Recently, I've been thinking about the subject of this article. What implicit authority do ambassadors and representatives of alliances have when speaking to foreign alliances? This may seem at first trivial, but it's actually quite important. It matters when it comes to alliances' responsibility for what their representatives say. Here we will delve into this question and attempt to work out an answer.
All authority is either explicit or implicit. Explicit authority is that which is granted directly by someone with the legitimate ability to do so. But explicit authority is easily revoked and in any event, it isn't the kind of authority that usually gets anyone into trouble because it is so clearly defined by its very nature. There isn't much room for error.
Implicit authority on the other hand is much murkier. It isn't based on the decrees of another (organization or individual) but rather on the context of both the position a person holds and other factors such as a given situation. While it can vary depending on situation, what will be discussed here is the minimum level of implicit authority representatives can be assumed to have because without it their jobs would effectively be impossible or at least unreasonably difficult.
So what is this minimum amount of implicit authority representatives are vested with? Well it is reasonable to figure all representatives are plenipotentiaries. A plenipotentiary is an individual who has the authority to speak on behalf of the sovereign (i.e., the State or, in the case of CN, the Alliance). Of course, this is not entirely true. For example, we rarely think of alliance members who serve as representatives as implicitly holding the power to negotiate or sign treaties, declare war, make peace, or do any of the more high level actions alliances are capable of performing. That said, while representatives may not ordinarily have the authority to do these things, they can certainly speak (but not act) on behalf of their alliances. Their alliance has sent them to represent it to another, and if the receiving alliance cannot take what this person says as representative of the alliance, why would it even bother to talk with said person in any official capacity. The sending alliance then may as well have not sent this person at all because without the authority to speak on behalf of their alliance, which is the whole point of sending representatives, the person cannot do her job.
So onto why this matters. Because representatives are speaking for their alliances, their alliances can be held responsible for anything that they say to a foreign alliance. Of course, an alliance can revoke its representatives' authority to speak for it, but it is responsible for anything said before that point. Responsibility is a measure of how much praise or blame a person deserves for words or actions, and if alliances are not responsible for what their representatives say, then what their representatives say is trivial and pointless. They may be nominally speaking on behalf of their alliance but it isn't substantive speech. If representatives cannot engage in substantive speech, they cannot do their jobs as substantive speech is the only kind that matters to the receiving alliance. Niceties and basic polite conversation are fine, but in order to engage with an alliance through its representatives (which is the whole point of receiving and talking to representatives), representatives must be capable of saying things that genuinely mean something, and how can anything they say mean anything for relations between alliances if one alliance is wholly removed from anything that is said? The answer is that it can't.
Representatives must be capable of speaking on behalf of their alliances to do their job, and speaking on an alliance's behalf necessarily entails that the alliance can be held responsible for what is said in its name, for good or for bad, for praise or for blame.
Something that isn't often talked about in this world is how alliances administer justice. Despite the dearth of discussion though, it's actually a crucial subject when it comes to understanding our world because the way justice is delivered across the Cyberverse has a great deal of bearing on how community norms are enforced and alliances maintain control.
So to aid in understanding, this entry will focus on the different generalized systems for administering justice and will analyze their relative strengths and weaknesses.
The first type of justice is arguably the simplest of the lot: justice by decree. In a justice by decree system, one individual or small group of individuals holds the power to decree punishments, and can usually delegate some or all of this power to others in the alliance. The second type of system is the one most familiar in RL: court justice. In a court justice system, one individual or a group of individuals is appointed or elected to administer justice in the alliance. This court decides on punishments, but unlike in a decree justice system, the court is bound by higher law to administer justice consistent with said higher law's guarantees of rights and due process; there can also be a process by which one can appeal the decision of the court to another authority within the alliance. This limits the court's power and strengthens the rights of individual alliance members. The last type of system is the one most associated with socialist alliances: direct democratic justice. In a direct democratic justice system, all alliance members have the right to decide on some or all punishments.
