San Francisco, California

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization

Here's a fabulous talk by Jonathan Blow about the quality of software, video games, and...ahem...the end of civilization.

One of the really interesting parts of this talk is when Blow mentions just how much energy is required to teach the next generation; information is often lost in the process and—because of this enormous loss—technology isn’t always on the up and up. In fact, technology often gets worse.

Blow points to technologies and societies that have regressed, such as the Byzantine Empire that knew how to wield napalm or the Greeks who knew how to craft luminescent glass. Both of those technologies were lost because successive generations weren’t taught about them. But ultimately Blow’s argument is this: today software is getting worse across the board, the foundations of it all are not secure because we’re not teaching the next generation properly. It’s all frameworks built on top of frameworks.

Maybe I’m nodding along so violently to this talk because I’m playing through Cyberpunk 2077 right now and despite it being a wonder of a game visually, all the characters walk around with phones in their necks or cigars floating next to them as if they’re haunted. Characters pop in and out of existence or get caught in the environment or duplicate conversations overlap. I climb into one car and it changed my character’s skin color, and another car I climbed into wouldn’t let me un-crouch.

So Cyberpunk is the most beautiful and, somehow, the most broken game I’ve ever played.

The foundations are not just worse for games though, where a floating cigar is relatively harmless. For Blow, declining software quality is a hallmark of the end times, a threat to this civilization that’s entirely based on soft (this is what the folks in Cyberpunk call “software” and it bugs me each time they say it but I can’t possibly tell you why).

So: let’s go make better soft (ugh, I’m sorry).

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