The Metaphysics of Privacy

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The Metaphysics of Privacy

Postby Psychotic » Mon Sep 23, 13 2:42 pm

This is a long post and I make no apologies for it.

I was looking up a list of free games the author suggested people tried and one listed took my fance: don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story

In general, I am not interested in visual novels as most are either dating sims or some erotic fanfiction but the concept and medium is interesting and I figured fuck it, it's short enough (about an hour tops) so why not?

You follow a John Rook in the year 2027 who has just gotten out of two divorces and in a sudden mid-life crisis decided to quit his career in computing for one in teaching. During the school year you will follow the students personal and professional lives using a system known as "AmieConnect" or "Amie" for short.

To make a long story short: You're given access to students personal and private messages from a system very similar to Facebook. The game explores standard high-school fanfare and tropes, basic LGBT issues and delves into the morality of privacy (of which you are supposedly breaching). Then we mix in a 4chan reference (which was horribly named but the author didn't find that out until afterwards) for some metafiction action and we have ourselves a "story".

Go ahead and play it if you like but I won't be surprised if nobody does. The medium is strange to me and the story, for the most part, is atypical Facebook/high-school drama. What got to me is the very end, a concept that probably should have been explored far more throughout the story itself.

What is privacy?

The dictionary defines "privacy" as the quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others but the story's ending wants you to look beyond that. It wants you to get meta-fucking-physical.

Is privacy truly so important or is the entire concept overrated? This is what the game asks and it encourages thinking of the latter.

Recently, as you all should know, the social networks have been alight with the advent of certain government-pertaining information being leaked. Information that relates to privacy. Concerns that have been ever-increasing since the initial inception of bills such as SOPA or PIPA.

Some of you might also know my opinions on these cases: I don't like them and I encourage people to complain about them (particularly to your local politician rather than to people who likely already agree online) but also think it's ultimately a fruitless endeavour. That privacy has been breached since the dawn of time and that the only real difference now is that it's easier to be more aware of it, noting that most people still aren't, despite this.

One of the characters in the end argues that privacy was outdated and that it has been ever since the days of Facebook, a service the main character (through which the story is told) grew up on. Their comparison is to that of paper notes, the kind the kids used to share behind the teachers back in class. The kind that, if found, would likely get read out, you would get embarrassed, and it'd all be succintly forgotten about in a few hours.

The story argues this is what the online "privacy" is today. Most people log onto the internet and simply assume that what they post is public, more-so when you consider that it has been a very long time since the concept of "privacy" was actually advertised or encouraged ("private" messages are rarely called as such).

The idea is that, in 2027, privacy is non-existent. The student at the end has no notion of the actual word. None of them do. Most of them are mentally retarded mind you and can't complete basic tasks, but the boys mother confirms that she barely remembers the concept as a passing figure.

On the one hand I understand the argument: What do we truly have to hide? Discrimination exists without anybody having to tell anyone their sexuality, race or breed. People point the finger and make assumptions regardless of the information given or where it came from. Outside, perhaps, basic things like our phone numbers and address (which can all be found relatively easily anyway) what do we gain from attempting to hide behind an alias, a fake sexuality, fake agendas or any of that?

A receptionist will end up knowing more about me in a two minute conversation than a man you have spoken to online could no, simply because you refuse to give them your name. And it's that kind of paranoia I disagree with, and it's why I have always been fairly open since using the internet. I don't care who knows my name, where I live or my sexual exploits because it doesn't matter to me. Ask me offline and I'll freely tell you them.

What you might hide are naked pictures of yourself that you send to your girlfriend but not the fact that you're a lesbian and have a girlfriend in the first place.

And so I get it, I get the argument that privacy is overrated because the things we post online are not private anyway, nor do we truly treat them as they were, but at the same time I disagree because I want the choice. In this story the people of 2027 have no choice, they are raised to think that "knowing more about a person is always a good thing" but are given no choice as to whether they actually want to entrust such information or not.

And that's the very reason people, in general, oppose the NSA and the bills it wants to create. Because they lack choice. In general, the information they want to use is unlikely to ever negatively harm us. You might enjoy thinking it will but it likely won't. Knowing your name or who you hate on your Facebook feed has very little meaning to the guy in the NSA's tech lab. People love to think it does because it makes their life seem a little more significant in a world of 7+ billion, because who wants to live their life thinking they're an ant in a jar?

