures of the Grand Canyon is the realization that these events and objects span across years greater than your own, but in your short years as an organism you observed and qualified said objects, appreciated what your mind viewed them as, and carried on to perceive more objects all as a means of self-exaltation. The universe may be impressive, but it is only so due to your mind perceiving it as thus. Without your mind to orchestrate it into a perception of beauty, it remains unqualified entropy.

Rather than detracting from your sense of autonomy as Piper would have it, grandeur ought to enhance your autonomy. It ought to realize the thought that though all these events and objects exist, they meant nothing and had no value until you came along to perceive them as thus. The Grand Canyon has no will of its own to be beautiful. Only through your autonomous mind perceiving it to be so does it attain any value. One’s autonomy is what brings value to things both organic and non-organic, and it is not something to be discarded or undervalued on a whim.

It is not the will of the Grand Canyon that makes it Grand, but your own will.

Should you want to read the article that stemmed this response: click here.

Words, Phrases, and Objects that Irk Me, Part 3

Instagram posts, Snapchats, Facebook posts, etc. that are of concerts recorded upon a cell phone or other impotent recording device. We get it: you are at a concert, having fun, and you want to let everyone else know that you are indeed having fun. The only issue with this is that iPhones and what-the-hell-other-smartphones that be out there are not efficient (even in the slightest) for recording the decibel levels of noise that accompany concerts and other shows.

It sounds like complete and utter shit. Painful shit. What I see in the video are people (perhaps) making music. What I hear is something that reminds me of the sound that my computer made when I tried to connect to the internet as a child. Please do not make me relieve those dark ages; those sounds still linger somewhere in my subconscious, waiting to spring upon me in my dreams.

I have good friends who have done this horrible thing to me, but I can forgive them because of their redeeming qualities…for now. If ever a stranger forced upon me a cell-phone-recorded concert video, may a pox be upon them and their house. And I will personally summon any and all of the Great Old Ones to consume them, even if it means the end of all that we know.

On Romance and Relationships

History has taught us that humankind has always had a penchant for forming romantic relationships within the species. Somewhere along the line, we allowed superstition and tradition to dictate that these relationships were something more than a basis for biological reproduction, expecting them to weather the years and produce a lifetime of fidelity. We ignore our psychology and do our best to convince ourselves of the truth in our traditions, that one man and one woman are meant to become each others’ sole partner once they exchange a series of linguistic poetry, an amalgam of auditory frequencies meant to convey promises.

No account is taken of the breadth of change that will occur in each of the two individuals’ psychology, manifesting itself as a change in personality and behavioral patterns. Your alleged lifelong mate is not the same person that they were ten years ago, both physiologically and psychologically. If said mate’s personality has not expressed any dynamic evolution, congratulations, you have successfully mated with a impotent and dull individual whose static nature will allow for you to have psychological comfort due to nothing in their behavioral patterns coming as a surprise. Predictable. Nice and comfortable. You will probably die in your sleep in a house that you will have lived in for your entire life.

For the rest of the world, we are constantly changing in terms of who we are. Sure, some habits and views will remain mostly unchanged, but (if you are the type of person who craves novelty and exhibits a critical mindset) odds are the old ways will always be tossed out for something else. The whole concept of someone “finding” themselves is a bit of a snipe hunt. Sure, you will begin to recognize more and more of the patterns you tend to have, but the constant mental evolution can never be fully observed. By the time you realize something, it may have already changed and progressed, or died.

Back to this concept of romance though and another major flaw in the popular operating parameters of the normative version of it. It is a game of possession and control. You believe that you have a right to predict your partner’s behavior, and that they have an obligation to not surprise your poor mental state by changing or, god forbid, cheating. How dare something that you own have a will of its own, its own personal vendettas and desires! This behavior is most readily observed in the actions of men.

One can easily imagine a scenario in which a man cheats on his wife, but then becomes infuriated to the point of violence upon his discovery that his wife goes out and proceeds to cheat on him for no reason other than that she too is sexually unsatisfied (or perhaps it is a revenge-fuck). Since he sees her as his property, he assumes that it is okay for him to do whatever he needs, but when she does something to sate her needs in an independent manner, there is hell to pay.

Of course, this is on the polar extreme end of this notion of mine, and such behaviors are likely to be found among those of a patriarchal religion. Does it not make sense that an individual who already needs the mental comfort of religion would also seek an equally immutable comfort in their romantic relationships? When both of these defense mechanisms fail them, the typical reactions ensue: violence, depression, loss of meaning.

Indeed, subtler manifestations of this concept of possession do exist.

Perhaps, as soon as another human debases itself through the submission to a lifelong commitment based on nothing more than an abstract ideal, it loses respect for itself and the other party member as well. A subtle-self hate begins to unfold and one seeks to edify oneself by clinging to the notion that one, at the very least, still has their partner.

Even the very language we use betrays that at its root, romantic relationships (and perhaps even all relationships) are a game of possession. We have a girlfriend, husband, partner, and even friend. Obtaining a relationship with someone is considered a personal achievement. He is my friend. You have a friend. For the more aware, we can make the linguistic switch to terms such as we are friends, we are friends, we are seeing each other. I’m still seeing someone, but it at least implies that they are seeing me as well. Sure, many people do not think highly of linguistic constructivism, but the notion that such an integral part of our conscious experience as our language could have some (at the very least subconscious) influence upon our mentality does seem a valid psychological notion.

Am I against the practice of forming relationships? Only those that are based on errant reasons for forming them and only so long as both parties know that relationships are not meant to be anything more than a ephemerally temporal manner by which we manifest our sex drive, our archaic urge to continue pulling souls out of nonexistence into a world of meat.

As for love: nothing more than the mental power of one’s brain convincing oneself that its drives to escape loneliness and to engage in coitus are something more than a cycling of oxytocin and other assorted cocktails of hormonal chemicals. A defense mechanism against the truth that there is credence to the inescapable dichotomy of me and them.