So now that we have this framework of the basic types of justice systems in the Cyberverse, the next step is to look at their relative strengths and weaknesses and then perhaps formulate an approach that might be better than any one of those above. Justice by decree systems have one huge leg up on all the others: efficiency. Nothing is more efficient than one individual or small group just deciding who should be punished and how. No trial, no need for procedures to be followed, just one person (or a few) deciding. However, the problem with this system also stems from this massive efficiency: potential for abuse. Since there is no chance of appeal, and one person or a small group holds all the power, if at some point a particularly malevolent person or people come(s) into that position or those positions, the results could be disastrous for the alliance. Court justice systems provide for strong individual rights, which vastly reduces the potential for abuse which is so high in decree justice systems. This reduced risk of abuse comes at a significant cost though: much less in the way of efficiency. The need for detailed, standardized, and consistently enforced procedures, due process, lengthy trials and the like to ensure rights are fully respected makes court justice systems the most inefficient of the three. Direct democratic justice systems are very participatory as they ensure just about every member can be involved in administering justice. This creates a collegial atmosphere and possibly keeps members better informed as to how the alliance handles those who misbehave. The downside is that a vote or other kind of large-scale decision process is required to actually enact consequences, which can be costly and time consuming to organize, even in smaller alliances, and there is almost as much of a potential for abuse as in decree justice systems. Whereas decree systems suffer from this potential due to their concentration of power, direct democratic systems suffer from it for the opposite reason but to a similar degree. There is a risk that mob justice may prevail, in which vocal members get enough support to punish someone who in fact has done nothing wrong or get a member severely punished for what is typically considered a minor offense.
Given this, none of these systems are perfect, and none ever will be perfect. No system can be, but the question is could one design a better system. Each of the above has clear pros and cons, so it may be possible to construct a hybrid system that minimizes the cons and maximizes the pros.
Consider a Court-Decree system. In a court-decree system, one person person or a small group holds the power to decree punishments. Unlike in a pure decree system though, the offenses are specifically defined in advance and ex post facto punishment is not allowed, so the one or ones decreeing punishment don't also get to decide in the moment what is punishable. And on top of this, all those being considered for punishment have the right to defend themselves and know what they are accused of having done. This does not mean they have the right to a fair trial or the right to counsel; evidence of the offense isn't even necessary, though the authority may decide not to punish without it in specific cases. The defense they make need not even be public (though if it is private one third-party witness would need to be present just to keep everyone honest) nor does it need to have a fixed duration. Anything that is not listed here would be decided by the authority determining the punishment (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The point is, this avoids the potential for mob justice found in direct democratic systems (the participatory aspect isn't essential to justice and is only desirable in actual direct democracies), keeps much of the efficiency of decree systems (since it avoids lengthy trials and keeps procedures to a bare minimum), while providing just enough protections to mitigate much of the risk of abuse.
This system isn't perfect obviously, but it would seem it's a fair bit better than the others, all other things being equal. And of course, this doesn't take into account alliances' histories and cultures, this is a model system and is not designed for a specific alliance.
This is a video you should definitely watch because holy crap it's hilarious. So in order to bring it to you I'm taking a break from my usual reasoning on complex issues and dealing with Tywin going on about something (I don't care what most of the time) to bring you it in all its glory.
To note: I do not know the maker of the video, but whoever it is deserves some serious props!
Here's a link to it: http://captiongenerator.com/25821/Chims-Coalition-Plans
This entry of Practical Ethics will be about casus belli, or CBs. More specifically it will be about whether it is ethically permissible to have no casus belli when going to war. For any that do not already know, casus belli is a latin phrase meaning the reason for war. It is the justification used by one party when making war against another party. Casus belli have a long tradition on our world, going back to the first ever war fought amongst alliances, but tradition does not make something ethical or not. Perhaps though, some further reasoning can be found in why this tradition even exists.
CN is a political simulator in so far as it simulates the interactions between nations and groups of nations (read: alliances). More importantly, much of the fun derived from playing this game is from playing politics, speculating on politics, working to change politics, or discussing politics, and most of the rest is made all the more so by politics. Building a nation wouldn't be all that enjoyable if there was no political framework to give it depth and to provide some meaning.
Given this, CBs find a place in our world. If CBs were not ethically required to declare war, then a large chunk of the politics would evaporate from this game as requiring a reason for war is the same as saying that wars cannot be arbitrary. If wars are arbitrary then there is no need for a system behind them: no need for treaties or other formal agreements, no need to scheme, no need think about how war might be started, no way to discuss wars in a political context. Wars would just be a time for fighting, there would be no further context to them. Politics is a system that gives structure to this world and politics cannot exist in a world of arbitrary decisions and arbitrary wars.
So given that politics is a key part of what makes this game fun, that wars cannot be arbitrary for politics to have a real place in this world, and that a lack of CBs in wars makes them, by definition, arbitrary, it follows that for this game to be fun CBs must exist. Those making war must somehow justify their actions for the game to remain fun.
So to paraphrase a favorite English teacher of mine: so what, who cares? How does any of this relate to ethics you ask? Well if you make war arbitrarily, then you take away much of the politics and thus take away much of the fun. Taking away the fun of others is itself ethically impermissible unless you happen to be doing something that outweighs this loss of fun. Now one might claim that war itself is so fun that making it, even arbitrarily, outweighs any other losses that might be suffered. However, this misses the point. Since so much of the fun in this game is tied to the politics, making war without justification ruins the fun of the entire game, and no war can overcome that because, by extension, most of the fun derived from wars is tied to the politics of those wars. Without it there would be no real context, and war without context would be boring and not very fun at all.