But the choice is important to some, and it's important to me, as arbitrary as it may seem to me right now.

On a completely unrelated note, the concept of teacher-student relationships is far more interesting to me now and I don't fully believe in the primary arguments against them (unprofessional, unethical, promotes a power balance towards one side: favoritism) but (and I didn't choose this route initially but had to see how weird it was afterwards) the way it's done in the game is just creepy as fuck.
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Postby synthetic » Tue Sep 24, 13 5:34 pm

Visual novels can be a quick and fairly attractive source of unexpected treasures, but you are largely correct with both generalisations.


Importance of privacy stems directly from basic evolution of species interaction and cohabitation, as such a disproportionate amount of exposure to another individual or a group creates significant levels of stress. I don't think there is any justification for or against it, other than it just being how it is, and anything different would just spark some kind of evolutionary reaction.

The often-used notion of "if you don't have anything to hide.." generally does not take any of that into account.


I also dislike double standards and blatant lies, and while a level of relative shades of grey exist (hide in plain sight, among masses) I do not think one should promote privacy where there is none. Same could be applied to what you said: if you give information freely, you blend in with all the other chums that were socially relaxed in their manner of communication, whereas someone who is clearly secretive will draw attention.

A reply to some general thoughts in the post, I haven't played the game yet but intend to give it a go.
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Postby Psychotic » Wed Sep 25, 13 12:43 am

After having a think about it, I honestly cannot agree with the ending of the game in particular. In that privacy is "outdated".

The concept of "hiding" information is not the sole reason people desire privacy. People desire privacy as a means of protection. Protection from who? From anyone willing to use their personal or public views against them.

A simple example would be employers who will refuse to hire someone, or even fire someone, based on their opinions and beliefs posted online (Facebook, reddit, tumblr, forums, etc). This is, of course, discrimination, and privacy will never prevent that, but it certainly helps keep it at bay.

As said at the end of my post, choice is what matters most in this equation, at least from where I'm standing. I have very little to hide and thankfully live in a country where I am less likely to be called out on professionally due to my personal life, but it's a problem in both the US and the UK and it's not fair.[/img]
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Postby Poor » Wed Sep 25, 13 5:23 pm

Notice how a majority of people believe there is an omniscient god who does not give you the choice of privacy and who's judgement of you will determine your eternal fate. To me, this would be far more worrisome than government monitoring but people seem content with that belief.
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Postby synthetic » Wed Sep 25, 13 6:40 pm

That is actually a very interesting point! I suspect the tolerance there must be attributed to some kind of awareness of the supernatural there, as opposed to rivalry and coexistence within the natural realm and every day life. I actually proposed in one of the many rant threads that an autonomous AI could potentially be used for surveillance purposes, as it could resemble the all mighty god and not a potential source of danger or competition.

Please note that the mentioned awareness of the supernatural amusingly clashes with the firm belief in the existence of that very said supernatural, contradicting reason, but apparently it works.

Alternatively, supernatural guidance could possibly appeal to human's family instinct, in which case surveillance could be conducted by a father figure with undeniable authority (in belief, not primarily in practice), but its unclear to me whether the former point is not closer to the truth. We all have problems with our parents, but for some reason we rarely have problems with god, which kind of points to the awareness of the non-physical manifestation, the supernatural.
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Postby Psychotic » Thu Sep 26, 13 12:37 am

Reminds me of the conversation with Morpheus in Deus Ex.

"The basic human need to be watched was once satisfied by God. Now, the same functionality can be replicated with data-mining algorithms."

Keep in mind that by 2052 privacy is non-existent for the general public due to the Aquinas protocol, which is effectively what the NSA want now, so the definition of "privacy" is likely much different to our own perceptions.
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Postby Clancy Stein » Fri Sep 27, 13 11:11 pm

Aquinas is PRISM essentially.
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Postby Clancy Stein » Sat Sep 28, 13 11:45 pm

Clancy Stein wrote:Aquinas is PRISM essentially.


