When people talk about science and games they are often talking about the science of games – AI, physics engines, that kind of stuff. I’m going to look at the science in games, the themes and ideas presented, and if/how they relate to the real world. This is Gameology.
Rather than jump into a specific intensive topic for this first entry, I have decided to look at a theme that runs through all video games in some way – transhumanism. Transhumanism, or ‘humanity+’, is a concept concerned with furthering the progress of the human race – the mechanical expedition of human evolution if you will.
Obvious examples of this in gaming are Deus Ex and Metal Gear Solid; games where people have gone through genome engineering and cybernetic enhancement. This is what most people think of when they think of transhumanism.
Deus Ex’s main character, Adam Jensen, is fatally wounded in an attack at the start of the game, only to be saved by having his entire body ‘upgraded’. Now a bio-mechanical cyborg, Jensen has abilities that are far beyond the standard human. This extreme version shows what many believe to be the ultimate endgame of the transhuman movement, and is in fact a possible near-future reality.
Already bionic limbs have become an option to those that have lost arms or legs, though so far none have come equipped with retractable elbow blades as standard. It isn’t ridiculous to believe that such modifications could be developed for military use. After all, in today’s war climate, it isn’t uncommon to unfortunately lose a limb. Rather than have a soldier be medically discharged, it is entirely possible that the military could chose to equip them with one of these weaponised prosthetics.
It isn’t just in mechanical limbs that transhumanism could have a combat use either, Metal Gear Solid introduced many of us to the idea of nanomachines, which while arguably over played as a get out of plot free card are a currently in development technology, and are even a current project in the United States military as part of an enhanced warfighter initiative.
This suppression of rational thought would effectively create drones out of human beings
It is believed, as was shown in Metal Gear Solid 4, that nanotechnology could be used to control and suppress the emotions and potentially even the free will of those they inhabit. They would achieve this through chemical and electrical delivery to specific regions of the body, and could be used to suppress fear and panic for front line combatants, control pain in the wounded, or worryingly even suppress rational thought. This suppression of rational thought would effectively create drones out of human beings, making them little more than weapons or tools, rather than actual human soldiers.
This very matter was even touched upon in the recent Metal Gear Rising in a mid-game moment where Raiden is made to hear the suppressed thoughts of those he is fighting. While the external voices of the cyborgs are fearless and threatening, the inner voices are scared and pleading. This is the humans as weapons problem, the loss of humanity in the search for better combatants, and shows what the suppression of emotion can lead to. Granted, Rising takes these themes and essentially makes a Saturday morning cartoon out of it, but they are still there for people to think about.
The heads up display, or HUD. One thing that almost every game has, shows health bars, ammo counts, radar, maps, location markers, item highlighting. All these features are effectively transhumanism. Technology designed to enhance physical and mental capabilities of humans. Already HUD technology exists, and is in wide public use. Cars can come equipped with HUD technology, smart phones have augmented reality to allow its use on the go. Already we can hold up our phones and get information about the street where on, see reviews of stores that are picked up by our cameras. We have GPS that shows us where we are and how to get to where we want. Even the fact that we can access the internet and it’s wealth of information almost anywhere in our day to day lives, the fact we can always be contacted by telephone or text message or email regardless of time or location.
Prosthetic limbs, glasses, contact lenses, and hearing aids. Even our vehicles can be said to be transhuman technology. It makes our lives easier, it makes us as a species faster and better and stronger and smarter. And it’s still evolving.
Wearable computing is in development, Google Glass is already a reality. Contact lenses are being developed with HUDs and the ability to zoom. While many may not think they are willing to accept a transhuman future out of fear, the truth of the matter is that it has already happened, and they’re a part of it. The transhuman revolution has already passed.
We are humanity+, and life is good.