[ExI] RPGs and transhumanism

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sat Feb 26 15:14:31 UTC 2011

AlgaeNymph wrote:
> On 2/26/11 6:10 AM, Anders Sandberg wrote:
>> I am looking forward to read Jane McGonigal's "Reality is Broken" to 
>> see what lessons we can get from the game community.
> Interesting you of all people should say this, as I first remember you 
> from the days of Mage: the Ascension.  Any ideas for how today's RPGs 
> can promote transhumanism?

Eclipse Phase.

This is my current favorite RPG, a fairly hard sf game. The motto of the 
game is "Your mind is software. Program it. Your body is a shell. Change 
it. Death is a disease. Cure it. Extinction is approaching. Fight it." 
The game setting is the solar system, colonized by various transhuman 
clades and trying to survive in the aftermath of a bad singularity. It 
explicitly refers to transhumanism, existential risk - and the 
extropians is one of the political factions!


The reason I like it, besides the fact that it is a pretty good game, is 
that it allows people to play out various transhumanist technologies and 
explore their consequences. The game is one of the few that has a 
serious section thinking about the sociological effects of being able to 
switch bodies, live virtually or modify minds. It is fun to have my 
players discuss whether they ought to stop or help the growth of Robin 
Hanson-style massive copying of uploads, characters quarreling over the 
proper treatment of forked selves or whether it is OK to blow up your 
body in a "temporary suicide" to get to a remote destination faster, and 
Tanzania trying to reboot itself in the rings of Saturn using a 
Farmville-like game and an army of psychiatrists.

There are other transhuman games. GURPS Transhuman Space is around 
[ADVERT MEME: and "Cities of the Edge" by yours truly is appearing about 
now! ] That is a slightly less extreme setting, but players can again 
play with the technologies and ideas and see where they lead. I have 
never tried Freemarket, but it seems interesting.

In a sense you can play transhumanism in any game. My gaming group ran a 
fantasy campaign that involved a kingdom that used a mixture of magic to 
enhnance people and build what was essentially an early industrial 
society. The idea is after all to see what happens when you start to 
change the human condition.

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University 

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