Actually it would be Echelon IV
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Postby clyzm » Sun Sep 29, 13 1:10 am

Just finished that visual novel

Generally put off when the protag is a 38 year old dude that looks like a 14 year old girl with the purple hair and all

But it was iight

As for privacy,

Think about it biologically, hyenas have dens, moles have tunnels, zebras have... harems

It's a survival tool
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Postby Aidan » Sun Sep 29, 13 3:17 pm

clyzm wrote:Just finished that visual novel


This forum lately.....
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Postby Poor » Sun Sep 29, 13 4:13 pm

synthetic wrote:That is actually a very interesting point! I suspect the tolerance there must be attributed to some kind of awareness of the supernatural there, as opposed to rivalry and coexistence within the natural realm and every day life. I actually proposed in one of the many rant threads that an autonomous AI could potentially be used for surveillance purposes, as it could resemble the all mighty god and not a potential source of danger or competition.

Please note that the mentioned awareness of the supernatural amusingly clashes with the firm belief in the existence of that very said supernatural, contradicting reason, but apparently it works.

Alternatively, supernatural guidance could possibly appeal to human's family instinct, in which case surveillance could be conducted by a father figure with undeniable authority (in belief, not primarily in practice), but its unclear to me whether the former point is not closer to the truth. We all have problems with our parents, but for some reason we rarely have problems with god, which kind of points to the awareness of the non-physical manifestation, the supernatural.


Another theory is that for religious people, God is a personification of their superego and is treated as an internal component rather than an external observer, thus privacy is not needed.


I personally don't care about the NSA monitoring as long as it doesn't affect me. I realize that software is scanning for certain things and a real person will only check your info if they find something suspicious. If it is practical in practice and is not a waste of money then the program may be for the best.

The two reasons people are against it are:

1) People have something to hide. Most people do. It may be a porn fetish or it may be something illegal like piracy.

2) People don't like losing rights or control, no matter how trivial. Citizens are against government encroachment of their rights because they fear the government will inch their way until it becomes a tyranny.
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Postby Aidan » Mon Sep 30, 13 12:28 am

Poor wrote:2) People don't like losing rights or control, no matter how trivial. Citizens are against government encroachment of their rights because they fear the government will inch their way until it becomes a tyranny.


This should be everyone's concern really. As history has proven, those with a hunger for power WILL abuse their power. USA being a prime example. Same with Australia (more so only internet freedom), China, etc.

Every human on this planet are of equivalency. When another group of humans use their political power of spying (which I might add was never voted in by the people) to deem themselves 'superior,' and infringe on another person's life under false pretense, one should be concerned about not just privacy, but human rights as a whole.

If anything, it's silent blackmail: "We have access to your data, and if you do anything we don't like, we can screw you at ANY time."

The point of government is to govern Economy, and the rights of the people. If someone's rights are infringed, law enforcement will act on the attacker. These days, it isn't about protection. The law looks for any thing at all they can charge someone for, and create revenue. When there 'isn't enough budget.' They'll just create more crime as 'proof' that they need more budget.

It isn't FOR the people anymore. It's about business. USA is an oppressed military state. They have a second amendment, but don't seem to want to use it yet. Hopefully it'll get there soon because Congress needs a reality check of WHO is in control of the Country. There is no Country without the Citizens. If citizens feel oppressed by their own government, then I question how 'free' the Country really is.
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Postby Clancy Stein » Thu Oct 03, 13 7:12 am

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Postby Poor » Thu Oct 03, 13 10:25 pm

Aidan wrote:
Poor wrote:2) People don't like losing rights or control, no matter how trivial. Citizens are against government encroachment of their rights because they fear the government will inch their way until it becomes a tyranny.


This should be everyone's concern really. As history has proven, those with a hunger for power WILL abuse their power. USA being a prime example. Same with Australia (more so only internet freedom), China, etc.

Every human on this planet are of equivalency. When another group of humans use their political power of spying (which I might add was never voted in by the people) to deem themselves 'superior,' and infringe on another person's life under false pretense, one should be concerned about not just privacy, but human rights as a whole.

If anything, it's silent blackmail: "We have access to your data, and if you do anything we don't like, we can screw you at ANY time."

