Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Comment of the Week: Objectivism

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a little post about the lack of an upper limit in terms of EVE's "levels", and argued that the lack of such an upper limit, combined with the long play times of some of the veteran EVE players (many going all the way back to beta) breeds a more cut-throat player base than the typical MMO.  In short, I argued that EVE's design itself contributes to a lot of the nastiness that permeates its user communities sometimes.

AcD started commenting on the article and we ended up in a discussion about it.  During the discussion, he wrote, among other things, this:
As for T3 in general, their abilities are arguably not entirely unbalanced relatively to their cost (uninsurable and all), but they do embody the "you can't touch me" issue you raised in your article.  There is a definite SP/ISK high barrier to entry for T3 cruisers (although SP-wise they're no heavier than a Logistics, that's still a lot).

I've raised the same issue about clones, implants, and the cost of failure in the past: if you're part of the old-boys club, it's pretty hard to run into any loss that will hurt you seriously because the relative costs don't scale up.

All of which points not so much to SPs as it does to the economics of EVE, which I believe are seriously screwed up from a "make things fun and interesting" perspective, and it turn brings us back to the proto-Objectivist dogma of EVE... but that's probably beyond the scope of this discussion.
I reproduce only one of his comments, and that only in part.  If you're interested in this topic, it's probably worth your time to read his comments in full.

He does bring up an interesting point about EVE which I had never thought about before, though: is EVE the first and only objectivist MMO?

If you played the first BioShock game, then you're familiar with the very basic principles of objectivism, which can be simplified down to the idiot's version: a rational man or woman is the center of their own moral universe.  If any sort of moral question arises, the objectivist looks at it in terms of the rational individual looking out for his or her own best interests and, in so doing, ensuring that everyone else does the same.  Objectivism also specifies a very laissez-faire capitalism.  To use a simple real-world example, an objectivist is morally opposed to welfare for two reasons:
  1. the objectivist has to pay for the support and upkeep of another man; and,
  2. the man on welfare is himself damaged by the fact that he is accepting the support and upkeep of another man.
To the objectivist, the morally superior solution is to end welfare entirely and therefore, force the man on it to seek out his or her rational self-interest instead of relying on the charity of others.

Altruistic, this philosophy is not.  ;-)

Objectivist philosophy, however, becomes extremely murky in terms of "what happens next" to our man previously on welfare.  If he decides his what is in his best interests is to pick up a gun and rob his neighbor, objectivist philosophy believes this is immoral: the first man is entitled to the benefits of his own work.  Even worse in objectivist philosophy, robbing someone -- particularly by force -- is considered irrational.  ;-)  Therefore, an objectivist society still needs police and courts, but they are intended to protect rational individuals from irrational ones.  You might even refer to such a robber as an irrational objectivist: they are acting in their own self-interest, but doing it in an irrational rather than a rational way.

This philosophy isn't particularly logical, either.  ;-)

But the conflict between rational and irrational objectivism was at the very heart of the first BioShock game, and was one of the things that made the story of that game so compelling.

So is EVE objectivist?  If it is, then it's a product of irrational objectivism rather than rational objectivism, since everyone has a gun, and virtually everyone shows no hesitation about using it.  But you could definitely argue that everyone is acting in their own self-interest, and that's certainly part of objectivist philosophy.  It also speaks to the lack of altruism in EVE's player community that I mentioned in my previous post.

Anyway, just a little Monday morning philosophy for you...  Thanks for your comments, AcD.  Gave me a lot to think about over the weekend!


  1. EVE is more akin to Anarcho-Capitalism than Objectivism, although they share parallels.

    Not coincidentally, this form of government is explored in detail in the series from where Star Fraction gets its name.

  2. The line between "rational" and "irrational" objectivism is defined by "it hurts me" versus "it hurts them". The mugger shooting you to take all your stuff is simply exercising their rational self-interest: given the options, the way to support oneself is to find the easiest source of income. There's nothing irrational about it.

    The only irrational thing in this scenario is the guy with all the money getting surprised when he's mugged while carrying a load of money or other valuables.

    Ayn's "rational" objectivist is nothing more than a hisec carebear, hiding behind the rules and laws that give them the economic advantage over those they are telling to "get a job" or "discover your rational self-interest."

    But then, as is mentioned on the Making ISK guide in the EVElopedia, your activities in EVE aren't just about maximising personal ISK value. There's some aspect of fun involved too. For some people that's exploration, for others it's blowing up stuff.

    EVE is, in fact, a living, breathing expression of Robert Nozick's argument that for Ayn's argument about life being the ultimate value to be valid, there must be no reason to die.

    Look at the carebear. They are the ones who fear death, even though they are immortal. What is it they really fear? The loss associated with death, the conflict that leads to dying. Their values come entirely from not dying, rather than from living.

    Look at the pirate. They are the ones who relish death, even if pursuing their self-interest means they will be killed. What do pirates fear? Only the time that they spend not destroying.

    And there's my take on objectivism as applied to EVE online, fuelled by my starvation-induced delerium.


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