F I S S I O N M A I L E D
January 10, 2021 2:15 PM Subscribe
In the midst of Twitter and nearly every other social media website banning disgraced President Donald Trump, alongside much of his sycophants (ongoing thread here), there has been a lot of talk about the book 1984. I'd like to highlight a more modern alternative that may be better suited for explaining our current crisis: 2001's Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Specifically, we are going to discuss the topics and theme of a particular conversation that occurs at the end of the game.
What if humanity has lost the qualifications to exercise free will?
Meme: unit of cultural information spread by imitation. The term meme (from the Greek mimema, meaning “imitated”) was introduced in 1976 by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his work The Selfish Gene.A short summary of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty:
In 2007, Solid Snake infiltrates a tanker carrying a new Metal Gear model, RAY. The tanker is attacked by Russian mercenaries, led by Colonel Gurlukovich, his daughter Olga, and Ocelot. Ocelot betrays his allies and scuttles the ship. Upon seeing Snake, Ocelot is possessed by the will of Liquid Snake and escapes with RAY.Part of the conversation in question, from: An analysis on genetics, evolution, and information regarding Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty [JunkerHQ] (note: the analysis is the white half of the page, and the black half has the full conversation in question and is scrollable itself)
Two years later, an environmental cleanup facility, the Big Shell, has been erected to clear up the oil spill. During a tour by US President James Johnson, the Sons of Liberty raid the facility, take Johnson hostage, and threaten to destroy it. FOXHOUND's Raiden is ordered by the Colonel to rescue the hostages and disarm the terrorists. The surviving members of a responding Navy SEAL team, Iroquois Pliskin and Peter Stillman, help Raiden disable explosives planted by Fatman. A timed bomb goes off, killing Stillman. Raiden kills Fatman and encounters a mysterious cyborg ninja. Raiden and Pliskin arrange to transport hostages via helicopter, but are confronted by Dead Cell's leader identifying as Solid Snake, flying a Harrier. Raiden shoots down the Harrier, but "Solid Snake" escapes with the stolen Metal Gear RAY. Pliskin reveals he is the real Solid Snake and, along with Otacon, helps locate Johnson.
Johnson reveals to Raiden the United States' democratic process is a sham staged by an organization called "the Patriots", who secretly rule the country. Furthermore, the Big Shell is a facade to hide Arsenal Gear, a submersible mobile fortress that houses an AI called "GW". He explains the leader of Dead Cell is his predecessor George Sears, a clone of Big Boss known as Solidus Snake, who plans to seize Arsenal and overthrow the Patriots. Johnson is then killed by Ocelot.
Raiden rescues computer programmer Emma Emmerich, step-sister of Otacon, who plans to upload a virus into GW to disable Arsenal. Vamp stabs Emma, before being shot by Raiden. Emma uploads the virus but dies from her injury as the virus is cut off prematurely. Otacon leaves to rescue the hostages while Raiden is captured by the ninja, revealed to be Olga, when Snake seemingly betrays him. Big Shell collapses as Arsenal departs.
Raiden awakens on Arsenal before Solidus who reveals he had murdered Raiden's parents and raised him as a child soldier during the Liberian civil war. Solidus leaves and Olga frees Raiden, explaining she is a Patriot double-agent forced to aid Raiden in exchange for her child's safety. After the Colonel begins acting erratically, Raiden discovers he is a construct of GW, damaged by the virus. Rose tells Raiden she had been ordered by the Patriots to become his lover and spy on him, and that she is pregnant with his child. Raiden finds Snake who had helped Olga capture Raiden so they could gain entry to Arsenal. Fortune battles Snake while Raiden is forced into battle with AI-controlled Metal Gear RAYs. The virus causes the RAYs to malfunction and Solidus kills Olga when she discloses her double-agent status to protect Raiden.
Snake and Raiden are captured and taken to the top of Arsenal by Solidus, Fortune, and Ocelot. Ocelot reveals himself to be a Patriot agent and that the entire affair was orchestrated by the Patriots to artificially replicate a soldier (Raiden) on par with Solid Snake, titled the S3 Plan. Ocelot kills Fortune before being possessed again by Liquid Snake. Liquid explains that Ocelot's severed right arm was replaced with his own, and plans to hunt down the Patriots using his host's knowledge and the stolen RAY. Snake pursues Liquid, as Arsenal loses control.
Arsenal crashes into Manhattan. Raiden is contacted by an AI impersonating the Colonel and Rose. It states that GW was the only AI destroyed, and that the S3 Plan's real purpose is to control human thought to prevent society's regression in the digital era from trivial information drowning knowledge and truth. They order Raiden to eliminate Solidus; refusal will result in the deaths of Olga's child and Rose. After Raiden defeats Solidus, Snake appears after tracking Liquid's RAY. Snake and Otacon plan to rescue Olga's child, and locate the Patriots, whose details were hidden in the GW virus disc. Raiden is reunited with the real Rose.
In the epilogue, having decoded the disc, Otacon and Snake find it contains data on all twelve members of the Patriots' highest council, the Wiseman's Committee. However, the members have allegedly been dead for a hundred years.
Colonel: But in the current, digitized world, trivial information is accumulating every second, preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible.Max Derrat, The Most Profound Moment in Gaming History (Part 1):
Rose: Rumors about petty issues, misinterpretations, slander...
