There are three kinds of people on April Fool’s Day:
- People who love it because they get to laugh at funny jokes
- People who love it because they get to trick people
- People who hate it because they’re terrified of feeling humiliated for not getting the joke or of somebody taking a prank too far and it makes them anxious all day
I’ve fallen into all three camps at various points in my life. You might feel a little bit of all three. If so, you’re what’s considered normal by society. Congratulations, you’re a switch! But some people identify more strongly with one of these categories than the other two, which is also ok. I’m going to describe them in terms of computer security models to avoid offending anybody. I take no responsibility for any other tripartite divisions of people these may remind you of.
How to Play The Power RPG
The Power RPG is a role playing game played with an odd number of players (at least 3). It takes an indeterminate amount of time pending real revolution.
- Each person secretly chooses a role for themself and writes it down: Dominant or submissive. Put the papers face down somewhere secret. These are called commits. Only proceed to step two when everyone is ready.
- Collectively select one player or group of players to be the Observer. There must be consensus, either on the observer’s identity or on a method for choosing the observer(s) fairly.
- Divide the rest of the group into two evenly-sized teams, one to be the End User and one to be the Adversary. Indecisive players are allowed to delegate the team choosing to the already-selected Observer group.
- The game begins when all players are ready.
The game proceeds in rounds. In each round, you have to collectively pick a topic to try to reach consensus on. The default topic in the SFW version is “what constitutes consent in a conversation?”. The default topic in the NSFW version is “What constitutes ethical kink?”. Teams can be shuffled between rounds as long as everyone consents to the new arrangement. Play continues until either all players decide the game is over, or any player decides they don’t want to keep playing.
- Individual victory: Any Dominant can win by correctly guessing everybody’s chosen secret role. To win this way, the Dominant must write down what they think each person’s role is and then check the commits. If the Dominant guesses right, they may reveal the commits as proof and the round ends. If the Dominant guesses wrong, they must remain silent for the rest of the round.
- Partisan victory: A team wins when everybody in the room reaches consensus on which team has won.
- In this scenario, all submissives on all teams lose, because they represent the marginalized and instrumentalized within the dominant group. All Dominants on the winning team win. Dominants on non-winning teams also lose.
- Collective victory: Everybody wins when everybody agrees that everybody wins. There are two ways this can happen:
- Everybody reaches some sort of consensus on the topic and decides it’s time for the next round, or
- The group collectively identifies everybody’s Dominant or submissive status correctly, as verified by checking the commits from before the game. Note that there is no rule against deceiving others about what you wrote down.
EVERYBODY loses if:
- The group decides everybody loses
- The game ends during setup for any reason
- The group cannot reach consensus on whether a victory condition has been met
- The group checks the commits and turns out to have guessed incorrectly
- Anybody ragequits.
Secret Bonus Prize
If you manage to devise a mechanism that reliably results in everybody winning every round, you win a million dollars for defeating the abstract concept of the Adversary once and for all. Tell all your friends about the game so that we can solve computer security.
The collectively optimal resolution to the game is that everybody wins. However, Dominants on either team can also win by playing rationally. Everybody knows that the adversarial Dominants have a vested interest in winning at all costs, even if it means debating everybody else into submission. The collective task, then, is to ensure that collective victory is the most appealing path to the Dominants, wherever they may lurk. Bribery is allowed. Manipulation is encouraged. Honesty is not mandatory, but dishonesty might result in a contradiction – very un-Kantian (and hard to remember!).
Optimal play results in viral spread of the idea that we are already at post-scarcity and revolution is a collective choice. Play this game with all your friends. Grow the groups. Let’s prove just how scalable the idea of democracy/anarchism really is.
Why is it called The Power RPG?
There’s a famous computer science problem that describes the proceedings of a full-time parliament of three arbitrary people, each of whom may be sane or insane. If any one of the three is sane, and the triad can reach consensus, then the session evaluates to TRUE. But if all three are insane at the same time, the parliament disbands, and the entire revolution evaluates to FALSE. Even if they reconvene later, it’s too late, some tankie has already rushed in and seized power by then.
This is not how the problem of 3SAT is typically presented, but the significance of the reduction (full reduction in the appendix) is that computer scientists still haven’t figured out a way to efficiently predict whether a revolutionary tripartite parliament like this will fail significantly in advance of it failing. There are models that come close, but most computer scientists think it’s impossible to come up with a model that has perfect accuracy in time proportional to the length of the government’s tenure.