The point of government is to govern Economy, and the rights of the people. If someone's rights are infringed, law enforcement will act on the attacker. These days, it isn't about protection. The law looks for any thing at all they can charge someone for, and create revenue. When there 'isn't enough budget.' They'll just create more crime as 'proof' that they need more budget.

It isn't FOR the people anymore. It's about business. USA is an oppressed military state. They have a second amendment, but don't seem to want to use it yet. Hopefully it'll get there soon because Congress needs a reality check of WHO is in control of the Country. There is no Country without the Citizens. If citizens feel oppressed by their own government, then I question how 'free' the Country really is.


This is the kind of unfounded youth-anarchist angst that I fear is spreading.
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Postby Aidan » Thu Oct 03, 13 11:23 pm

Poor wrote:
Aidan wrote:
Poor wrote:2) People don't like losing rights or control, no matter how trivial. Citizens are against government encroachment of their rights because they fear the government will inch their way until it becomes a tyranny.


This should be everyone's concern really. As history has proven, those with a hunger for power WILL abuse their power. USA being a prime example. Same with Australia (more so only internet freedom), China, etc.

Every human on this planet are of equivalency. When another group of humans use their political power of spying (which I might add was never voted in by the people) to deem themselves 'superior,' and infringe on another person's life under false pretense, one should be concerned about not just privacy, but human rights as a whole.

If anything, it's silent blackmail: "We have access to your data, and if you do anything we don't like, we can screw you at ANY time."

The point of government is to govern Economy, and the rights of the people. If someone's rights are infringed, law enforcement will act on the attacker. These days, it isn't about protection. The law looks for any thing at all they can charge someone for, and create revenue. When there 'isn't enough budget.' They'll just create more crime as 'proof' that they need more budget.

It isn't FOR the people anymore. It's about business. USA is an oppressed military state. They have a second amendment, but don't seem to want to use it yet. Hopefully it'll get there soon because Congress needs a reality check of WHO is in control of the Country. There is no Country without the Citizens. If citizens feel oppressed by their own government, then I question how 'free' the Country really is.


This is the kind of unfounded youth-anarchist angst that I fear is spreading.


Instead of being an outright asshole on top a fabricated high horse, how about you provide an educated response.

I'm all for discussion, but when you cast aside paragraphs of information and write it off as 'Anarchist youth dogma,' it is very insulting, and makes you appear a very uneducated self-righteous biggot.

Under a proper ruling law (any first world Country), we are all considered as equal, and encouraged to ask questions. When congress feels it is okay to place their right above their own people, using military fear to dictate it's own nation, and THEN tell the American people, "shame on you for asking such questions, what we're doing is for America!"; Yes, there is more than enough reason for people to not like losing rights or control.

Since you're keen on advocating 'opinions of youth,' as useless trash the world doesn't need... Perhaps I should stay out of this discussion and let the 'big boys' talk. Clearly age is the situation here.

Poor wrote:unfounded


Really? What would you like me to source for you, oh great one?
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Postby Psychotic » Thu Oct 03, 13 11:54 pm

Poor wrote:This is the kind of unfounded youth-anarchist angst that I fear is spreading.


Rather than attacking Aidan directly, you could make an actual attempt at invalidating his points. You know, like an actual debate.

Poor wrote:People don't like losing rights or control, no matter how trivial. Citizens are against government encroachment of their rights because they fear the government will inch their way until it becomes a tyranny.


It arguably already has.

The government already tries to throw the Constitution out the window. As I've stated before, I don't feel the NSA spying is as bad as people think (it's been happening for years and really, what could they possibly want with your porn collection anyway?) but the precedent they want to create is one I shall never advocate.

The Constitution exists for a reason, and the US government wants to actively block portions of it to better suit their methods. If this is allowed to occur then one can only guess at what other countries might do to achieve the same results.

It never just ends with privacy. Privacy might be the beginning but by blocking one thing you potentially create a ripple effect. Deus Ex's storyline, for example, was less about the invasion of privacy and more about what other freedoms the people gave up when they lost their privacy.

The reason the blanket ban on pornography in the UK was so ridiculous (other than encroaching on my right to look at whatever the fuck I want) not because it blocks porn, but because it sets a precedent. What else will be blocked? Same applies to Australia's blanket ban on the internet.

