So here's an argument:
In Utopia, our practical problems would be solved. (There'd be nothing we had to do.)
But if we sat around all day, we'd lose our minds. (Watching TV all day isn't the Good Life anyway.)
So we'd voluntarily attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles. (Under an expansive definition, this counts as playing games.)
So we'd spend our time in Utopia playing games. (Even choosing to travel presents you with unnecessary obstacles...)
So games are the meaning of life.
Woah. How'd we get there?
And what do you think about that argument?
It's definitely very weird, and just about every move looks suspicious.
But in The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia, Bernard Suits puts on a pretty good show in its defense. And what initially sounds like a puzzle about an unimaginable Utopia becomes a serious reflection on the nature of games and meaning in life.
It's also wonderfully written. Sometimes it's a fable, sometimes a dialogue. Sometimes it takes a step back to clarify central concepts, or even to note that it's stepping back to do so.
It's a charming work, and if you were going to read philosophy on Twitch, this is where you'd begin.
Oh yeah, I'm on Twitch now.
And I'm going to reread this book on stream this week.
Please help, I don't know what I'm doing.
I think screensharing a pdf is not very visually engaging. (Though it might help if you could read along during the thinky bits.)
I think trying to read while I did something else like play chess would scramble everyone's brains. (I'd definitely get checkmated.)
I think taking multiple breaks for a KIT CAM when my cat comes to sit in my lap is probably a bonus.
And I think all my voices during the dialogues will inevitably sound the same.
So with that out of the way, let's think more about Utopia together. And the value of life itself.
After all, you might think that life is a game. You don't have to attempt to overcome life's obstacles. You can always choose to end the game early. But you don't. You keep playing.
So every morning, you wake up and voluntarily attempt to overcome life's unnecessary obstacles again. Not just to feed and clothe yourself but to live well. Our goals extend beyond surviving, to thriving.
That's not quite the line Suits takes. But you can see how thinking about the value of games might influence how you think about the value of voluntarily attempting. (That's the only good kind of 'free will.')
And that's the value of striving, of going on, of pushing past life's difficulties in search of the goods of life. And those are valuable indeed. The value of living life (for most people, most of the time) far outweighs any costs.
We should probably rethink the role and value of work and play in our lives given how many bullshit jobs we have, and The Grasshopper is a great place to start.
(Also, I'm not saying that AI will solve all of your practical problems, whatever that even means, but we do need to start thinking about how we'd like to spend our time before AI starts to solve more and more people's jobs away. It's worth thinking a little bit about what Utopia you'd like to be a part of and not just about Paperclip World.)
I'll start streaming The Grasshopper on Monday at 7 p.m. central. If the Knicks can force a Game 7 at that time, even better! I'll read while watching playoff basketball in the background, and occasionally stop to admire the competitive excellence of Jimmy Butler.
It would be a great way to honor Suits's game-playing Grasshopper.
Here's the link. See you there?