Monday, November 29, 2010

SL and Psychopathy

I suppose this was a subject to come up, but it seems an important one, even if an unpopular one. When we get down to the heart of it, it is probably something that's on the minds, and maybe has some effect on the soul or psyche of many of us who participate in SL.  In essence, this subject is a matter of conscience - what it means, and how we consider and reflect on it in this virtual world or metaverse, or however one sees it.

At one point or time in our experiences on SL, many of us have certainly had certain conflicts with other people, and even felt like there was a sense about people being uncaring, or just plain careless and unable to respond or react to something in human decency.  Is it just a matter of cultural differences, or the varying of expectations and personal views about what SL is that causes this clash, or is there more to it than that?  Well, certainly there is, and, joking or not, we've all considered this particular idea, that maybe there are just certain people that are plain and simply psychopaths.

There might be something right and accurate about the assessment of psychopathy.  The question that might be posed, though, especially in consideration to what is a common experience in SL, and even gaming itself, is how much of this is natural and how much is conditioned?  But, on that, I would consider reading this, and you can tell me what you think:

Some claim it might be an aspect of people merely acting like animals. But even so, animals can be trained and conditioned somewhat. They are not under a human standard, but they do have standards, or at least can learn from mistakes, or otherwise die.  For humans, we had that survival standard earlier in our world history, and, for those that live a more natural life, still operate on such.  But as civilizations grew out of cultures, these aspects migrated and reformed into different aspects of what it means to survive in the modern world.  So, basically, psychopaths thrive in social Darwinism, just like their predecessors survived, much like animals, on natural Darwinism.  

Theologically, I come from the view of human being part animal (flesh, material, nature) and part soul (spirit, 'psyche').  As you read, you may notice that the view does come out that psychopaths seem to lack a soul, and therefore become essentially a machine. Other  areas would say they are another form of human altogether. Either may be possible.  If it is a trait of humanity, then it is something natural and a part of the animal that makes up humans.  If that's true, it is also something that is ingrained in humanity and something that not only can come naturally, but also be conditioned, or at least refined.

How much does SL, or even gaming in general condition or refine would be the question.  For me, Ayami makes good example, because, no matter what criticism is given, there appears to be not one shred of guilt or other culturally conditioned mechanisms there that make up out morals and ethics of what makes for proper decency or human interaction. Is it a matter that shi is a psychopath, or is it the aggressive, competitive nature of being a gamer that has been conditioned into hir, that shi will take over the Catwalkers no matter how destructive hir actions are to gain it?

Yes, I know this often can get turned into religious debate, and I did note my theological view on the make up of humanity.  But I'm not going to argue on that.  You can either believe or not believe in the theological elements. Yet, it would seem that theological and psychological arguments coincide on the aspect of a psychopath lacking in 'soul' or the human psyche, even despite the arguments on just exactly what that soul/psyche might be, and the where and how it originated and developed.  There is something lacking in the psychopath when it comes to that element, and it is something that does do damage to people.  

And I can't help but feel this statement having an echoing theme for me with regard to this whole business about the Catwalkers, Midian, and even SL in general:

"The truth - when twisted by good liars, can always make an innocent person look bad - especially if the innocent person is honest and admits his mistakes."

That's been at least one element of SL that I have had experience and shared experience with.  Because, as much as we split SL out of reality, and let fantasies run wild in SL, we participate in the psychopath conditioning.  It already separates us from the physical, yet replaces the material with virtual greed and lust.  Many times, it feels like the spirit is being killed in order to fashion and reshape our virtual world into nothing more than mechanized, conditioned responses with no concept of shame, guilt, or conscience whatsoever.

In some ways, we've pre-shaped this condition and environment for the psychopath by postmodern relativism, and the like that has done the damage to natural (even spiritual) human culture.  But, on the other hand, maybe the deconstruction has been a necessity.  Like, trying to separate and segregate in order to see the underlying illness.  We kind of know what it is, but, like the psychopath, we'd like to forget what it is.  However, unlike the psychopath, we can't.  We may do bad things, but we can feel the guilt, but they can't. But yet, if the psychopaths of the world get their way, they will either try to root out conscience either by conditioning us to be like them, or, they might just weed out us, if opportunity comes and they see it more beneficial than conning us in a game of feigned civility.  

