A Perfect World

I would suggest that this book, and the two books immediately preceding it, are an examination of the difference between what people believe they want the world to be and what they actually want and need it to be. When people gain enough power to create their vision of the perfect world, they do – and then find they’ve constructed an elaborate prison at best and a slow and terrible death at worst.

An actual “perfect world” can’t be safe, controlled, or certain — and the inevitable consequence of that is pain. But so is delight.

I’d say the primary bad thing about pain is not that it hurts, but that it’s pushy and won’t tune out. You could learn to sleep in a ship’s engine room, but a mere stubbed toe grabs and holds your attention.

That, I think we could delete with impunity.

(Julian Morrison)

If we could learn to simply get along with any level of pain… how would it constitute an obstacle?

Real accomplishment requires real obstacles to avoid, remove, or transcend. Real obstacles require real consequences. And real consequences require pain.


7 Responses to “A Perfect World”

  1. “An actual “perfect world” can’t be safe, controlled, or certain”

    unless it can. in which case most would say it would be boring. I personally would gladly give up the thrill of pulling off uncertain success for the elimination of failure. But I wouldn’t force my decision on others. I’d rather have a holodeck to myself and let other people choose whether or not to plug into the matrix.
    will the “real” world then be left populated by nothing but Luddites eventually? maybe. the only reason for the plugged in to care is if the luddites mess with the power supply to the holodeck.

  2. Real accomplishment requires that you care enough for that accomplishment (achieving goal *through* overcoming its obstacles) for its own sake. It requires obstacles of course, but only those that would hamper what you are trying to achieve, and not those which mess up some random other thing. Real failure is failure in achieving a goal you actually care about. That is pain and consequence enough.

  3. I stopped reading with the third Dune book.

    So what if there are no “real” accomplishments? I’ll take the perfect world anyway.

  4. TGGP: good choice.

    I take the Dune series in the following way:

    First book: masterpiece, one that stands alone.

    Next three books: different aspects of one book, in which Herbert tries desperately to unmake the effects the first book had on many fans. (He was sometimes accused of trying to start a cult – given the techniques present in the first book, that was a very real and serious accusation.)

    Later books: attempts to make desperately-needed money to support dying wife by appealing to fans who would read anything he wrote, even (as he famously noted) “Garbage Scow of Dune”.

    Even later books by his son: utter garbage, and not just in a stylistic sense.

  5. That’s ‘good choice’ in regard to the books, not the perfect world. That’s a terrible choice, but I won’t press the issue.

  6. consider, I think humans have very few goals that they care about “for their own sake”. Most of our actions are instrumental – we set goals so that we can satisfy even deeper goals.

    People often play games in which their avatars cannot ‘die’. But what they’re risking is other types of failure. If you can get whatever you want, immediately, with no reference to skill, patience, hard work, or any other attribute, everything becomes meaningless.

    Even things that we like only because they’re signals are pointless. If anything can be done at whim, what is there to signal?

  7. I was thinking of ‘games’ where failures are ‘localized’ as in they affect only your progress in that particular quest which involves it. So, within the game there is challenge, but failure within the game is your failure – within the game. Your life outside of it is untouched.

    Since the wiser among us do choose to play games in which failure is a possibility, rather than those where it is not. It shows that there can be ‘choice of choice (for success gratis, or not)’. We can choose to impose challenges upon ourselves, even when it is not necessary to do so.

    And of course, the wiser among us also do not take such risks in real life, where consequences spread far and wide.

    There does seem to be a hierachy of goals. This hierachy can come about in two ways. One is from the structure of reality itself, some state spaces which cannot be arrived at without also going through other state spaces. The other way is our ‘life story’ so to speak. We see we have these separate ‘local reinforcers’ lust, risk-taking, love, that in the EEA lead to succesful reproduction. We don’t make reproduction our life story of course. But we still impose some kind of narrative or overall structure to our local desires.

    I don’t believe in a hierachy. Or rather I don’t believe there needs to be *one* overarching hierarchy. We should use the freedom we have to impose whatever hierarchies we want upon our desires. These hierarchies can overlap for example, and don’t even have to be properly nested. Separate, discordant, unrelated goals can seem meaningless, but they are not implied by the lack of ‘the hierarchy’. There can be structure to our goal system, without the structure being like that of a government or corporation.

    I guess i have to revise ‘for its own sake’ then to ‘for its own sake, and/or the sake of goals which depend on this local goal for their attainment’. But not for anything else.

    My perfect world, preserves choice of choice, including to localize failure. It does not require we eliminate it, or accept the crude version of it that we have right now.

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