Thus, it is not ethically permissible to make war without a casus belli.
This part of a new series called Practical Ethics, which will be about the ethics of affairs across the Cyberverse.
This entry will be on poaching, which for the purposes of this article is defined as soliciting a member of a foreign alliance to join your alliance without that alliance's explicit permission to do so. The question is whether this is ethically permissible. This is actually a rather complicated question because for many the gut reaction is to say no, but it brings up issues of consent, ownership, and even the nature of alliances themselves.
What does it mean to be a member of an alliance? Does being a member give that alliance exclusive rights over you? It seems that the answer is yes. Joining an alliance does mean giving up certain freedoms, and it certainly gives alliances the right to a level of control over you and your nation, but the interesting question is where does this end? How much control is really turned over upon joining? There must be a limit as nations can and do leave alliances and join others. Certainly there is a limit to be found there. That limit is that alliances can never really possess ownership. Alliances never own their members, which means that those members don't give irrevocable exclusive rights to the alliances that they join. Because of this, nations can revoke those rights and grant them to another. By virtue of this, can others solicit nations to exercise their ownership?
While nations possess a right of revocation, if you will, this doesn't necessarily mean that foreign alliances can solicit its use. For one, only the nation can exercise it and until they do, the alliance it is currently in possesses exclusive rights, that, while revocable, are valid until revoked. So do alliances have as one of these exclusive rights the right to exclusive communication with their members? It seems difficult to justify this because a right to exclusive communication hardly seems necessary to the functioning of an alliance, and nations really only grant those rights which are truly necessary to the functioning of an alliance when joining. Any rights that are not necessary are never granted by implication, they must be explicitly granted by a given nation, and are not automatically provided upon joining. To state otherwise would be to violate principles of consent by assuming too much without reason to do so. No reasonable nation would assign rights beyond which are necessary for membership itself since it can be assumed that reasonable people will want to reserve as many rights to themselves as they can.
If alliances do not normally possess the right to exclusive communication, then other alliances would be within their rights to message nations with solicitations of membership. However, there is a massive caveat to this. If alliances do not possess this right, then nations do, which means that they must, by implication, have the right to control communication with themselves. So they can decide not to accept such solicitations, and alliances should respect this stance because to do otherwise would be to harass, which by definition is unwanted communication. I think we can all agree that harassment is something that is not ethically permissible.
What it comes down to is this: poaching is allowed in the sense that alliances do not really have the right to control who their members communicate with, but that said nations do have such a right and thus nations, and not alliances, decide when poaching is over the line and when it isn't. By default (i.e., in the absence of a nation deciding to exercise its rights over who may communicate with it), poaching is ethically allowed as there is nothing inherent to alliance membership to indicate otherwise, and there would have to be if it was by default not ethically permissible.
The Web is a curious place. A land populated chiefly by cats and porn stars is also a land that helps to overthrow governments, spread awareness of important social and societal issues, and ensure that nobody has less than 200 "friends". It is also the land of text. For as much as some decry CN as outdated for its entirely text-based appearance and game play, the vast majority of communication on the web takes the form of text. Written language reigns supreme in the realm of interconnected microprocessors, speech is relegated to second place. However, this yields an important side effect: the !@#$%^& effect.
Humans by and large are risk averse. As a species, we tend to avoid risk because where there is risk, there may be death. And life must find a way, or whatever BS Jeff Goldblum spouted in that small-time sci-fi indie movie. But it wasn't all BS: life, as a general rule, prefers to continue on living, and those that are living will do almost anything to remain living. So of course living beings tend to avoid anything that can get in the way of this drive. (Don't worry, there will be a point soon, I promise.)
Given that as true, enter the !@#$%^& effect. The !@#$%^& effect states that we tend to, in the absence of contravening evidence, assume that others may not have the best of intentions. We may not necessarily assume they are #$%^&*!+, but we definitely don't assume they're angels either. We go with !@#$%^& over angel because we have nothing to fear from angels, it's the #@$*&(!+ we have to worry about, and if we wrongly assume that an !@#$%^& is an angel, we may be in for some serious trouble. The problem lies in where we find most of this contravening evidence: body language and tone of voice. The content of communication rarely offers enough insight to contravene the immediate assumption of less than beneficent intent. The largest exception to this is in fiction, where we are not generally interested in the author's intentions but in the intentions of the characters, and since they are in a whole constructed world, their intentions can be made clear even within the confines of text. In the real world though this usually is not the case.