Colonel: All this junk data preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate.
Rose: It will only slow down social progress, reduce the rate of evolution.
Colonel: Raiden, you seem to think that our plan is one of censorship.
Raiden: Are you telling me it's not!?
Rose: You're being silly! What we propose to do is not to control content, but to create context.
Raiden: Create context?
Colonel: The digital society furthers human flaws and selectively rewards development of convenient half-truths. Just look at the strange juxtapositions of morality around you.
Rose: Billions spent on new weapons in order to humanely murder other humans.
Colonel: Rights of criminals are given more respect than the privacy of their victims.
Rose: Although there are people suffering in poverty, huge donations are made to protect endangered species. Everyone grows up being told the same thing.
Colonel: Be nice to other people.
Rose: But beat out the competition!
Colonel: "You're special." "Believe in yourself and you will succeed."
Rose: But it's obvious from the start that only a few can succeed...
Colonel: You exercise your right to "freedom" and this is the result. All rhetoric to avoid conflict and protect each other from hurt. The untested truths spun by different interests continue to churn and accumulate in the sandbox of political correctness and value systems.
Rose: Everyone withdraws into their own small gated community, afraid of a larger forum. They stay inside their little ponds, leaking whatever "truth" suits them into the growing cesspool of society at large.
Colonel: The different cardinal truths neither clash nor mesh. No one is invalidated, but nobody is right.
Rose: Not even natural selection can take place here. The world is being engulfed in "truth."
"The AI argues that because they are not prone to human error and have inner CPUs with greater processing power than the human brain, they would know how to curate information and present it to the human race in a way that doesn't slow human evolution. Unlike your average political body which might censor information that is inconvenient to their cause, the AI would simply present information in the most factual way possible so that political bias would not intervene, thus cooling political tensions across the political spectrum. Of course, if something like the AI censorship program came into place, ethical questions would arise regarding whether or not this compromises human freedom, specifically our quote-unquote "free will". Ideally, human beings should have the autonomy to make their own decisions no matter what mistakes may follow. In response, the AI argues why the problems that arise from that freedom supposedly necessitate censorship."Max Derrat, The Most Profound Moment in Gaming History (Part 2):
Popular Metal Gear Solid aficionado and electronic video essayist Jorin Lee, from his video The Eerie Predictions of MGS2, which itself is a great essay on cybernetics, memetics, and the history of the digital age as well as the cultural crises in the United States:Colonel: You lack the qualifications to exercise free will.To say that somebody lacks the qualifications to exercise free will suggests that their personality is entirely constructed by outside forces. For example, if you believe that abortion is an unethical practice, or an ethical practice, did you come to that conclusion yourself? Did you put together a bunch of arguments from opposing sides and decide for yourself what the best answer was? Or did you hear one person's argument and close yourself off to opposing arguments, much like an ideologue tends to do? In regard to Raiden, the AI goes on to demonstrate that he, like billions of people on the planet, tend to embrace ideas and actions not necessarily based on their adherence to truth, but rather based on how effectively they promote a certain way of being. This goes back to Nietzsche's famous criticism of philosophers in Beyond Good and Evil. While philosophers might proclaim a desire for objective truth, they are more than likely trying to justify their worldview and way of life. This is why fake news exists. This is why echo chambers crop up all over the internet, despite the wealth of information available to us that should allow us to live in accordance with truth. It is because living in accordance with truth and developing a sense of free will can be life threatening, so people choose to embrace falsehoods in order to protect their sanity."
"The biologist Richard Dawkins helped inadvertently to express this idea of memes as a network when he wrote in the text that established meme theory, The Selfish Gene, quote: "If an idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself by spreading from brain to brain," end quote. In other words, the struggle for survival between memes is largely waged by spreading the size of your network, much like genes try to propagate themselves in the gene pool. This is exactly what the Patriots are trying to do: propagate their memes to think for us at the expense of individuals coming to their own conclusions and interpreting things for themselves."Later, he says:
The reason I say that I don't think MGS2 is as prophetic as it is given credit for today is that unlike in the era of its development, today the internet is networked together much more than before. Rather than people retreating into their own isolated pools as the Patriots explain at the end of the game, today we are all confronted by the Other, by the people who see the world differently than ourselves, and I think this is driving a lot of the social tensions that are erupting around us today. This networking together is what's arguably creating these new tensions, and they're tensions the game did not really address. However, the basic problems that the game identified for truth certainly remain, and for this reason Metal Gear Solid 2 remains a drastically important work for understanding the information age.In this age of rapid cultural information exchange, algorithmic news propagation, filter bubbles, the proliferation of fake news, AI-generated news, AI-generated people, and so many other quandaries, how are we to come to a conclusion between the virtual and the Real, or even the hyperreal? As consensus reality melts away and peels back a large portion of the population, will we be able to find a solution that helps mediate these two forces, or do we risk losing grasp of the information our brains are absorbing in a world that is inundated with data and information, the sources of which are constantly hidden behind technical barriers such as algorithms, and even political barriers such as dark money infusions to shadowy data brokers? Is it censorship when the algorithm prevents somebody from seeing opposing viewpoints, by flooding their news feed with content that is taken out of context, thus re-programming a human's brain to go down a path of unreality?
What if humanity has lost the qualifications to exercise free will?