War of inner spaces
It’s rare that I have a dream whose contents survive the transition to consciousness. It’s even rarer for a dream of mine to not only survive mostly intact but remain compelling hours after waking. This is one such dream.
I think this idea, at its kernel, could make a really interesting science fiction story, role-playing game or even possibly a board/card game.
It all begins…
The story begins in the past. Decades of research into neurology, sociology and psychology leads to a new discipline: socionomy. (The neologism in question is coined by way of relating it to sociology in the same way that astronomy is related to astrology.) In socionomy we don’t just study societies, we know enough that we can shape them; we can program them, in fact, like we program computers.
A new world of joy, happiness, freedom and peace is heralded.
Fast forward a hundred years
The claims of socionomers are legitimate. Socionomy can allow you to program human societies with the traits you desire. The discipline is sufficiently difficult, too, that there are very few practising socionomers out there. Of course any software developer has already spotted the flaw. Sadly the sociologists, neurologist and psychologists who created the new discipline didn’t take enough CS courses to spot it.
Writing code, for mere computers, even, is hard and bugs creep in despite the best efforts of the coders. When you have a computer you’re programming, a bug is an annoyance that you curse under your breath over, then fix. When bugs are created in social “software”, however, you’re fucking with people. You only have one computer—society—and if it crashes, you’ve really got your work cut out for you.
Society has crashed at many times since socionomy programs were launched, at least portions of it have. Socionomers have been working frantically to patch the programs of their forebears, but…
Coding styles evolve
…there’s this problem. Socionomy being a new discipline, there were no known “coding standards” in place. Initial socionomy programs, although simple and limited in scope, were written in what essentially amounts to spaghetti code. Newer, more structured styles (the most popular being “Structured Memetics”) were quickly created, but by then it was too late: damaged, buggy and undecodable social programs were already out in the wild and causing damage. Increasingly new programs were built to just patch up the vital, but buggy, older programs.
Coding wars begin
On top of this, religious wars have started to divide the formerly close-knit circles of socionomy. Structured Memetics has reached its limits of complexity, but social problems requiring code have exploded combinatorically, helped onward by undetected bugs in earlier social programs. The already-small community of socionomers is fracturing into several new, untested approaches each with its own strengths, weaknesses and, most importantly, interactions—both good and bad—with other styles.
The entry point
Whatever form this idea takes (story, game, other), this would be where it begins. The world is a nightmare of badly-designed, badly-executed, badly-patched social programs written by increasingly desperate and frantic socionomers. In an RPG it would be up to the GM and players to decide how things progress. In a story, the next step would be the focus of a protagonist or two. In a card game the game play would focus on trying to stabilize an unstable system on the brink of total existence failure.
OK, that’s out of my system. I can return to sanity.