The internet thus finds itself with a problem. Even in cases where another has good intentions or is being entirely genuine in what they are saying, we have a hard time assuming or accepting this because we don't have enough evidence to the contrary. We can't hear their tone and we can't see what they are doing while they say it. Hence the !@#$%^& effect runs rampart, which makes genuine communication over the internet very difficult. Since this game is played almost entirely through text, the !@#$%^& effect runs this world, for better or worse. We can attempt to combat it by asking ourselves what intentions we would have if we said what another has said. Run the test of reasonableness (ToR) and see if the intentions we are ascribing to this other person make sense in the context. We must assume not that the other has less than beneficent intentions but rather that most here are reasonable people and it is unlikely that their intentions in given contexts are all that different from ours. We must do this because while the !@#$%^& effect is actually helpful off the web (since we rarely lack contravening evidence where it exists, and thus when the !@#$%^& effect takes hold, we are likely correct in our assumptions of intent), it is nearly useless here because we are almost never at risk of losing anything significant. This is a place where it's usually OK to give another the benefit of the doubt.
It almost seems like the OWF is made up entirely of straw men. Is this the way it has to be? Rational argumentation should have a prominent place here. Why? Some may say arguing a point logically is boring, but to those that say that I say "You must never have studied philosophy." Rational arguments are chess matches, they require finesse, they require strategy. In other words, they're difficult. I know it's easier to eat the chips rather than the eggs or chicken, but the chips aren't worth it. You end up just as bloated and worthless as much of this place has become.
Attempting to misdirect, mislead, go around, avoid the points made by another only leads to circular and entirely meaningless discussions out of which nothing arises, nothing is gained, and nothing is changed. Where's the fun in that? Claiming you don't care is patently ridiculous. If you really didn't care, you wouldn't be here. If you really didn't care, you wouldn't log in and comment, and participate, and put huge effort into doing so. You'd sit on your couch and watch TV, read a book, or do anything other than come here.
Responding to a claim shouldn't be put down with shouts amounting to a sacrifice on the altar of common sense, such responses should be lauded. And no, responding to a point is not just semantics, it is not just semantics to respond if it's only a response to one small part of an argument or even to a part that seems trivial on its face. An argument is only ever made up of these small points, and one falling can ruin the jenga tower; sometimes the smallest of points can mean the most, and it can be hard to always know when this is the case and when it isn't. Mountains have been moved with less.
My point is thus: we can do better, we should do better, and we must do better. We want this place to be a place of fun, not a place that discourages all but the most jaded to flock to its walls. It shouldn't be a setting for flinging feces, it should be a setting to move the world in which we find ourselves. This is the epicenter of the Cyberverse, and it sets the tone whether we like it or not. Changing the spirit here can improve everything else. And before you say it's too hard or it can't be done or this is the way it's always been, know that none of those points are an excuse or justification for the utter !@#$e that gets thrown around here. This place is us, in so far as it's made up of us. If we do better, so will this place become.
DBDC has many relationships with many alliances, many of which have significant upper tiers. The alliances best in a position to destroy DBDC are also unlikely to do so because of these connections. However they all have something in common: most view DBDC as a partner of necessity to keep their upper tiers safe so they can focus on other threats and keep aid flowing. However, they all share a common interest, being significant upper tier forces, in preventing DBDC from becoming too much to manage. More importantly, DBDC needs to raid in the upper tier to survive but most of the nations in their range are in alliances with whom they share a connection or are in neutral alliances and are too strong to attack. Eventually they will be forced to attack those nations in the non-neutral alliances with whom they have a relationship of one kind or another, and those alliances may feel they share a common interest in destroying this threat.
Even if they don't, DBDC has to raid to survive and thrive but also has to keep connections with those that most pose a threat to them. This is a very tenuous situation as is a string under tension, one prick of a pin and it will snap. DBDC could avoid this by gradually reducing the number of those connections keeping just enough others on their side to avoid destruction while neutralizing the threat posed by those they drop. However, a sudden blow against too many of them will likely prove disastrous. This is an incredibly fine balancing act, one unlikely to be executed successfully. The fact is that too many things can go wrong, and when so many things can go wrong, something probably will go wrong. Given this, I find it likely that DBDC will not survive for as long as many think. But there is a caveat to this prediction: if DBDC changes their game such that it no longer needs to raid to keep thriving, none of the other problems will exist in a state of tension and the alliance's situation will stabilize.
Let me close by stating that this is just my view of the current situation, and is not intended to represent the views of my alliance or anyone else. More importantly, I'm not necessarily hoping any of this will come to pass (though it'd probably be fun if it did because, well, war ), but looking at things it seems likely that it will.
Hypocrisy is an oft slung critique on the OWF. It's an easy argument to make because everyone in this game who's played for almost any amount of time can somehow be made out to be hypocritical on just about any topic. However, there is a massive problem with this:
It doesn't work as an argument.
