Greedy Goblin

Monday, February 8, 2010

The root of evil

People always look upon themselves as "good". They insist on that they are not just not planning to do "evil" but also that they would be unable to do evil. Something "inherently good" would stop them.

Yet evil is done all the time in the world. People are killed, robbed, raped, starving, left to die after a disaster as we speak. 40% of the world population does not have proper food, and we don't (while obviously could) do anything about it.

In our own countries, our ancestors did terrible things. The ancestors of the Americans wiped out the natives of the land, and dragged Africans in to serve them as slaves. The (not even distant) ancestors of the Europeans performed or at least turned a blind eye on the Holocaust or/and the Gulag.

So we can be sure that the "average Joe" is completely capable and willing to do evil things, way beyond griefing someone's pixel avatar in a computer game. How and why?

I guess I've just bumped into the answer in Tobold's post: "in the cases where the quest text describes evil, that evil is directed towards NPCs, who don't really mind" and "the victims are computer-controlled characters with no feelings".

When a social person says "I don't do evil", he means, "I don't do evil to group members, who matter, who have feelings". He has absolutely no problem with hurting non-group members, who don't matter and also have no feelings (or have "evil", "twisted" or "lowly" feelings). While average Joe had never hurt his neighbor, he had absolutely no problem scalping "indians" and whipping "slacking" slaves. Also average Hans always kept the law and was proud of his decent way of living, and that's exactly he felt necessary to "cleanse" the world from the "plague of jews" (same with average Sergei and the "class enemy").

Categorizing people or things based on what we think they are (as opposed to what they do) inevitably leads to considering everyone who are different from us "worthless". Pixel characters differ only in their acts, and not on the assumption that there is a "feeling player" behind them or not.

Is that "right"? Can this kind of thinking be explained any other way than "the former is somewhat like me, so he is worthy, since I am" (and those who are not like me are worthless)?

Further questions:
  • If an NPC is programmed by someone, and this programmer did lot of work and effort to create this piece of work, would it not hurt him that you destroy his work (equally like I would hack your website and delete the content you created)? Edit: under NPC I don't mean raidboss or trash, rather interactable NPC-s, that have other purpose than being killed for loot.
  • If I believe that the player character is run by a bot (and the player is AFK), is it "right" to gank it?
  • If an NPC is driven by so developed and sophisticated software that deserves to be called "true AI", can I gank/exploit it?
The universe is (most probably) full of things that are unlike you. People of different color and culture. Alien lifeforms. Artificial intelligence. Items created and valued by any of these. If everyone believes that value depend on "similarity to me", than we are in a middle of a free-for-all PvP where everyone ganks everyone. The only way out is that you value things based on their actions.

If you don't want to participate in the next evil of your country's history, you can start training yourself by treating all pixel avatars equal in the game. After all, the actions done (to both NPCs and players) are all temporary, as all characters are able to resurrect/respawn, get new items/loottable and so on.

PS to really retarded trolls: I did not say that "person = pixel character". I told "pixel character of person = pixel character of program".


Zeran said...

Realistically the question of morality is not so simple. To 'wrong' someone requires that there is someone. It's lunacy to posit that I have moral obligations to my chair. So existence is not a sufficient condition, nor does it seem to be (directly) a necessary one. The Avatar of another player does not actually exist. It is merely a demonstration of a represenation of mathematics. But it certainly seems that I have some moral duties to the avatar, most likely extended duties I have to the person controlling the avatar. But as you've shown this isn't an uncontested position.

I think that we owe moral duties to moral agents, which only really changes the 'like me' conditional in phrasing. This shift in terminology though does allow for moral agents that aren't 'like me' (aliens et al.).

Anonymous said...

Answers to your questions:

1:YES, If the programmer made the NPC killable that means he programed it with the intend of allowing players to kill it, he has propably got a backup, or he want's to see if his creation is worthy of survival.

2:YES, The person who is botting is a cheater and deserves no mercy, if you could kill the character later so you kill the player and not the bot that would only make it more rigth. The botter (or goldbuyer) is using real world money to buy an in game advantage, the RL equivalent of this is the the guy who uses steriods to get an unfair advantage in sports, don't tell me it's wrong to exclude him from the sport for cheating.

3:NO, an itelligent beeing is an intelligent beeing no mather how it came into existance, however by "true AI" i assume you mean something as intelligent as Data from star trek, if so it should be treated just like an equivalent organic intelligense.

Some thougths:
The human brain will always catagorise every thing, including people, that's just how it works. Everyone will also always define "normal" from their self image, and from what society tells them is "normal". the same thing that applies to normal can be applied to "good" and "evil". (people can be made to think of themselves as if not evil atleast evil-doers, just ask a religious person what it means to be a sinner).

