Friday, June 15, 2012

Civilization Eats Itself

I see Ran beat me to this one. It seems someone has been playing the popular computer game Civilization, and carried out past the present day to a point 2,000 years in the future. Apparently what he ended up with is a situation eerily similar to George Orwell's future for humanity depicted in the novel 1984. Here's The Guardian with the details:
... He has carried on for an extra 2,000 years – although he is at pains to point out he doesn't just play Civilization II non-stop ("Naturally, I play other games and have a life..."). Yet, as quickly becomes apparent when you read through the rest of his post (as I urge you to do), even if Lycerius had dedicated all of his time to playing Civilization, it wouldn't have been wasted. The results are fascinating. He summarises them thus:

• The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.

• There are three remaining super nations in the year AD3991, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.

The competition between Lycerius' civilisation (the Celts) and his two rivals, the Vikings and the Americans, has resulted in endless warfare:

    "You've heard of the 100-year war? Try the 1,700-year war. The three remaining nations have been locked in an eternal death struggle for almost 2,000 years. Peace seems to be impossible. Every time a ceasefire is signed, the Vikings will surprise attack me or the Americans the very next turn, often with nuclear weapons."

Worse still, Lycerius explains:

    "I wanted to stay a democracy, but the senate would always overrule me when I wanted to declare war before the Vikings did. This would delay my attack and render my turn and often my plans useless. And of course the Vikings would then break the ceasefire like clockwork the very next turn. Something I also miss in later Civ games is a little internal politics. Anyway, I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire. But of course the people hate me now and, every few years since then, there are massive guerrilla (late game barbarians) uprisings in the heart of my empire that I have to deal with, which saps resources from the war effort."

Ouch.

By now, I'm guessing that you're either wondering why I'm telling you about all this (wonderful as it may be) on the books blog, or that you're finding the scenario outlined by Lycerius eerily familiar. Let me explain. As a commenter pointed out below the original post: "The parallels to 1984 are oddly chilling."

It seems that Lycerius has accidentally recreated the conditions prevalent in George Orwell's dystopia. Another commenter on the Reddit board writes:

    "Parallels to 1984 off the top of my head: Three superpowers, a "communist" leadership in which technology has reached as far as it needs to go (end of technology tree), barbarian (resistance) uprisings constantly being stomped out by the totalitarian government, nuclear war rendering most farmland useless, constant breaking and reassembling of treaties between the three superpowers, seemingly infinite war (due to the previous point), an ever present and all knowing leader making the decisions of the nation..."
From Civilization to Big Brother: how a game recreated Orwell's 1984 (The Guardian)

What else is there to say? Doesn't bode well for "progress" does it?

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