Calling out someone for being hypocritical in their arguments is an ad hominem attack not a valid critique. Yes, the person in question may very well be hypocritical, but that hypocrisy does not necessarily make their argument invalid or unsound. When calling out someone for being hypocritical, what you're actually saying is not that what they're saying is false but that they may not be the best person to say it. However, that's just a straw man. By pointing that out you're trying to make the false claim that the argument is about who should be making a point not whether the point itself is valid. If you're not going to actually respond to the substance of an argument, then don't bother saying anything at all.
It may work with some, but anyone who knows much at all will see through your veil of illusion and notice that you didn't actually argue against anything substantive and instead resorted to attacking another poster's character. It's easy to do, but it is also not particularly persuasive as an argument. Most of the decision makers, the people you might actually want to convince you're in the right, are fairly intelligent people as this game may have some standouts morons but really it is played largely by, let's face it, nerds. And nerds are disproportionately intelligent (relative to the general population) and thus able to see through these kinds of fallacious approaches to argumentation.
Every month there is at least one thread on these forums devoted to the state of the game, specifically regarding how it isn't doing very well. The trouble is that even if no one mentions it explicitly, the main reason for this doom and gloom is that CN is not as popular as it was at its height. This is completely true; though I was not around back then, I have heard 50k players thrown around and I believe it. By that metric, CN has decline 80% over the years in user base. However, that isn't the full story.
Comparing CN now to its heydays is a faulty comparison. Yes, the trend has been overall down through the years, but the last few years it has been relatively stable. In other words, the most invested players remain, some new ones have joined, and the rest have left. CN has always occupied a niche so all that is happening now is that that niche is stabilizing over time. CN back then was a fad, it became hugely popular for a time and then the fad went away and it started to decline in popularity. The thing is though, the end of the fad doesn't mean the end of the object of that fad.
Remember Myspace, it was once the most visited site on the web, but then Facebook came along and stole its thunder. The fad ended and Myspace plunged down the Alexa rankings. However, though it is far from its heyday when it was pulling in $900 million a year in revenue, it still makes money ($20 million a year currently), and more importantly it still gets a million unique visitors in a month. So it isn't nearly as popular as it once was, but it isn't gone either; it's still kicking. It just operates in a small niche as opposed to the entire lake.
The surest way for CN to fade away to nothing is to just assume that that fading is inevitable and then decide to just not bother anymore because it isn't going matter anyway. CN is just what we make it, so if we make it crap, it will be crap. Instead, make it great, and the self-fulfilling prophecy will work for us rather than against us.
In metaphysics, one of the three major branches of philosophy (the other two being epistemology and axiology), there is a concept known as identity. Identity in metaphysics is not the same as the commonly understood concept of identity. Identity is rather about what makes something itself. Is the me of today the same person as the me of two decades from now, even though I would've, of course, changed in some fairly major ways between then and now. It seems like there would be an obvious answer (same body, including brain, means same person), but what if you took me and put me in a computer, would I still be me then? As you can see it can be very complicated. That being said it's worth investigating as often these theoretical matters can have practical effects. Case in point: when an alliance is criticized for acts many years in the past, can one genuinely say that the alliance that did those things is (fundamentally) the same alliance that they are criticizing now?
The short answer to that question is yes, it is the same alliance. The long answer is more involved. First off, it's important to recognize that alliances to evolve over time, meaning they do gradually change. However, there is a big difference between gradual change and drastic, sudden change; the latter occurring lends much more credence to the hypothesis that some alliance is in fact fundamentally different than it was in the past. Alliances are more than the sum of their current members, they are an amalgamation of all members' (past, present and future) contributions to the alliance and its culture, traditions, customs, and even laws. Members come and go, but there is virtually never a case in which all the members of an alliance leave at once, and then new members join having had no interaction with the previous members. In such a scenario, hypothetical though it is, it is clear that the alliance as it existed prior to the mass exodus is no more, having been replaced with something new. It has no links to the past and thus cannot genuinely be said to be fundamentally the same alliance. In virtually all cases though alliances that have aged are not fundamentally different at point A in time (the past) than at point B in time (now or in the future).
Of course, actual disbandment with later reformation can also result in different alliances, with the new alliance being fundamentally different from the old one. However, this is not really important for the sake of this argument because the vast majority of the time, criticism of the sort discussed above is directed at alliances that have never disbanded and reformed, they've just been around for some time.
It might seem as though this whole endeavor is just a bunch of theoretical nonsense, but it is actually really important because if the alliance one is criticizing in the present is not the same alliance that did those past things for which one is criticizing it, then the criticism is entirely misdirected and thus invalid. It would be like criticizing someone for a murder committed by someone else that just so happens to have a similar name; if they didn't do the crime, they don't deserve the criticism for said crime, and it really makes no sense to level such criticism towards them.