I don't know. To be honest, my feelings are mixed on this. Maybe I'm just wondering if there's some merit to the conditioning.  And if so, suppose that means a need to change what I've been doing on SL.  In some ways I have, but, I don't know.  It just seems like SL is too much of an environment made to be playing grounds for psychopaths.  So the question becomes how exactly can you do anything in SL that doesn't condition one to such a way of doing things?  How to keep fantasy and reality in check, and how to go about doing things, especially when it comes to RP and trying to make stories, and still be able to hold conscience and accountability.  Especially when the 'rules' seem to imply such things should not be considered.


  1. I was surprised to learn that psychopaths are more common than people with eating disorders. Thats a relevant point, as I've met several people with eating disorders during my life, as well as having had an eating disorder myself once. This means at LEAST several people I've met are thus psychopaths. Scary thought.

    Now realize that SL does attract at least some people who either are psychopathic or have many of the tendencies and it starts to make sense why Midian is so full of drama. Its drama created by the psychos who hang out there.

    I guess you can say that there are two basic kinds of people who roleplay in sims:
    The first are the people who're there to have fun roleplaying and making friends, the second type are there to attain power for themselves in the sim via their characters, and for whom roleplaying is merely a vehicle they use attain that power. The other vehicles they use are cowardice, corruption, nepotism, lying, manipulation etc...Most of the people who become admins or faction leaders, or both, are of the power-seeking type. And most people who seek to attain power are corrupt and selfish, and so we have the result in Midian where almost ALL of the admins and faction leaders are they type of people who use Midian as their own private playground and who are contemptuous of anyone also not in a position of power i.e. most people.

    And many of those could have psychopathic tendencies. I think the medium of SL itself breeds these tendencies in people who would otherwise be merely socially inept. I wouldn't be surprised if the percentage of people encountered in SL who are psychopathic is higher than 4%, closer to double that maybe? So yes your concerns are warranted. The fucked-up behaviour from many people I've seen in Midian/SL has long troubled me. I've always spoken out at the cowardly behaviour people use because they can easily harm/influence others via the medium of internet and the safety net it gives them, a safety net psychopaths don't have in RL.

    I would imagine that psycopaths would thrive in SL/Midian: they have a medium that allows them to express their deviant desires via roleplaying, and which allows them to manipulate others for their own agendas, with virtually none of the dangers associated with such behaviour in RL.

    Its always been easy for people to dismiss psychopathy as a reason for a person's behaviour because its "politically incorrect" to accuse someone of something like that and the belief that all psychopaths are serial killers or drooling retards in mental health facilities. Truth is most of them are out there leading relatively normal lives, and at least some of them are logging onto SL. Scarier thought.

    Time for a wake up call, I say.

  2. I'd say Midian was my wake up call, as it has seemed to have been for you too, Ash. The question does get posed back to me, though, particularly by friends that are still in Midian, and even more particularly by those friends that happen to be faction leaders, of, 'Well, if this is all true, then does that make me a psychopath too?'

    On that, I would like such friends to try and not personalize the subject. Even with giving the example of Ayami, this is not a personal matter. Ayami is representative of the sorts of traits that would be considered a psychopath having. Hir Behavior has pretty well fit the mold of a psychopath, and many of you know this.

    Are leaders 'evil'? No, not all. But people put in leadership positions do have responsibilities to other people, and to have a psychopath in such a position is insane. After all, even Hitler or Stalin, if they never had the opportunities to gain power, could have fallen into the average person and just have thought or expressed their destructive views of how the world ought to work, just as many people have put up their own scenarios. The difference is, those two psychopaths did find opportunity to rise to power, and history tells us the results of this. More recently, we can go with Bin Ladin and how his fortune and charisma had devistated generations of people in the Near East. Say what you will about his hiding in a cave, but he still has the savvy to use the media and internet to recruit, and that is certainly a dangerous mix.

    But yet, are all leaders bad? No. But even so, it is important to distinguish between a Mother Teresa and a Jim Jones, or a Mahatma Gandhi and a Pol Pot. All these people had done great things, and many of them beneficial to their particular society and culture. But, even so, there was a difference in what they wanted from the end results, and even in the ways and means that they went about doing so.

    The main question I have for leaders is, ok, fine, you don't want to be a bad guy, then how do you intend to lead your group so as not to become one?