What that means is that every attempt at revolutionary governance is anyone’s game. If Big Brother knew how to solve 3SAT efficiently and prove P=NP, they’d have done it by now and there would be no point in anything. I choose to believe that we are still here because not even Big Brother can crack strong encryption. That means our interpersonal connections really are the weakest link in capitalism. Let the healing begin.
What’s this got to do with blockchain?
The one true blockchain is history as we retell it. History is written by the victors. Like obscenity, you know history when you know it. The dominant narrative is written by the victors, but feminized knowledge-production traditions also keep the score more subtly behind the scenes. Those who have been written out of the official history were true romantics, they knew more about love than most of us ever will, though so many of their records have been lost.
You wonder how unethical sadists keep ending up in power? It’s because we live in a society that incentivizes the referees to all be people who are too repressed to be caught dead being sexual subjects. Women are allowed to be judges and priests, but only if they are joyless puritanical prudes who never smile unless it’s for the male gaze. Men on the bench are meant to remind you of God, your father, and the intense shame he made you feel whenever you seemed a little too queer for his comfort.
The implication of Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964 obscenity ruling containing the phrase “I know it when I see it”) is that no one who is caught enjoying the obscene should ever become a judge. Kavenaugh traumatized some teenage girl when he was a teenager, and he’s traumatized the owners of the means of reproduction everywhere with his deciding vote overturning Roe vs. Wade. His moral compass is out of whack and he’s violated the court of popular opinion’s rules of decorum.
Everybody on the Left knows we need a revolution. But most of us think of revolution as this far-off, sometime, maybe, never, impossible event. This April Fool’s day our challenge is to make revolution happen, for real. Talk to you liberal family members about it seriously. They want us to be non-violent – what does that mean? Is property destruction violence? Isn’t it more violent to allow the capitalist state to continue to inflict structural violence on its own people through the ravages of neoliberalism and poverty? We have to do something. What are you as a Leftist or progressive doing right now to make sure revolution happens in your lifetime?
The courts are rigged against the Queers, but they’re rigged in favor of the Liberal elites and their maybe-crazy disabled kids. Lots of great lawyers and judges are Autistic, and we Autists do just fine communicating with fellow Autists. If you’re a Liberal, your challenge this April is to pull out all the stops trying the liberal route. Take up whatever figurative arms you have available to you from your position of privilege. Do you think we can do this by May Day, get ready for the big political revolution we’ve all been biding our time for?
Role A: The End User
In computer networks, we treat these as black boxes. In Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), we take them to be average people (in academia) or average customers (in industry). These are the creatives, the Deleuzean schizos, the “constant generator(s) of de-individualization” (Anti-Oedipus). They are the Kantian ends-in-and-of-themselves.
I invite the reader to consider “user” as a pun – it’s a term we also use in the context of addiction. Mainstream Economics essentially teaches us that humans are mindless dopamine addicts, always pressing either the shiniest button or the button that we think will get us the most marshmallows. The thing being used in the phrase “users” isn’t the system, it’s dopamine.
The general public, as well as relevant models in many academic disciplines, do not expect the status quo to change because they assume the average person is a “rational actor” who is essentially only interested in mining dopamine. I challenge this assumption and posit that
a) the average person is, or can be, motivated by social bonds (aka love) to an extent not appreciated by existing models
b) this inaccuracy leads to models that underestimate the likelihood of a successful revolution
Role B: The Adversary
In computer security, we model “the adversary” as a purely evil entity who wants the opposite of whatever it is you want. This is the part of you that enjoys being in control of other people in some way. This is not to say people with strong B traits are unethical – on the contrary, the much-bemoaned lack of tops in the queer community speaks to how deep society’s desire for ethical “Dominant” people runs.
Most people want to trust legitimate authority – whether it’s the advice of their friends, their own devil’s advocacy, the church, the state, God, Marx, Kant, or Deleuze and Guattari, it can be scary to be in full control and sometimes it’s nice to be able to trust someone else. Adversaries are not, in general, bad people. We use the term in part because it has connotations of respect and dignity, such as in the martial fantasy of only wanting to fall to a “worthy adversary”. One person’s comrade is another person’s adversary.
The enemy of an enemy may sometimes be a friend, but a friend of a friend is usually not a full blown comic book adversary. This is why anarchists use systems of vouching for each other in close-knit cells, while adversarial relationships cause schisms in communities everywhere (especially in those anarchist cells!). If a marriage becomes too adversarial, it has to go through the adversarial legal system. You get the idea.
But from the adversary’s perspective, hacking is fun. We like figuring out puzzles, we like the dopamine rush it gives us (adversaries are users too!). The higher the stakes, the bigger the reward. The worse the enemy is, the more advanced the tactics necessary to defeat them must become. It’s not evil, it’s realism. This tendency (which is in all of us) isn’t bad in and of itself unethical, it just needs to be channeled appropriately (i.e., into the grand utopian revolution).