But, just for the sake of argument, let's suppose that alliances that have merely aged are fundamentally different than they were in the past, that even without sudden changes an alliance can become something entirely new. The issue then becomes where do we draw the line? How much time and gradual change does it take for an alliance to become something new? Is a few years needs, a few months, a few weeks, or even a few moments? Going down this road is inconsistent with the way CN operates and has operated. If the line cannot be drawn precisely (or even close to precisely) then it becomes impossible to know if the alliance one is dealing with at one moment is fundamentally the same as the alliance one was dealing with in the previous moment. How can one negotiate, war, make peace, or even deal with in any way another alliance under these conditions? It doesn't seem likely that one can, but this happens all the time in CN, which means this theory of the world is inconsistent with that world.
That all being said, is it actually a good idea to level these types of criticisms given it is at least possible to do so? Probably not. Arguments need to be persuasive for them to work, and it isn't persuasive to justify either your dislike for an alliance or your case for others to dislike them as well by bringing up a few acts that were committed by that alliance well in the past. Firstly, if these acts are well in the past, it only means that the alliance was acting badly then, not now, and it makes no sense to dislike an alliance now if it's actually acting well now. Granted, it could be acting poorly now too, but then your argument is still not all that persuasive because it doesn't mention anything recent enough to establish that. For an argument of this sort to be persuasive, it has to establish a pattern of poor behavior on the part of the alliance in question. It has to demonstrate that the alliance has acted poorly over time and consistently through time. This doesn't mean that it has to demonstrate a pattern of bad behavior stretching all the way back to the alliance's founding (though that obviously couldn't hurt), but it has to establish more than just poor behavior at a few points in time that are long since past.
It is possible to make a less-than-persuasive argument, but it isn't a good idea to do so as it is ultimately pointless. Anyone who you might want to convince is likely going to see right through your argument to its empty core.
The current paradigm of foreign affairs largely revolves around spheres. Spheres are just collections of alliances with multiple bilateral connections between them, which, to varying degrees, act according to some common interest or interests.
Sphereology is the term used here to denote the theoretical view of the world derived from this paradigm. In sphereology, the world of CN is made up of several spheres which encompass most of the major alliances.
A sphere is imprecisely defined. We prefer to think in concrete rather than vague and abstract terms so we use the term sphere in a concrete manner despite reality being much less neat. If you throw a sphere (the actual shape) into a three-dimensional treaty web, no matter where it lands you can find a sphere (a bunch of alliances connected through multiple bi-lateral connections). This is because it isn't necessary for every alliance in a sphere to be connected to every other alliance for it to act as a sphere. It's all a matter of degrees - some spheres may act more cohesively than others but they all have one thing in common: their members have many common interests and often act accordingly.
Given this less concrete but more accurate definition of a political sphere, we can begin to see how this paradigm can lead us astray. We don't look at the big picture and see all of the different spheres out there, we only see the ones that current political discourse has framed. Thus, we often miss important movements and trends because we only see the movements and trends associated with the pre-determined spheres. The reality is that there are multiple "spheres" that overlap between Polardoxia (as some who shall not be named have come to call the combination of alliances associated with both Polaris and TOP) and NPO-sphere. In fact, the most important sphere is probably the sphere at the intersection of all the major pre-determined ones: a group of alliances with multiple bi-lateral connections (some likely to the second degree, rather than direct connections) to both themselves and at least some alliances in all the major pre-determined spheres; we can call this sphere the Nexus Sphere. It probably acts the least like a sphere in practice, it being pulled in so many different directions, but when it does exhibit movements and trends, they affect everything else in the Cyberverse. It both affects and is affected by just about everything.
The major pre-determined ones, despite the above, are not meaningless, they are often the larger movers and shakers - there is at least some good reason why they are so talked about. However, by focusing too much on them, we can lose sight of more subtle trends.
On today's Planet Bob, merger is seemingly more common among established alliances, instead of just recently established micros. The reason for this is simple entropy, despite the fact that I believe CN to have a decent amount of life left in it, the older alliances become, the more likely it is for them to go into decline, a state which often leads to merger. It takes a lot more effort to keep an alliance going for five years than it does for one year, so it is significantly less likely for an alliance to last for five than for one. Sometimes this decline leads to disbandment and migration (often referred to as annexation, a term I believe to be inaccurate as it implies that the disbanding alliance is not making the decision), in which an alliance decides to disband and to encourage its members to move to another specified alliance, often one with which the now disbanded alliance shared a close bond (one example being when TFD disbanded and most of its former members moved over to NATO).
