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The Ethics of Cheating

Like many of history's great philosophers, I do some of my deepest thinking in various corners of my bathroom.  Today, as I massaged shampoo into what's remaining of my hair, I began thinking about cheating in games.

I think most people can agree that cheating to improve one's position in a game does not put you on the side of the angels.  I don't know how grievous a sin it is exactly, but it will probably shift you closer to the NAUGHTY column on Santa's ledger.

Does the same hold true if you cheat to lose?

Suppose we're counting up points in Dominion.  I'm last to report my score, and it's higher than my opponent's.  I've won.  Does my opponent need to know that?  Would it be the greater overall good to report a lower score and give my opponent the chance to savor the same moment of triumph I just experienced privately?  Does bestowing victory in this way do anybody any harm, or is it an act of selfless charity-- a mitzvah, if you will?

The knee-jerk reaction is that cheating is wrong, full stop.  By giving my opponent the illusion of victory, I'm robbing him of the chance to learn from mistakes, and lessening the value of future victories that are truly earned.  But if the lie goes undetected, to my opponent this is an earned victory, as sweet and delectable as any other.  I've already savored my victory internally.  By passing it to my opponent, am I not bringing more happiness into the world?

I realize the equation is different if the deception is discovered.  There are ancillary matters of trust, embarrassment, and other messy emotions.  But what if that wasn't an issue?  What if the lie would never be revealed?
Comments (7) | last by wholesale nike jerseys, Jan 7, 1:34 PM

Redefining Reality

I happened to be looking at the Wikipedia article for Keyser Soze today, and saw this:

In his 1999 review of Fight Club, film critic Roger Ebert commented that "A lot of recent films seem unsatisfied unless they can add final scenes that redefine the reality of everything that has gone before; call it the Keyser Söze syndrome."

So naturally, I tried to think of films besides Fight Club and The Usual Suspects that do that. The only ones that leap to mind are The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. The Village comes close, but the twist arrives earlier than at the very end of the film.

Am I missing any outside of the Shayamalan oeuvre? I recall hearing that Vanilla Sky had a twist, but I haven't seen the film so I don't know if it qualifies by having a reality-redefining twist.

For our purposes, let's only consider films after The Usual Suspects (1994). And please, no spoilers.

Comments (14) | last by Wei-Hwa Huang, Mar 11, 1:53 AM

Side Attractions

In a private discussion group I'm part of, a thread today involved the recent Jedi's Path: A Game of Life game. The issue was that the spinner in the game apparently doesn't work very well-- so much so that one of the game's own designers handed out ten-sided dice to his kids when he tried it recently.

This boggles the mind.

The spinner is The Game of Life. I'm 40. I haven't played Life in over 30 years. But I can still vividly hear the whizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz of that spinner. It's a sound of visceral joy. Grabbing hold of that white knob, giving it a hearty twirl, listening to that sound and watching the wheel come to rest with a gentle bounce of the flap between two posts was the only reason to play the game. I loved getting my hands on that thing. It is the shining exemplar of all game spinners. That one simple hunk of plastic sustained the entire game experience.

How could they possibly have gotten that wrong?

But that got me to wondering about other experiences we enjoy not for the experience itself, but for some subsidiary component. Have you ever gone to see a movie just so you could get a bucket of popcorn? Bought a box of cereal to get at the prize on the bottom? Gone to a major sporting event just to be part of the energy of the crowd, without caring about the event itself? Do you hate fruity drinks, but love those little cocktail umbrellas?

What other experiences are appealing more for a side attraction than the main event?

Comments (5) | last by Doug Orleans, Jan 26, 11:15 AM

Untenable Business Models

Does anyone ever buy Toblerone outside of airport duty free shops?

Comments (10) | last by Craig, Jan 23, 4:57 PM

What's in a Name?

I have to choose a gamertag, and I'm coming up empty. I've already rejected "Static Zombie" as being too long and unwieldly-- I'd rather have something a little pithier. Suggestions welcomed. Save me from being Peter2488.

Comments (10) | last by Other Jeff, Sep 17, 6:53 AM

Money Machine

Why won't this work?

