Why You Can Never Know if Another Person is an NPC, And What This Means

Much recent interest has been devoted to the idea that a significant proportion of other human beings might be “NPCs” (non-player characters). What is meant by this is that “the lights are on but nobody’s home” – that the person is not conscious, despite appearing to be. As this essay will discuss, this philosophical problem has a number of chilling interpretations.

When people decry others as NPCs, what they are really saying is that these people are not conscious. There might be bodies moving around and saying and doing things, but there is no conscious observer that pays attention to the lived experience of such bodies. Individual NPCs might just as well be androids of some kind, machines that replicate the functions and actions of conscious beings without actually being such.

The reason why recent interest has attached to this idea is that some people seem to be utterly incapable of thinking for themselves.

Certain political issues have made it apparent that a large proportion of voters do not think about reality at all. They are happy enough to adopt wholesale a Weltanschauung from the television and from their peers. This is especially true if a person adheres to one or the other side of the mainstream political spectrum, but a political allegiance isn’t necessary. Many people’s heads seem to be more or less empty: they simply repeat whatever has been pumped into them from the outside.

This has led others to wonder if there’s anyone really in those heads at all. These apparently unthinking people might be NPCs: essentially meat-puppets that look and sound like humans but which have no conscious will, and who therefore are incapable of creative direction. They can only follow orders like drones, whether those orders come from other humans (PCs or NPCs), the Government or the television. They are therefore categorically different to those of us who are conscious.

But this line of reasoning opens up some extremely thorny philosophical questions.

Primary among these is that you can’t measure or detect consciousness empirically. Consciousness is a state of being aware, and this is impossible to measure because awareness cannot be detected by any instrument. A materialist will object that it is possible to measure responsiveness, and this can be done with (for e.g.) EEG machines that can tell whether a person is awake – but these measures are always of purported correlates of consciousness, not consciousness itself.

We seem to intuitively believe that being “awake” is somehow linked to being conscious, but the simple fact is that we are also conscious of experiencing dreams, and are therefore also conscious even when asleep. Therefore, our intuitive perceptions about who is conscious are not necessarily accurate. It may be that the common perception that all humans are conscious is erroneous.

One can be aware of one’s consciousness, of course. This is logically trivial: if one is conscious of anything at all, then one is conscious. Therefore, if you’re even aware of yourself asking the question of whether or not you’re conscious, you must be. Although, because one’s own consciousness cannot be measured any more than that of other beings can, its presence cannot be proven to anyone other than oneself.

It really seems that the only way consciousness can be sensed in others is by means of some intuition. It certainly seems as if consciousness can be detected in others; at least, this seems intuitively true to most people. This is the basis of the NPC phenomenon: by whatever means this intuitive decision is made, a person decides that another person is either conscious or not.

The difficulty then arises: is it true that all other humans are conscious, or only some? Because not everyone necessarily agrees. Some argue that only their race is conscious, and that others are some kind of ‘bugmen’. Others argue that only members of their religion are conscious, because only these have been “infused with the light of God” or similar. Yet others argue that only members of their class are conscious, and that the poorer someone is, the more like an animal.

The obvious problem with this way of thinking is that it leads to asking questions like: if other races/religions/classes are not conscious, why not just wipe them out for the sake of securing a better position for our own? It’s clear to anyone who has studied World War II that the dehumanisation of other people, by way of declaring them less conscious, can easily lead to bloodshed and genocide. This is why the vast majority of people have adopted the unspoken assumption that all other humans are conscious.

Even if all humans are declared conscious, one must then ask if all other beings are conscious, or only some?

Another thorny philosophical question is moral: if another individual is an NPC, and therefore not conscious, is it immoral or not to exploit that individual? One the one level, it seems like nothing should be different, but on another, it could be argued that if nothing is aware of any injury caused to the physical body then it isn’t really suffering. Therefore, harm done to beings that are not conscious is not immoral (unless those beings are the property of someone else).

Because you can never really know if another person is an NPC, the default response seems to be to assume that no-one is, i.e. that all other people are conscious and that their suffering is meaningful. This is certainly the approach that a courtroom will take if you beat up someone because you think they are an NPC. But you can’t ever really be sure.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Te Reo With Mnemonics: Law and Justice Words

Law – ture

As if from two suns, two rays of light shine from the heavens onto a book of law.

Court, to judge – kōti

Inside a courtroom, a judge watches two peacocks courting.

Prison – whare herehere

A ferry crosses the Cook Strait. There is a prison built on top of it, full of hairy prisoners. It is the ferry hairy hairy.

Prisoner – herehere

Looking at a prison yard, it can be seen that the prisoners are covered in both facial and body hair. To be a prisoner is to be hairy-hairy.

to arrest – mauhere

A naked, hairy man is mowing the strip outside his house. He is the mow hairy. The Police come and arrest him for public nudity.