The other option is merger. In a merger, two or more alliances cease to be and come together to form one big, new alliance. The main problem with mergers is that they often don't last as the cultures of the merged alliances often clash and don't work together as hoped. This leads to the splintering of the newly formed alliance. However, what if there was a way to get the best of both worlds: give the cultures of the alliances their own space so they may continue on, but also create a central authority to share the resources of each alliance to the benefit of all parties. This would especially be helpful in cases where three or more alliances want to come together as more alliances means more cultures to potentially clash.
Enter the concept of federation. In a federation, the previously independent, now constituent alliances maintain a level of sovereignty, but they also establish a central government to manage the entire federation, which can also have the power to constrain or limit the authority of the constituent alliances in some or all spheres by imposing federal policies, laws, and decisions. The only current example that even approximates a federation is the bloc Die Linke, comprised of the alliances LSF, UCR, and SWF. However, Die Linke is much more like a confederation than a federation. While the terms of its establishing treaty prohibit secession like a federation, unlike a federation its member alliances are still treated as fully sovereign entities. There is a central committee that must approve of bloc-wide treaties and of new new members of the bloc, but there is nothing to prevent an alliance from holding or signing treaties individually, so they can still carry on their own foreign affairs if they wish to. All the members of the bloc are also completely in control of their own internal affairs, and despite the fact that all members are members of all the member alliances, through the dual membership clause, members cannot vote on internal matters (anything that does not affect the bloc as a whole, presumably) outside of their own alliance, and nor can the central authority impose any sort of internal policies on the member alliances that would in any way supersede their own, individual internal policies and affairs.
This makes Die Linke a loose association rather than a strong association. If three or more alliances were to come together, instead of merging or forming a Die Linke-esque loose association, they could form a federation. In a federation of alliances, the constituent alliances would retain some sense of sovereignty, but there would be a central authority which would exercise full sovereignty on behalf of the federation. To illustrate how such a federation might work, here is a hypothetical example of one:
Three alliances A, B, and C come together to form a federation. This federation is called the ABC Federation (because names don't have to be creative in hypothetical examples). Each alliance keeps its own government and its distinct character, including its forums and in-game AA. In the ABC Federation, a member of alliance A is simultaneously a member of the ABC Federation
Alliance A. However, only ABC Federation elected officials can see the forums of more than just their home alliance (A, B, or C) and the ABC Federation central forums. Everyone else can
see the forums of their home alliance and the ABC Federation central forums.
The ABC Federation has a central government comprised, in part, of a Legislative Council, whose nine members are elected every three months from the constituent alliances of the Federation (three from each); these elections take place on the constituent alliance's own forums. This Council has the power to make Federation-wide law which is binding on all the constituent alliances, their members, and the Federation as a whole; all legislation passed by the Council must be signed by the Federation's President to become effective, which gives the President the option to veto legislation (a veto may be overturned by a unanimous vote of the Legislative Council).
The Federation's central government also contains the President of the Federation, who is directly elected by all members of the Federation on the Federation's central forums once every three months (offset so the Presidential elections do not coincide with the Legislative Council elections). Any Federation member may stand for election to the Presidency. The President then nominates a number of Federation members to serve in his/her Cabinet, which includes a Secretary of Foreign Affairs, a Secretary of Defense, a Secretary of Commerce (in charge of economic and fiscal matters), a Secretary of Internal Affairs (in charge of immigration, education, and general membership concerns), and a Secretary of Justice (in charge of internal security and serves as chief prosecutor). All nominations must be confirmed by the Legislative Council. The President also nominates three Federation members to serve on the Judicial Committee of the Legislative Council, an autonomous committee of the Council. This committee serves as the court of final appeals for all the constituent alliances' judicial/court processes. Though the President may veto legislation passed by the Legislative Council, even if the President signs a piece of legislation, the Secretary of Justice may submit laws to the Judicial Committee, after which the Committee may invalidate the law as being unconstitutional, per the Federation's Charter. The Secretary of Justice may do the same for laws or policies passed by the governments of the Federation's constituent alliances, and a designated (by the constituent alliance in question) official or body of each constituent alliance may sue for the invalidation of any Federation law, policy, or executive action by the Judicial Committee. The Judicial Committee has the additional power to resolve disputes between constituent alliances.
Given that members of each constituent alliance are dually members of the entire Federation, the Federation will establish a uniform policy for transferring membership among the constituent alliances which is much less involved than becoming a member from outside the Federation. This means that members can easily move between the constituent alliances, and the policy for such moving is set by the Federation, but that those outside the Federation can only join the Federation by becoming a member of one of the constituent alliances and that each constituent alliance sets the policy by which this can happen. This is an example of the federal character of this Federation, in which sovereignty and governing power is shared by the Federation and its constituent alliances.
