The Highest Ranking Non-Player Characters (How Academia Got Pwned 4)

This is the fourth post in a series about the glorious completion of my academic career, the internet, and the future of intellectual life. I'm curious: Would you like to read the whole story, edited, in a beautiful paperback? I may have an announcement soon, so be sure to subscribe. Custom meme by @w_guppy.

When two individuals represent radically different forms of life, a minor detail in one interaction can reveal the otherwise invisible, tectonic plates beneath the order of the world. In the meeting where my Dean handed me the suspension letter, there was a point in the conversation where she referred to me as a philosopher or something like that… She was trying to be nice and generous; she is a social scientist, and she was trying to say how she is not judging the content of my writing or speaking or ideas, as she understands what I’m doing is different… She contrasted me to herself, a social scientist. This was quite a slip, because I am a social scientist. Obviously she has tons of academics under her remit, and I would never expect her to know all of their scholarly identities. But if you’re suspending someone, I would imagine you might, I don’t know, do a quick review of their publication history? My most recent and prestigious publications are clearly empirical, quantitative, social science articles.

Academia fancies itself as a more humane alternative to the corporate machine, but when the surface cracks ever so slightly, and you catch a glimpse behind the curtain, you realize the humanistic gloss is actually a higher level of brutality. It’s not more human than the business world, it’s the business world plus an extra layer of deception, an extra layer of exploitation where the performance of friendly disinterested intellectualism is only the most effective way to use other humans as objects. Successful academic administrators know how to extract desired behavior from others with far more ruthless efficiency than any CEO, or even the algorithms of Facebook. She was being so nice, how could I possibly speak poorly of her, let alone to the public? I struggle with pangs of guilt as I write this, but that’s how they get you. That’s how an oppressive social order — always an order of lies — reproduces itself, despite everyone knowing and loathing the lies. Institutions are just dead inhuman matter, people will gladly disobey and overthrow institutions. But institutions pay some humans really well to cue the biases and heuristics of other humans, to induce desired behaviors through emotional blackmail.

An administrator is a human who rents out their body to an algorithm (the institution, essentially Capital) because only human bodies can trigger evolved social cues. An administrator rents out their eyeballs, for instance, because eye contact generates oxytocin in the target — sorry, I mean “colleague” — and such biochemicals make it really hard for that employee to do things like tell simple truths on their blog. Thus, a careful but unwavering analytical coldness is an absolute requirement for anyone interested in understanding how social institutions function; how dominant lies and brutalities are so resilient to critique and protest; and ultimately, to generate real dynamics of collective liberation. High-level functionaries of mainstream institutions are evil robots evolved precisely to exploit our emotions for the survival of their host. Any real intellectual must treat them as such, openly and publicly.

This is why any serious protest against unjust institutions, weirdly enough, requires one to embody a certain dose of — or really just the appearance of what they will call — evil. If these blog posts seem somewhat cruel or petty or unhinged, that’s because the highly evolved existence of evil institutions is such that any concretely effective act of simply describing the problem appears as deranged aggression. Not because I’m deranged or aggressive, but because evil is refinement.

This is also why, now, reality is forking. To many people, my missives simply could not read as anything other than the lashing out of a lunatic, and perhaps they are not wrong. To me, however, and many of the people actually reading these missives — we cannot see mainstream institutions as anything other than a conspiracy of liars and bores. For most of history, our viewpoint was never able to constitute itself as a social reality, because the liars and bores always had disproportionate access to broadcast media. It is only right now that we are crossing the historical threshold where the declining effectiveness of broadcast media is intersecting with sufficiently widespread communities of peer-to-peer social reality production, that now the mainstream worldview of institutional functionaries is the crackpot conspiracy theory unable to constitute itself. In reading these missives, in hearing these words as someone just telling their truths, you branch with me into a hard fork of reality itself. If you write or make something with similar assumptions, and I read or watch it, we rush even further ahead of those still operating on the deprecated codebase. This is already happening in a million different directions across the internet, of course, I am only trying to theorize how this production of social reality works, demonstrate empirically that it does indeed work, and stimulate more and more people to do it however they might please.

Though my observations occasionally zoom in on particular individuals, I should clarify that this is not a personal attack on anyone. The administrators of large bureaucratic institutions are not evil, they’re merely possessed by evil. They typically have no agency whatsoever, having sold it off so long ago. They are only the highest ranking non-player characters. People reach high administrative positions because they — more fully than any of their peers — are the most perfectly empty, passive vessels for whatever the institution needs at any moment. In the academic context, most high-level administrators did, at some point, knowingly make a Faustian bargain, where they traded the truth-seeking vocation of the true intellectual for a bigger paycheck (the terms are nearly explicit in academia). That is a true sin, for which there will be a reckoning, but that is none of my business. Don’t judge these poor souls, pray for them.

4 comments on “The Highest Ranking Non-Player Characters (How Academia Got Pwned 4)”

  1. You ask us to pray for them - are you speaking metaphorically, or do you truly believe in the power of prayer?

    1. I do not believe there is any causal relationship between prayer and some specifically wished for outcome, no. That's the silly and superstitious way of understanding prayer that most people have in their minds, sadly. I subscribe to Simone Weil's theory of prayer, which is that prayer is simply pure attention. It's the evacuation of instrumental motives in favor of an increasingly non-biased, meditative application of our faculties. In my view, personally, if I say "I will pray for you," I mean: I will think of you in those moments I dedicate to the purification of my attention. This is good for you in many ways, but they are indirect. These moments have as their ultimate endpoint the dream of a perfectly accurate and coherent comprehension, though it seems we never quite get there. This is why prayer is intrinsically prayer to God — not because there's some guy in the sky who grants wishes like a genie, but because the search for truth is ultimately looking for something that's not here. Yet we want it, and it is good to pursue it, but we only ever get a piece of it, and only with great struggle and practice. In other words, praying, I believe that someone or something somewhere could have this full comprehension, because I am trying to be that, but so long as I am not yet, then am I not effectively worshipping this perfection? Thus I believe in God. It's empirically/scientifically obvious that prayer has several positive effects (essentially the same as meditation), so it makes sense that prayer is historically and mythologically encoded with desirable outcomes, but these are indirect I believe. I do not believe it's sacrilegious to say this, though more sophisticated Catholics might say otherwise (in which case I'd re-evaluate).

      1. I don't think this is sacrilegious at all and I suspect many Catholics would agree with you. However, they tend to make a distinction between mere mediation (mindfulness or 'pure attention') and prayer, where the latter involves some kind of intentional alignment to the will of God.

        By hooking into the 'divine telos', the idea is you become more virtuous, attentive and 'holy'. This leads to positive outcomes beyond what one might get from meditation alone.

        1. Yes that's good... I'm inclined to see pure attention as intentional alignment with God, but yea... So it is different from meditation, in my view, because of how one sees it, which we know is enough to shape the effects of cognitive and emotional processes...

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