Police – pirihimana

From a boat on the Amazon, people can see in the water of the river tiny policecars swimming like pirahnas.

The Māori word for ‘Police’ – pirihimana – shares a ‘pi-r-h-na’ construction with the English word ‘pirahna’

Crime, Criminal, break the law – hara

A man points and says “Hey, that guy’s breaking the law!” His anarchist friend cries out “Hurrah!”

fair – matatika

A man wipes his feet on a mat and it rises up and attacks him. He cries out “Be fair! Be fair!” as he suffers the mat attack.

Justice – manatika

A woman goes into her attic and sees a bunch of men she did not expect. It is now a man attic. She comes down crying “Justice!”

Punishment – whiunga

The judge says “Your punishment is a $100 fee.” The guilty man walks despondently up to the clerk to pay, and his niece is there. She says “Fee, Uncle?”

Right – mōtika

A woman steals a moustache off a man’s face. When he complains, she says “It is my right – I am the mo taker.”

unfair – makihuhunu

A man walks up to a table and takes a key from it. Another man already sitting there says “That’s unfair! That’s ma key!” “Huh? Who knew?” the first man sneers as he walks away, unfairly.

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The above is an excerpt from the upcoming Learn Maori Vocabulary With Mnemonics, by Jeff Ngatai, due to be published by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Is The National Party Now New Zealand’s Natural Opposition Party?

It may now have to be conceded that the Labour Party is a genuinely superior economic manager to the National Party. The Sixth Labour Government has just announced a $5,500,000,000 surplus for the last year, and there’s no sign that they intend to piss that money away on tax cuts. As this essay will examine, Labour’s established record of superior fiscal management suggests that the National Party no longer has any claim to be New Zealand’s natural government.

The New Zealand electoral cycle is based on a cosy truism: the National Party makes the money, and the Labour Party distributes it. Like Daddy and Mummy, the National Party is responsible for the wealth being generated by the system and the Labour Party is responsible for making sure that this wealth filters down to those who are too vulnerable to fight for it themselves.

However, if one casts an eye back over the last thirty years, there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence that National is better at generating wealth.

As anyone who has lived in Scandinavia can tell you, a nation’s wealth is primarily a function of the degree of investment that previous generations made in the current one. Scandinavia is wealthy because, for decades, their governments have made heavy investments in the human capital of their people in the form of education, health and welfare, and these investments have paid off handsomely in the form of an extremely productive workforce.

The National Party let our country rot for nine years: our hospitals decayed, our mental health system decayed, our housing crisis worsened with every year, and for all of this time John Key and Bill English just grinned and let their people suffer. After all, the suffering of Kiwis meant immense profits for someone else, especially wealthy property speculators and banking interests.

As a consequence, we now have the developed world’s worst youth suicide crisis, as the neglect shown to our people during the Key-English era shows its effects in a reduced will to live. The National Party failed to make any meaningful investment in the human capital of New Zealanders, and the true cost of this is now becoming apparent.

Over the past three decades, a pattern is clear. When National is in power, the rich become bloated and the people suffer; when Labour is in power, the rich hold their position while the people take some small steps out of desperate poverty. Anyone who has lived through these times has conclusive evidence that the idea of National being better economic managers is complete horseshit.

National Party economic management is like not going to the doctor or dentist for nine years, and then bragging about how much money you’ve saved while your skin is covered in lesions and your teeth are rotting out of your head. The National Party forgot the parasite’s maxim that some minimum care of the host body has to be taken otherwise it will die.

With Key and English now given knighthoods and put out to pasture, the National Party suddenly seems bereft of managerial talent. The hapless Simon Bridges looks every bit the Head Prefect auditioning for a role that is above his level of competence. Judith Collins waits in the wings like an overfed vulture, and the only other contenders are Paula Bennett – who needed surgery to prevent her eating herself to death – and a parade of faceless grey men.

Jacinda Ardern also looks every bit the Head Prefect above her level of competence, and so much so that the Opposition has an open goal in 2020 – but they’re too clumsy to kick it in. Meanwhile, Ardern has had the opportunity to build a cult of personality, John Key-style, by dragging her baby along everywhere and styling herself The Mother of the Nation. This strategy might prove effective on the pudding-headed virtue signallers among New Zealand voters, and given enough time it could make Ardern’s position unassailable.

With both their historical record and their potential record both looking extremely bad, it might have to be conceded that the National Party are effectively now New Zealand’s natural opposition party. The idea that Labour was the natural opposition party may have been true in the days of big agriculture and the need to be ready to fight war on behalf of Britain at any time. Nowadays, it’s looking ever more like it’s National who are fundamentally unsuited to meet the challenges facing the nation.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).