Mechanical Morality And COVID-19 Cures--#Temporal Times #7

Mechanical Morality

By Pink And Black

Warning: This article contains mentions of rape and spoilers for the Dishonored games.

About a week ago, I got the two Dishonored games, Dishonored 2 and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. I absolutely adored the first game and it’s immersive sim stealth. Dishonored 2 wasn’t as good as the first game, but it was still fun. But when I got to Death of the Outsider I was surprised that there wasn’t a tutorial message for the Chaos system, a prominent mechanic throughout the series. Upon realizing this and double checking it, I was really happy. Which got me thinking: Why was I so happy that a major mechanic of the series was removed, and if it wasn’t a good mechanic, why was it in the game in the first place?

First, let me explain how Chaos works in Dishonored. Chaos is a measurement of how your actions as a player have on the city around you. Killing enemies, being spotted, and performing special actions like poisoning some elixir meant to treat the plague. Avoiding doing these and taking other special actions like saving people from death will lower chaos. The game rewards low chaos with lower quantities of certain types of enemies and a better ending. This system is just like morality systems in other games, like modern Fallout games, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Mass Effect.

However, there are a few problems here. The first of which is that actions that result in lower chaos aren’t always the moral choice. While some of the alternatives to killing are indeed better, like exposing a tyrant’s crimes or getting rid of an evil witch’s powers, a large portion are more complicated. Take Lady Boyle for instance. While the high Chaos option has you lure her away and kill her, the low Chaos option has you knock her out and deliver her to Lord Brisby, who says he “loves her” and “has her best interests in mind” and promises you that you ”will never see her again”. Delivering a woman into the hands of a rapist is by no mean a good thing, and given that Brisby’s just helped soon to be the most powerful person in the world, and that Lady Boyle has already made herself an enemy of the loyalists, it’s unlikely that she will ever get help. A fate worse than death, if you ask me. This isn’t a one-off incident either. In Dishonored 2, you remove the intelligence of super-genius Jindosh, turning him into someone that can’t care for himself. Also in the first Dishonored, you can do favours for a gang so that they will make your 2 targets “disappear,” which involves them having their tongue cut out and being sold into slavery.

Another standout example is Delilah Copperspoon, an immensely powerful witch and antagonist in Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall, Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches, and Dishonored 2. While the option to keep her alive in Dishonored 2, trapping her in a painting where she can live out her fantasies without ever realizing or affecting the real world, doing so is incredibly dangerous. For in Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches shows that this is not the first time she has been trapped in a painting, and this is not the first time she has escaped. By not killing her, you are putting the entire world at risk, as it would only take a small group of dedicated people to bring her back.

This all creates the obvious question, if the chaos system doesn’t represent morality vs. immorality, then what does it represent? Well, the chaos system is meant to represent just that, chaos. How your actions change the city around you. But it fails at this too. How does a politician suddenly disappearing make a difference compared to them dying. Would “Genius Inventor Jindosh murdered in his own home” make the public more afraid then “Genius Inventor Jindosh made into an invalid by a mysterious figure” Especially when they learn his clockwork soldiers that are roaming the streets failed to protect him?

But this has all been from a quite Watsonian prespectictive, what about from a Doylist one? Well the purpose of their system was actually to encourage different playstyles. One where the player carefully plans every move, before peacefully taking the target down, and one where you go crazy and murder everyone you see. However, it ends up doing the opposite of this. Players who don’t enjoy the stealth gameplay and instead prefer the combat feel punished for playing how they want to. As youtuber Strat-Edgy Productions said when he reviewed the game, “You are supposed to be an assassin that spares all but his target yet you are given these powers that are, quite frankly, some of the coolest looking and funniest fucking things to do in a game in recent memory… But the game actively wags it’s finger at you and tells you ‘Hey don’t kill people! What are you doing?!’”

Dishonored and the other games in the series are fantastic, and I absolutely recommend them, don’t get turned away by this article. But the Chaos system in Dishonored shows the flaws with attempting to categorize actions in video games into “good” and “bad”, and often ends up stifling the fun of the player. Video games are the perfect medium to explore video games, with it’s interactive nature. But putting a number on morality makes it harder to explore in depth, and discourages exploration.

In my opinion, killing Lord Brisby should immediately set you to low Chaos. Image Credit: That Curious Fan on Sufficient Velocity Forums.

It’s hard to deny how fun playing Dishonored 2 as a rampaging monster is.


Pooping Your Pants to Stop COVID-19

Or, Why Do So Many People Use the Wrong Medications for their Illnesses?

By Monstromax

Ivermectin is flying off pharmacy shelves in America. Some sellers are limiting sales, and some patients are desperately appealing to their doctors for a prescription. You might that there has been a sudden outbreak of head lice, scabies or river blindness, but it turns out that nothing has happened that would make so many people need an anti-parasite medication. What has happened is that COVID-19 infections have risen, and word has spread among the anti-vaccine community that Ivermectin is an alternative treatment for the sickness. They believe this will let them stay healthy while ignoring the government’s annoying pleas that they take a vaccine. Most famously, the renowned podcasting himbo Joe Rogan publicly discussed how he had taken Ivermectin as a treatment when he was diagnosed with COVID this past month.

All of this has been to the chagrin and horror of medical experts, who have found themselves having to explain to the public why a de-worming treatment doesn’t work against an airborne virus. Few of them graduated medical school thinking that this is what they would be doing with their careers, and if they had, they probably would have chosen some other field of work. Meanwhile, thousands of people continue to take this anti-parasite drug for a disease it was not meant to prevent, at doses far higher than would be prescribed to a human (closer, usually, to the dose given to horses), and wondering why they keep violently losing control of their bowels.