When someone thinks those differrent from him are worthless and somethimes even abominations that must be destroyed, the person must be either a leader or a follower, the leaders most likely have something to gain from this attitude, or from inspiering it in others, Hitler would never have been elected if not for his hate speaches, the depression simply called for scapegoats, im not sying this is the only reasons for Hitlers idaels, im simply stating the fact that they got him to power.
As far as followers go you have answered that part in a post you wrote about the ape subroutine that allowes stupid individuals to do smart things without beeing smart themselves, by simply following the smart ones, and how like all ape subroutines it sometimes missfires, and lead to people doing stupid things, by following stupid peaople instead of smart ones. The reason for this beeing that the stupid ones are no longer killed of by natural selection.
When a whole society has ideas of categories of people beeing worthless, people will follow it based on an "eat shit, 100 billion flies cannot be wrong" type of logic.

PS: Im not calling hitler stupid, he was alot of bad things, but stupid is not one of them, if you think of evil people and evil doers as stupid by default you are generalizing, and underestimating them.

Sven said...

To deal with your questions, Gevlon:

If an NPC is programmed by someone, and this programmer did lot of work and effort to create this piece of work, would it not hurt him that you destroy his work (equally like I would hack your website and delete the content you created)?
It depends what the creator's intended purpose for the item is and what you mean by "destroy". If he has lovingly tuned a raid boss to provide a challenge which you then overcome, allowing it to respawn later, you haven't destroyed it, you've used it.

If, on the other hand, you break into Blizzard's HQ and delete all the files for the encounter, you have truly destroyed it and that is wrong.

If I believe that the player character is run by a bot (and the player is AFK), is it "right" to gank it?
Depends on the rules of the game. If they clearly state "no bots" and said bot is clearly breaking those rules, then preventing that is acceptable (provided that you also report it). Again, though, you haven't really "destroyed" it, as all the code for the bot still exists. You've just prevented the "crime" from happening for a bit.

If an NPC is driven by so developed and sophisticated software that deserves to be called "true AI", can I gank/exploit it?
I'd follow the same rules as for a human here. Are they playing by the rules of the game? Then fine, fight them according to those rules. To me, for both humans and AIs, exploiting and ganking are unpleasant activities that are only appropriate when they have done something to you first and you wish to deter future anti-social behaviour. Note that I mean anti-social in its conventional sense there, rather than meaning "opposed to what Gevlon calls socials".

Anonymous said...

I think you're going wrong with the NPC's. When you kill a boss, for example, you're not destroying the work of a programmer, you're experiencing the content. The content in this case involves killing the NPC.

Plus the NPC doesn't get destroyed at all. This one dies, yes, but after your lock has expired you can go in again to kill him another time. He's not killed, just temporary disabled. The content is not destroyed. Part of that content is that if the boss reaches zero health, he'll stop fighting.

Anonymous said...

You can't look upon something and say that's evil or that's good. For example Army A is attacking Army B. Army A has been told that they're doing it for a good cause and army B is evil. Army B has been told they're doing it for a good cause and army A is evil. Who's right?

We can all learn something from Street Fighter the movie.

Gevlon said...

Those who said: "botting is forbidden, so botter deserves punishment"

You can't know for sure if he is botting. You ASSUME that there is botting involved, but there is no way to be sure.

Also: how do you draw the line between a "bot" and "AI like Data of ST"? Besides obvious extremes, isn't it a completely arbitrary distinction?

Quicksilver said...

Categorizing things as good and evil is social.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Terry Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax summed it best:

" “It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray. . . .”

“There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that—”

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”

Anonymous said...

So... while I work so very hard to do dailies to raise the gold I need, I should NOT feel disheartened by the bots (three alliance, one horde) farming Eternal Fire in Storm Peaks for days, making their owners hundreds of thousands of gold in hours in flagrant violation of the game's Terms Of Service (which *I* obey), and I should NOT report them, because then the account may be disabled and the bot would no longer function, ending the bots existence; a program crafted with great care over a long (time being this game's primary expense).

NO. I don't care how long a criminal spent planning the robbing of my house and my neighbours. I don't care how many painstaking hours he spent planning the theft, time he will never get back. I don't care that the hammer he used to smash the windows was a fine tool of elegant simplicity, crafted and engineered by hard, honest workers. YES, if that hammer is not used by the criminal to break my windows allowing him entry to my home, the hammer's use is over. YES, It's creator's work was (in this case) for nothing. I don't care.


("B-b-b-but you don't know it's a bot! It could just be a really bad player who bought the lvl80 account and is running, auto-attacking, looting, rotating slowly and running down the same path over and over again for over 24hrs non-stop. You don't know!")

Gevlon said...

@Okrane S: perfectly true, the whole post could be replaced by that, but I like writing wall of text.

@last Anonymous: what if 4 legitimate players start farming the same elementals? They are surely not bots, just dumb idiots wanting to get chopper. Are you any less "disheartened" now?

Kevan Smith said...

I guess what you are really looking for is a theory of justice for a video game. Why?

The defining difference between a video game and real life, as you have hinted, is that the game is completely bound by programmed, scripted events. Nothing can deviate from the set actions unless there is a bug.

Would you claim the same for actual living? You don't seem such a determinist to me.

Kreeegor said...

Just a quote from terry pratchett's Small Gods

"And it all meant this: that there are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be
duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
Vorbis loved knowing that. A man who knew that, knew everything he needed to know about people. "

Gevlon said...