Obviously, there would be many more details that would need to be worked out, but this provides a basic framework under which such a federation could be formed. I apologize for the longer nature of this entry, but federation is a somewhat complicated idea and I wanted to do it justice.
This will be the first in the Wow So Meta series of entries. Wow So Meta will talk about the talk that occurs all the time on the CN forums. This entry will be on why outrage is so alluring.
One thing that really struck me is how much crap gets a great deal of attention, views, and comments. Of course, it's no secret that controversy breeds interest, but many topics and blog posts on these forums aren't particularly controversial but also aren't particularly well written, important, or interesting on the basis of their content alone. They are the reality TV of the CN world: the outrage posts.
Outrage posts, as I'm calling them here purely out of convenience, are posts characterized by drivel, nonsense, and/or outright stupidity, but which nonetheless provoke (sometimes even thoughtful) debate and interest. I'm thinking about such posts as those by Tywin, Loki, Buckaroo, Tom Riddle, etc., etc.
We as humans (except for the robot players, I KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE DAMN IT!) are naturally drawn to that which is different from the rest. Being different can generate interest regardless of whether the thing in question is actually marked by any sort of quality. What's most interesting though is that despite the seemingly clear fact that these posts are, not to put too fine a point on it, !@#$, they actually do contribute in a positive way to the CN forums as they generate interest and activity that others can feed off of. Others can take that interest and activity and use it to garner interest in their much more high quality posts and content, in much the same way as viewers drawn to a particular channel for a reality TV program might end up watching something more high quality that comes on right after or before. They may even come to like the channel as a whole and end up watching other content that it produces on the basis of their liking one particular program initially. Even if this never happens, the ad dollars the channel gains from its reality TV programs can often end up funding more high quality program that might not otherwise be produced due to the risk associated with airing programs that aren't appealing to the masses. And that's how a seemingly annoying phenomenon such as outrage posts garnering more views, comments, and general interest than the more high quality ones can inadvertently help rather than hurt the forums on which they are all posted.
With all the (frankly inane) talk of revolution on Planet Bob, it almost seems no one has no noticed the "Quiet Revolution" that started last summer. This revolution has fundamentally changed the very concept of alliance sovereignty.
In the past, alliance sovereignty had merely two components: recognition by other sovereign alliances, which occurs implicitly through such actions as signing treaties and exchanging ambassadors, and de facto control over a territory (i.e., an AA). With the introduction of the AA management system, a third component has been added: de jure control over a territory. This is an important addition for two main reasons: it makes alliance sovereignty fully analogous to real life state sovereignty, and it changes dynamics.
Real life states are generally considered sovereign when they are recognized by other sovereign states and have de facto and de jure control over a territory. Sound familiar? Well it should.
The addition of de jure sovereignty has also changed dynamics, both in practice and in theory. For the in practice changes, in the past the only way for alliances to maintain internal control over their AA's was through the marshaling of force, an exercise in de facto sovereignty, in the pursuing of ghosts and rogues and the like that invaded their space. This was largely the same, except in scale, as marshaling force to maintain external control, such as attacks by other organized forces (read: alliances). Thus both policing their interiors and defending from external attack required the exact same kind of sovereignty to be exercised because that was all there was. Now, de jure sovereignty can be used to police their interiors. Granted, they may still have to marshal force to defend against actual attacks by disorganized forces (such as rogues operating individually), but they still have de jure control over their AA's and can directly govern, rather than indirectly through coercion, who may reside there.
As for the theoretical changes, unlike de facto control which cannot easily be separated from that which exercises it, de jure control can. This means that de jure control over a territory can be transferred and manipulated in ways that de facto control simply cannot be. Many of these ways have already been discussed elsewhere, but a major topic of discussion is that the transference of de jure control as a condition of a peace agreement, analogous to the viceroy arrangements of old, would not be a violation of game rules as it is not property outside the game. Now this may never happen, in fact I doubt it will, but the mere possibility of its use is further evidence of just how major the Quiet Revolution induced by the introduction of the AA management system has been.
I welcome rational discussion about this and alliance sovereignty in general in the comments below.
While in reality, I'm not as full of wisdom as the legendarily wise King Solomon, I figured every blog needs a punny or otherwise amusing title, so I went with The Wisdom of Solomon. Periodically, I'll release a volume containing some (I hope) interesting musings on Planet Bob for you all to enjoy (or not, as the case may be).
I encourage debate and comments, and you'll find that I have no problem engaging in some good old fashion logical argumentation. This means that I will admit when I'm incorrect about something (which is almost a foreign concept around these parts), and that I'll defend my positions when confronted by insufficiently persuading arguments.
It's really about time these forums had some more proper debate and reason, or at the very least something more approaching debate and reason than the animalistic fights to the troll-ridden death that seem to be the norm.