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(posted on 2022-11-20)

CYOAs and futurism

there is a community for the creation and playing of games where one is to select a bunch of options, some favorable and some disfavorable, and imagine what an ensuing situation would look like. these CYOAs — named after, but not quite the same as, "choose your own adventure" books — can be found on a couple of subreddits, namely r/makeyourchoice (sfw) and r/nsfwcyoa (nsfw).

CYOAs i enjoy playing tend to be pretty complex, with many sets of choices and points systems — typically, picking an option costs points when the choice is favorable and rewards points when the choice is disfavorable. they often involve choosing one's own situation in the world or choosing what kind of a world one is to inhabit; they are most interesting when they offer both of those possibilities.

for example, a CYOA might offer options that lead one to choose between being a poor peasant or a famous wizard on the one hand, and might offer options that lead to inhabiting worlds such as a cyberpunk dystopia, a comfy high-fantasy world, or merely a modified version of our base reality.

choices, and the scale and meaning of their consequences, have to be interpreted because a CYOA's consequences are to be simulated in one's own mind, rather than mechanically ran by a program as they are for video games. as a result, one ends up having to do something like extrapolating what someone intended in a balanced way, which is a fun exercise.

things get especially interesting when one has to tradeoff their own quality of life vs the kind of world they'll end up in, the latter of which will impact everyone else that lives in that realm.

i try to play those games as if my choices were actually going to be implemented, and i find myself typically implementing a preference ordering which is, from most to least preferred option:

note that "extinction" can be ambiguous — how much can i change of my own mind (as many CYOAs allow) before it's not me anymore, or even not really a full person anymore?

this is a framework which, while pretty removed from the actual life choices i have to make in real life, still feels interesting for thinking about choices and how they impact the future, as well as general utilitarianism and world optimization given a top-down but still constrained perspective.

and, while i've recently put aside utopia design in favor of just letting values be extrapolated, CYOAs still get my mind thinking about how choices about a world work out in the long run. this can include choices about the nature of reality that CYOAs sometimes ask you to make about what kind of world you'll inhabit, and can be as fundamental as "will i choose for the world to have magic?" or "can i make it that the world has infinite inhabitable future?" — which i think are not entirely irrelevant to think about, if we are to get a better idea of what problems we need to solve to get the best kind of utopia.

(posted on 2022-11-20)


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