One of my biggest issues is that governments love to oust China for having a fear-mongering control state and yet they want to create one themselves. The hypocrisy is fucking palpable.
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Postby Poor » Fri Oct 04, 13 4:51 pm

I may have insulted Aiden's attitude but he unjustly insulted my country. I have been seeing this attitude spreading lately and couldn't help but vent. I could have provided counter-arguments to Aidan's view that America is a corrupt, oppressive country but there is no doubt that it would be a waste of time. This is for the same reason it is useless to argue to a conspiracy theorist that 9/11 was not an inside job and that the moon landing of 1969 actually happened. Misinformation, lack of information, and bad reasoning are the three factors that lead to false conclusions. In a debate, the first two can dealt with. The last factor cannot. Bad reasoning is caused by non-logical factors such as emotion, a personal bias, or some strong rooted belief. Arguments are generally ineffective against bad reasoning and that's why it would be a waste of time to argue that America is the opposite of a tyranny.
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Postby Psychotic » Fri Oct 04, 13 5:04 pm

Poor wrote:I may have insulted Aiden's attitude but he unjustly insulted my country. I have been seeing this attitude spreading lately and couldn't help but vent. I could have provided counter-arguments to Aidan's view that America is a corrupt, oppressive country but there is no doubt that it would be a waste of time. This is for the same reason it is useless to argue to a conspiracy theorist that 9/11 was not an inside job and that the moon landing of 1969 actually happened. Misinformation, lack of information, and bad reasoning are the three factors that lead to false conclusions. In a debate, the first two can dealt with. The last factor cannot. Bad reasoning is caused by non-logical factors such as emotion, a personal bias, or some strong rooted belief. Arguments are generally ineffective against bad reasoning and that's why it would be a waste of time to argue that America is the opposite of a tyranny.


It is amusing that the same logic that leads you to believe debates are a waste of time is also the same logic that caused you to unnecessarily vent at Aidan.

Emotions.

Emotions have been a problem regarding intelligent debate for a long time. Imagine if the worlds philosophers simply stood up and declared they would no longer debate because people disagreed with them, or because they would potentially insult someone with their beliefs.

What a horrible world we would live in.

This is what brought me back to the world of arguing, as incessant as some may feel it is. If no one else will argue the point then I gladly will, even if it is to play advocate for the devil.
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Postby clyzm » Fri Oct 04, 13 6:41 pm

Poor's got a point you know

America is not some tyrannical oppressive state

That's China

It's bad enough to hear that anti-government angst from the social activist hipsters around here, but to hear it from a Canuck is like... come on man u don't know muffin don't u got some moose to be ridin or summin
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Postby Psychotic » Sat Oct 05, 13 2:02 am

In comparison to China, America still has a long way to go, but certain actions do not make it look good.

In defence of Aidan, you argue the US is not a tyrant state and that he displays "teenage angst", but all this shows is your use of an ad hominem without actually arguing his point.

Allow me to play the devil's advocate, as I do not think life is as bad as some believe, and I've said I do not before elsewhere on this forum. You can believe me, or you can choose not to.

As I've said before, I don't think life is as bad as many think it is (and, in fact, I still denounce numerous conspiracy theories, more-so now that the US government shutdown, and that will heighten if the Republicans force the US to default on it's debt), but it could be much, much better, and it could be better if people weren't so concerned for the concepts of power, money and control.

To say that there aren't those in politics who are corrupt is, in my mind, more ignorant than simply saying the US is a tyrant state. It might not control by fear as much as China does now, but it has used fear as a justification for many of its actions, and I do not find that better at all.

The justification of wars, the invasion of privacy and the direct opposition to certain freedoms granted by the Constitution should, quite frankly, prove that the US government, whilst not as bad as China, is not some shining light people want to make it out to be.

In light of this, I don't believe any government truly is anyway, and so I will not lose sleep over the problems facing the United States right this moment. I will laugh about it, because it simply amuses me greatly, for what else can I do but laugh?
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Postby Aidan » Sat Oct 05, 13 6:25 am

Poor wrote:I may have insulted Aiden's attitude but he unjustly insulted my country


It's a DEBATE. This is not, 'Aidan insulting and hating America!' This is Aidan stating his opinion based on points. Please leave Emotions out of debate. In comparison: to bring religion into scientific debates is arguably as bad. Also, what "attitude?" Haha, this is a debate.