In some cases, families have hired lawyers to demand that hospitals treat patients suffering from COVID-19 with Ivermectin, with unhelpful results. All of it is a great tragedy of misinformation, especially given that a widely available vaccine remains the best prevention against COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines are proving overwhelmingly effective at keeping people from contracting COVID, with  

data showing that unvaccinated people account for 99% of new hospitalizations and deaths from COVID. (The Global South, however, remains deprived of these vaccines and dependent on the charity of economically imperialist countries, due to the unjust insistence of pharmaceutical companies on maintaining medical patents during a global pandemic, but that’s another article.)

This fact creates a great conundrum for people who are against COVID vaccines, or “anti-vaxxers” as they’re usually known. Before vaccines were available against SARS-CoV-2, the anti-vax crowd could feel safe in their choice of using alternative, untested treatments against COVID, given that no other treatment was yet available and so they could feel as though they were doing something to stop a pandemic. Use of hydroxychloroquine, bleach treatments and many other substances each spiked at various times, with extremely harmful consequences.

Then vaccines arrived, and as they proved effective, and in Pfizer-BioNTech’s case, became fully approved by the FDA (as of August), those who used alternative treatments or held out on a vaccine gradually lost their rational excuses for doing so. Anti-vaxxers had essentially made themselves a voluntary control group in the worldwide experiment to see if vaccines are effective against illness due to COVID-19, and by the summer of this year, the results had come down in favour of vaccines. Faced with this evidence against their claims, anti-vaxxers should have conceded that their attempts to avoid COVID-19 were not effective.

But of course they didn’t, because their resistance to vaccines was never based on rationality or scientific evidence. Instead, it is based on mistrust of established medical authorities that has been brewing for several years as part of the conspiracy-minded anti-vaccine movement. No amount of scientific evidence will overcome this kind of visceral mistrust.

As a side note, despite what a lot of people are saying, Ivermectin is not exclusively a horse or livestock de-wormer. As mentioned, it is prescribed for humans to treat several types of parasitic infections. However, it is prescribed to humans at far lower doses than the amounts that people are taking for COVID-19. A paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) also points out that while some research might suggest that Ivermectin is somewhat effective at treating COVID, these results are limited in their sample size, didn’t produce strong evidence, were tested in petri dishes and not on people, and required almost nine times the dosage considered safe for humans. In other words, don’t try this at home.

So the question is, why is there so much mistrust of medical institutions? The answer lies in alienation. It’s likely that the average person who rejects vaccines and other established medical advice sees doctors at the CDC and other institutions as distant, unaccountable government authorities who are trying to take away their control in life. And that sense of control has been dwindling, especially over the past 20-40 years.

Since the 1980s especially, the deregulation and deindustrialization of the neoliberal era brought a lot more instability to many working people in North America and the rest of the Global North. Stable, well-paying jobs in manufacturing and other industries went overseas, many towns and cities dwindled and became rundown, and the people of those areas had to rely more and more on lower-paying and more precarious service industry work. Add in the recessions and economic uncertainty of the past 20 years and it becomes clear that people are feeling less in control and more like society has become chaotic.

At the same time, these people have undoubtedly noticed a contradiction in this situation: the big companies many of them work for keep getting richer while they struggle to stay in place. Even the small businesses, usually thought of as the backbone of a local economy, have often struggled against larger corporations. All of this fuels the sense that ordinary people are being kept down and manipulated by a

shadowy elite. In a nation with a private healthcare industry, there are few easier targets for allegations of elite corruption than the pharmaceutical and medical insurance industries. People see pharmaceutical companies raking in huge profits from the drugs and treatments that ordinary people struggle to afford just to stay alive, along with all the many scandals that have come to light in the medical industries, and become distrustful of medical experts’ advice.

In this context, it’s no surprise when more people go looking for alternatives to conventional medical advice. It’s also no surprise when more grifters arrive to sell these people such alternatives, often with the promise that these health regiments will put the user back in control of their own health and free them from “big pharma.” Because isn’t that what they have been looking for?

Just like the sovereign citizens discussed in an earlier article, anti-vaxxers have correctly noticed a problem in contemporary society: the massive extraction of profits and lack of accountability by the pharmaceutical industry while many working people are gaining less wealth, along with government officials that pretend things are basically fine when they have not been for a while. But, instead of recognizing this as a systemic problem of global capitalism, they instead mistrust and misuse the scientific medical process itself.

So, how do we get people to trust medical expertise again? The answer lies in giving people more control over their lives and society. We act to take control of communities and economies for people who live in and use them. We can act for greater control of our workplaces, where we spend so much of our time and labour. We can act to take control of the pharmaceutical industry away from a small collection of private owners and into the hands of the public who need its medicines. The greater the autonomy and control people have in life, the less they are threatened by any powerful elite, and the less distance there is between the average person and the medical experts who advise them.

In other words, to get people to stop taking horse de-wormer, we need a lot more socialized control and a lot less hierarchy.

But that could take a little while to do, so in the meantime universal healthcare won’t hurt.

especially when well-intentioned scientists have started trying to investigate the alleged efficacy of Ivermectin

COVID-19 cases declined throughout many Global North countries from during the spring and summer of 2021, thanks in large part to the widespread rollout of clinically tested and highly effective vaccines.

However, in certain countries, notably the United States, a significant chunk of the population has not taken one of these vaccines. As lockdowns and mask laws were lifted this summer, this predicably led to COVID case numbers climbing again. As of the time of writing this article, many hospitals in America’s cities have reached capacity in their emergency rooms, due overwhelmingly to unvaccinated people becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.