August 23, 2002
Fundamentalism and Civilization

"Fundamentalism is a really great form of government for the twenty-first century." It is the voice of the twelve-year-old, apropos of no previous conversation, coming from the back seat of the Worst Car I Have Ever Owned (a Ford Taurus station wagon) as we drive to the grocery store.

"What?" I say.

"In Civilization. The game. The major thing wrong with Fundamentalism is that it halves your science production. But by the twenty-first century you've already discovered everything useful. All you can research are 'Future Technologies', and they don't do anything real." Silence for a while. "It's a flaw in the game. If the Future Technologies did something real to make your civilization better and more powerful, Fundamentalism wouldn't be such a good form of government late in the game."

"That sounds like a really smart thing to have thought of," I say. Do you want to write to Sid Meier--the game designer--asking him to make the Future Technologies more real and more powerful?"

And I wondered: by the time his kids are twelve, what things that I think of as Future Technologies will they accept as commonplace?

Posted by DeLong at August 23, 2002 11:29 AM | Trackback

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The most interesting future technologies are those that directly augment human capabilities. Consider for example the article on Virginia Postrel's blog about how steroids (paraphrasing a bit) keep mice youthful as they grow old. Consider the anger (irrational and stupid, IMHO) people feel towards breast implants. Consider the endless debates about ritalin and prozac. Consider the guff about stem cells.

The relevance of all this is, of course, that it's not clear to me how these will play out with the fundamental tone of US society. Without making a judgement on issues like legalization of drugs or abortion, the bottom line is that pretty much all these things make a large fraction of people in this country ( a fraction that perhaps has political power disproportionate to its size) rather unhappy. Meanwhile, of course, we have Japan and China and Korea where, as near as I can tell, knowing very little about these societies, the same sorts of qualms do not exist, or at least are structured to accept and want rather different tradeoffs.
The US will probably try to export the "War on Human Modification" in the same way it has exported the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Pedophilia" but I'm not sure the rest of the world will be as willing to just sit back and accept the status quo---when the alternative has a pretty good choice of allowing them to replace the US as top dog.

Of course the whole thing could go very differently. There's an awful lot of money to be made in this---and perhaps this will be the issue that irreparably splits those in the Republican party because they hate the poor from those who joined because god tells them how to run other people's lives. In the event of such a split, which faction would win the nation?

I trust that the link between these ramblings and the issue of fundamentalism is fairly obvious.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on August 23, 2002 06:45 PM

Give your kid a blog!

Posted by: Paul on August 23, 2002 10:08 PM

Give your kid a blog!

Posted by: Paul on August 23, 2002 10:09 PM

i wonder if this has been fixed in Civ3 - further downsides to Fund would be one way. i'll have to go check.

i'd like to see the option of speculative technologies and secret projects like the ones in Alpha Centauri ( - the Space Elevator, unmanned combat units (great for democracy!), genetic engineering, the longevity vaccine, weather control, empathy, the virtual world, the theory of everything, the nano factory, cloning, etc.

Posted by: Sean Meade on September 6, 2002 12:31 PM
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