It's also unsettling to mention that Canada played a central role in the PRISM program, and that Harper has been working closely with China lately. If you think the issues start and end in the US, or that the US isn't corrupt: Get over yourself. Every country is corrupt to a certain degree. As Magniir pointed out, remaining ignorant to the possibility is corruption is very foolish, and has not worked out for many Civilizations across time. Read, "lord of the flies" if you have not.


clyzm wrote:America is not some tyrannical oppressive state

That's China


The first thing to come to the mind of most (asides from North Korea), when one is to mention "oppression." As per most topics, there is scale to suit; It isn't black and white.

Derek, you put a word in my mouth I never said, and took my words out of context dude. Never once did I say "tyrannical" (please correct me if I'm wrong), nor is America near as oppressed as China.

Almost EVERY country is oppressed to a certain degree. I am not happy with the Parliament in my Country (Harper has been up to scary shit lately), and what they have been up to these past 7 years.


Not to bring up the overused Snowden paradigm (among other recent whistle-blowers), but when a man is trusted with extreme level of confidential information, and chooses to give up his comfortable American life to escape from his government who labels him a "traitor," (and then encourages their citizens to additionally label him as such) the situation should be treated in a serious manner. The only "traitor" in this matter, is the governing body of US citizens whom spy on their own nation without the consent of its very people. I can understand secrecy, but only to a certain degree.

“The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.”

As I have stated prior, public surveillance was never passed by the public, and was instead kept a "necessary secret" from public interest. In corporate measurement, companies are given two options: To either comply with NSA policy, and hand over encryption keys + further access, OR shut down your company.

Sure, nothing may ever happen to you, and your 'private' data. It's the scary reality that they CAN be accessed, and altered at any time. Installing blinds on the opposite side of one's windows is not freedom. Sure no one may ever flip them open... but why would you comply with this 'something' that impedes your own safety? Why is one being forced to? Why should one continually place trust in a Government that is adept in lying to its citizens.


Additionally, if no one has heard of, or read up on "NDAA," I suggest they do:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=NDAA&oq=ndaa


NSA (as one single example) is exposed to the American public. It was not passed in fair trial, yet it is a collective surveillance system still functioning today that people are fine with. Sure, people (all around the world) complain about it, justify human right infringements, and detest it... In the end, not many people in this world (besides the whistleblowers) are stepping up to be the change, and instead, comply with losing freedom, and continue their life as normal. The irony being that "normal" has changed.


Poor wrote:but there is no doubt that it would be a waste of time.


The only "waste of time" are your hypocritical, and anorexic posts that uphold no evidence to their context. You are quite frankly 'all talk,' Poor, and right on time to mount yet another fabricated high horse of assumptious, and ill-supported proclamation.

I could have been an Astronaut, but it wouldn't be worth it.
Last edited by Aidan on Sat Oct 05, 13 9:06 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby Psychotic » Sat Oct 05, 13 8:44 am

One thing I would like more than anything else is for people to ask one simple question: Why?

When Deus Ex was released it was released with the tagline, "Question everything. Trust no one."

Well we've got the trust part down, now it's time to start questioning why. People seem to think that because it's the way it has been that it's the way it has to be, and whilst I am certainly cynical and nowhere near as paranoid as I used to be, that doesn't mean I stopped questioning.

Always question. Always complain. Change doesn't come from doing nothing.
"You either die a lurker, or you live long enough to see yourself become a troll."

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Postby Siva » Sat Oct 05, 13 9:21 am

i just wanted to say i also played dont take it personally babe and it was a pretty interesting VN until that ham fisted ending

as if humanity would ever forget privacy, its rooted in fear and humanity will never lose its fear
//..
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Postby Psychotic » Sat Oct 05, 13 9:38 am

Siva wrote:i just wanted to say i also played dont take it personally babe and it was a pretty interesting VN until that ham fisted ending

as if humanity would ever forget privacy, its rooted in fear and humanity will never lose its fear


After consideration this is how I feel about the ending, as well.

It was interesting but broke off at the end, and that's a common complaint amongst many of the reviews for it.

It was good enough that I would like to try the others the author has made, though.
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