Acquire two credit cards, A and B (preferably cards that earn reward points or frequent flyer miles). Charge stuff to card A for one month. Pay the bill with card B, and charge stuff on card B for one month. Now pay that bill with card A and switch back to card A for a month. Lather, rinse, repeat until one of the cards maxes out, at which point you pay off the bill with a check and start the cycle over.

Since each card is paid in full by the other each month, there are no fees or finance charges, and the amount keeps snowballing to earn more and more reward points.

I'm sure there's a flaw here. What is it? Is it even possible to pay one credit card with another?

Comments (7) | last by super bowl jerseys, May 11, 5:32 PM


The gf recently related to me an observation that she heard a comedian make some time ago, that goes something like this: if something's not funny to a woman, it will never be funny to her. If something's not funny to a man, if you repeat it a few times it becomes funny.

This, she said, explains why only men like Monty Python.

The gf likes The Princess Bride, so I'm inclined to cut her a little slack when she calls Monty Python and the Holy Grail stupid and unfunny. But the broad assertion that appreciation of Python splits down gender lines requires some further investigation. She allows that there are some women who like Python and some men who don't, but that statistically speaking it's the men who laugh and the women who just put up with it.

So. Conduct your own little survey among friends and family and report back. Monty Python: funny, or not funny?

Comments (12) | last by Danielle, Feb 28, 4:22 PM

Mirror, Mirror

I was talking with someone recently and mentioned that I have a hard time thinking of myself as an adult-- that my self-image is more of a college student, despite being fifteen years out of college. I hadn't really thought about it any more deeply until then, but the reasons make sense to me. A lot of things in life have changed-- location, job, hairline-- but one thing that hasn't is that, as a single guy, I'm still only responsible for myself. My decisions are based on what's best for me, or what I want. Any mistakes I make affect only me. I see that as a key hallmark of one's college years.

I think the true passage into adulthood comes when you start making decisions based on how they affect others. For most people, that comes first with a committed relationship (which may or may not include marriage), then again with children. I have none of those things and therefore enjoy the luxury of living selfishly, in a non-pejorative sense.

It was suggested to me that I'm not unusual-- that few of us really think of ourselves as adults. I have no doubt that's true physically-- that many of us imagine ourselves to be as attractive, slim, athletic, and fit as we were in our primes-- I'm less convinced that the pool of Peter-Pan-complexed adults isn't kiddie-sized.

And so, in the interest of science, I turn to you. How do you view yourself-- as an adult, a college student, a teenager, a child? Do you feel older than your years, or younger? What reflection does your psychic mirror show you?

Comments (6) | last by Dave, Oct 24, 11:57 AM

Cell Out

Matthew Baldwin and I have been locked in battle for the title of last person on the planet to be without a cell phone, but I'm teetering on the edge of throwing in the towel for an upcoming project. Thing is, I know squat about cell phones. I've virtually never used one. I have DSL at home, so I can't get rid of my land line. A cell phone would primarily be used for incoming calls, and not very frequently. Here's what I'm looking for:

  • low monthy fee
  • built-in camera
  • address book
  • small form factor
  • POP3 email would be nice, but not essential
  • ability to use Google would also be nice, but not essential

    Any suggestions for cell phone models, carriers, and rate plans for someone who wants mobile telephony on the cheap?

  • Comments (19) | last by rakesh, Oct 16, 5:22 AM

    The U.S. Treasury just sent me a check for $39.02. A pleasant surprise, but also a mysterious one. No letter accompanied the check, and the note field reads only "TORT CLAIM 2004102265550\". So, super-sleuths, can you shed any light on this mystery?

    Update: Mystery solved. Got a letter in the mail today from TSA, informing me that this is the settlement of my claim against them for lost property due to their negligence when my flashlight got stolen from a bag I was forced to check. Eight months later-- and many months after Alaska ponied up their own reimbursement-- the government finally came through. When Alaska paid me, I figured they'd talked with TSA and decided it was their fault, but apparently they never spoke to each other. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your government at work. You may now proceed to divest yourselves of all your screwdrivers and flashlights, while bringing your pens, keys, and heavy laptops onto the plane with you.

    Comments (5) | last by Nathan Beeler, May 3, 1:44 PM

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