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The End of Civilization?

Via the estimable Marginal Revolution, we see that some intrepid soul has been playing the computer game Civilization II for the past ten years. The results:

The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.

There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.

For those of you unfamiliar with Civilization II, it’s a computer game that simulates the development of human civilization as players make different moves. It isn’t a particularly rigorous simulation of how the world works, but then again, what model truly is? And though the game’s author himself was reportedly taken aback at how dismal a future his little game predicted, we at Via Meadia are not necessarily surprised. For any game that accurately models human behavior on a large scale—be it Diplomacy, Civilization, or Settlers of Catan—usually hinges on the fact that there are overwhelming incentives for individual players to stab each other in the back and generally behave more like Machiavelli than St. Francis.

One interesting fact from the game: after thousands of years featuring massive ecological damage, no global treaty for the elimination of greenhouse gases seems to have sprung up to avert the cataclysms depicted in the game. In this respect at least, we think the game’s designers got it right; some kinds of international cooperation are just not in the cards.

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  • Jim.

    Tut, tut.

    That’s just what happens when humanity ignores its chance to expand beyond the cradle and settle Alpha Centauri. What can one do for such shortsighted people?

  • Corlyss

    “It isn’t a particularly rigorous simulation of how the world works, but then again, what model truly is?”

    A simple scientific truth that should be recalled every time one of the climate crackpots issues a new report full of dire predictions about imminent doom based on “climate change.”

  • Paladin

    They probably chose not to go to Alpha Centauri because they heard that the “good” ending there was to be merged into a hive-mind controlled by their Glorious Leader and the Planet’s Gaia.

  • stan

    Lorenz wouldn’t be surprised.

  • Russ

    1. CivII ceases to have meaningful innovations. THAT is a very valid simulation…a Malthusian future becomes plausible in the absence of said innovations.

    2. I’ll hopefully be toasting the health of stately Mead Manor from my very own orbital “hab,” blissfully unconcerned about terran politics.

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