I'll be AFK for a day or two, therefore can't process comments.

Gagnerants said...

"The ancestors of the Americans wiped out the natives of the land"

They didn't wipe them all out, they basically did a genocide to them. They are still here and live in America but just in third world conditions because we simply ignore them or take the water and send it to Las Vegas...

back on topic.
1) I think it is perfectly fine, if the programmer wanted the npc not to be killed they could have designed it that way.

2)Gank him away since we refuses to play by the rules, so treat him like trash.

3)I agree that the universe is of unique things out there, there is simply to much space and environments and planets to just have one planet with lifeforms on it.

Sven said...


You can't know for sure if he is botting. You ASSUME that there is botting involved, but there is no way to be sure.
I've only ever seen one character that I was certain was a bot. Let me explain how I came to that conclusion - hopefully it will answer your question.

- The bot was a hunter killing the demons near Thrallmar. My suspicions were first aroused by the strange movement patterns it had.

- It was called Xdsjfh or some other random combination of letters

-It was clearly moving between 3 identical spots repeatedly over the course of an hour or so. By identical, I really do mean identical. I stood on top of it and it had exactly the same coordinates each time.

- It was a BM hunter specced to what was then know as the "bot spec", as it could take down even-level mobs by use of the pet + autoshot, no matter what gear.

- The bot was wearing a mix of grey, white & green gear, 20 or so levels worse than could be obtained from the starter quests in Thrallmar, even though it was several levels above that.

- It didn't respond to any whispers or emotes.

- Its behaviour didn't change when I kited mobs away from it to see what happened. It just stood there with the pet attacking & failing to auto-attack because the mob was out of range.

- As an experiment I cleared the area around one of its kill zones. It still remained there for exactly the same length of time as it had when it was full of mobs.

So yes, I'm pretty certain it was a bot & I reported it as such. It was on the same side as me, so I couldn't kill it directly & there were no mobs powerful enough to defeat it within kiting distance. I wasn't powerful / skilled enough at the time to survive kiting a fell-reaver over.

As for your question about the line between a bot and a true AI, well that's pretty easy in practical terms at the moment: there are no true AIs. In ethical terms, the difference is also simple: an AI is sentient & self aware & a bot isn't.

Now it's possible to imagine that in future someone might make a bot that was a smart as (say) a chimp. Ignoring the obvious jokes about that making it smarter than 90% of WOW's player base, you do start to get into interesting areas there. For me, the correct analogy here is with animal rights. The bot would have about as many rights as a chimp, i.e. fewer than a human, but more than a slug.

(Yes I know you'll be AFK & unable to process comments for a few days - hopefully this will pop up when you get back)

Rzâë said...

Another quote from Terry Pratchett's Guards!Guards!:
'I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people,' said (the Patrician). 'You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad peopl, but some of them are on opposite sides.'

Guthammer said...

You mention the whipping of exhausted slaves. I do do that quest, infrequently, but I always kite the ones who enrage.

Bad enough that I am beating them, I won't take their lives for fighting back.

l2pnub said...

All living organisms care for their generational pattern (for people, that's genes).

That explains why some people care for some other people, to varying extents.

Morality is just a rationalisation of instinctual facts of nature.

When I don't care about someone who is unlike me, I do so because they're less likely to carry any genes that I carry. It is much more efficient to estimate shared genetic material this way than actually measure genetic overlap, therefore we have evolved to act like that. Technology may change that.

Read the some Richard Dawkins, it makes a lot of sense.

Anonymous said...

EVE Online explores the bounds and cutting edge of bad behavior; it is among the best and worst aspects of the game. Examples:

1) There are only 3 hundred or so Titan ships in the game, but a few minutes inattention or some spies/fraud and you can lose your $7,600 ship.

2) scams:

A recent example is Curzon Dax's scams/frauds supposedly netted him 3.4E11 ISK which would cost about $20,000 to replace. The eBank fraud was in the same range.

Karttoon's incompetence/fraud/ego involved perhaps that scale of assets and affected 5,000 gamers. But then Guild Leader malfeasance is not limited to EVE.

Taemojitsu said...

Greedy goblin, the answer to your first question is this:
How likely is someone in a highly technical profession that requires many years of education, such as a dentist, to go around ganking everyone they see when they play WoW?

The answer to the rest of your questions is "lorelol". And World of Warcraft is no longer a PvP game, and hardly a world. It isn't that hard to determine whether an action benefits the society or other individuals or yourself, and this decides what is 'moral'. If ganking a bot is your only option to improve the situation, I pity people who play WoW; Aion had a huge bot problem at launch, but at least you can report bots and be sure they'll be investigated and banned. Not that hard to test if someone's a bot anyway. The morality of an action, from the perspective of others, is always dependent on the information available which is their observable actions; the difference between this and your judgement of whether a character is a bot is simply how close your reasoning is able to approach reality. None of the questions you asked are very complicated, tho I hope it helped some people to consider the reason for their actions. In the end, ganking a few bots is not going to save WoW's PvP.

The truth is out there, but lies are inside your head. Another Terry Pratchett quote :D