Not all Adversaries are Dominants. Adversarial submissives may sometimes resort to drastic measures to secure and service good Doms. They are the second-in-command, the diehard loyalists, the evangelists, the frontline soldiers willing to voluntarily die for a leader they believe is in right. What makes the adversary an adversary isn’t dominance or submissiveness, it’s their willingness to believe in such a thing as the “bad guy”, combined with their willingness and desire to act as one in a world where someone else will if they don’t. Adversaries are the people who believe in zero-sum games and will be nobody’s sucker without consent.
Role C: The Observer
The observer tries to be as neutral as possible. This is the archetypal scientist, the sane historian, the boring old neurotic in Deleuze and Guattari. The paranoid computer security researcher, lonely and looking for comrades. This is the part of you that worries, the part of you that feels anxiety about your own inevitable death and shame when you’ve done wrong by your super ego. It’s also the microfascist inkling within yourself, the part of you that wants to be the state, the NSA, the gossip, the person in the know about everything. Like the Adversary, the Observer wants to be in control – the difference is that while the Adversary wants to be in control of other people or other people’s things, the Observer is instead obsessed with maintaining control over their own personal domain.
A lot of autistics will, I anticipate, identify the most strongly with this category given the choice of the three. But keep in mind that everybody has features of all three – it’s important to not let ourselves fall into black-and-white thinking!
In computer security, the observer is usually not discussed explicitly. It is implicit: It’s the corporate person, the military, the institute, society, what have you. But it’s important to identify this role as essential, constitutive even, of the making of ourstory from the perspective of future generations.This is the referee, the systems builder, the medic, the bard who survives to tell the story of your party’s adventures.
One of the Observer’s functions is to interface with End Users’ perceptions of reality. This is the terrain of HCI. In the real world, it is actual End Users who will determine which systems succeed or fail, so the extent to which humans are actually rational dopamine addicts is relevant to HCI researchers’ interests.
One, two, three, four, We declare a Culture War
May Day, 2023. Worldwide general strike. For real. Why not try? Here in the United States, our demands are:
- Free universal healthcare for all
- Prison abolition for everyone, including asylum seekers of every kind and all sentient AIs
- Collective ownership of the means of production
We believe we have the means to do that in the United States today. The only thing we lack is the political will.
This is a challenge to everyone with any sort of economic power, collectively or individually, to act like the revolution is already underway, whatever that means to you. The planet is dying, and every time someone new gets sucked into a cryptocurrency scam it starts dying a little faster. This isn’t a joke. We don’t have much longer, it’s now or never. It’s time for a People’s Crypto. Let’s make ourstory.
Which side are you on?
#PeoplesCrypto #VoteBlockOnBlockchain #NoWallsNoBorders #HackTheSystem #CrackCapitalism #SeizeTheMemes #Ourstory #MeToo
Appendix for Computer Scientists: 3SAT reduction
Define the REV problem as follows:
A three person parliament convenes in which each member is sometimes insane. In each round of Parliament, the round evaluates to TRUE if and only if at least one member of that parliament is sane at the time it convenes. A solution to the REV problem is an assignment of sanity states that makes the entire reign of the parliament evaluate to TRUE (i.e., it disbands voluntarily at the end and is not a failed revolution). If any session has all three parties insane at the same time, the entire revolution evaluates to FALSE.
REV is in NP: Given ground truth about whether each parliamentarian is sane or insane during each session, we can evaluate the course of the REV in O(n) time by evaluating each session to see if any of them have all three parliamentarians insane at the same time.
An arbitrary 3SAT problem can be reduced to REV: Each clause corresponds to a session of parliament. Treat the literals in the first clause as ground truth sanity values for each parliamentarian. Each negation corresponds to that parliamentarian switching sanity states during that session. This is O(n).
An arbitrary REV problem can be reduced to 3SAT: Each session of parliament corresponds to a clause in Conjunctive Normal Form. Each parliamentarian corresponds to a variable. Use negations to indicate sanity state changes. This transformation takes O(n).
A TRUE in 3SAT corresponds to a TRUE in REV and vice versa: By definition, the REV evaluates to TRUE if and only if there is at least one sane actor in each session of parliament. This corresponds to the scenario in which every clause of a 3SAT instance evaluates to TRUE.
This piece and the phrase “Power RPG” are copyrighted 2023 under CC share-alike to prevent direct cooptation by capitalist interests. See copyleft statement for more of the rationale.