Modern Melting Pot

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The Evolutionary Psychology of an Everlasting Dream

Computers can aggregate a dream for an entire generation.

"Our dream may already be true! It is just waiting for us to come true.”

Yesterday I heard from a woman of great wisdom, MarCia Anderson, an ordained New Thought minister, who is a spiritual guide for a dream we call The Bay is Dying—An Ecology Game. She repeated something very relevant to our point here: "Our dream may already be true! It is just waiting for us to come true.”

In its dreams each generation sees humankind rushing towards self destruction. For example, holy books of the ancient world are filled with apocalyptic dreams. The writers of Genesis told one about Noah. For us Baby Boomers the threat came from the possibility of nuclear annihilation.

Remember in school, the “duck and cover” drills during the Cold War—duck beneath the desk, tuck the body in close to the knees, and cover the head and face with the arms and hands. I still remember how serious this Civil Defense drill was in our 1950s lives.

From, Justin Nicholes, of the Millennial generation, we got the wording for how the eternal threat appears to his generation. Nicholes verbalized their apocalyptic dream by paraphrasing Noam Chomsky:

Aside from a nuclear catastrophe, ecological destruction may be the biggest threat to human survival.

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Funny how a threat to one generation had not retreated from awareness before another appeared! From Noah’s flood to nuclear annihilation, each generation has been “looking up to heaven for an answer,” as Stevie Wonder sings.

If I had chosen I would have picked income inequality as the biggest thing for Millennials to fear; but I could certainly see how ecological destruction is a menace with a stronger subliminal connection to Noah’s flood.

By the time we got the wording for this generation’s threat, a team of environmental organizations, writers, graphic designers,  animators, photographers, cinematographers, musicians, and marketers from around the world had already been working for about three months on The Bay is Dying.

The influx of Millennials brought into focus their fears, but also with fear came their aspirations. It seems that the overriding dream in each generation is to build an Ark, board it, and be saved.

In prior generations only chosen people were allowed into the Ark—Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, or the Ark of the New Covenant.  For the young people who began working with us, their Ark may turn out to be an environmental, computer game to which everyone is allowed. There are no chosen people, no separate flock.

It was relatively easy for me to follow that logic because as a college professor I had listened to how young folks have been affected by the Internet. So to our entire team, I sent out via the Internet a blog post:

Can a multimedia, group-authored, environmental, computer novel-as-a-game save the world?

The logic was easy for me also because the generation so willingly accepted the label Millennial. I knew most about Millennialism from my readings in the Zoroastrian mysticism of ancient Persia (Iran, yes, that Iran) that influenced Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, Islam, and many other ways of thinking.

My very loose interpretation of Zoroastrianism is that it holds that in each successive thousand-year period there will be a heightened awareness of cataclysm (Destructive Spirit) and Illuminating Wisdom will rise up to defeat it. Okay, I could see how present Millennials could believe that Illuminating Wisdom will come from an Internet aggregation.

They had come to think that progress did indeed come from pulling together specific kinds of information using Internet software. Just in the course of communicating with the youngsters (everyone under 50 is a youngster to me)... the Nerds at the Nerdery said they were building a “Story Maker” for The Bay is Dying.

Um-m-m! That is essentially software designed to defeat threats to the environment by aggregating the dreams of a generation, or as it was put by Cathy Adams, a Millennial out in the middle of China.

...The Bay Is Dying is an approach to pollution that’s like nothing anyone else has ever done because until recently in our history the technology didn’t even exist to pull together a world-wide collaboration (aggregation) like this.

Solutions are no longer people “somewhere else” trying to save the world. Fixing problems is now a million (okay a billion, a gazillion, the more the better) people all doing it together.

I assumed that a “gazillion” would indeed be a fair enough sampling of the entire generation.

Then, quite by coincidence (I know, I know, it is fashionable now to say there is no such thing as a coincidence)... so, okay, quite by synchronicity I got an email from one of our mystery writers, Elaine Viets:

I’m in Florida and it’s an environmental nightmare. Climate change is stealing our shoreline. We're losing the Everglades and so many native species. Pythons, lion fish and other invasive species are destroying the ecosystem. The Bay is Dying is a game, but the stakes are death. And that's real.  

Fresh Fiction had said: “Elaine Viets knows how to orchestrate a flawless mystery with just the right blend of humor, intrigue and hot romance.”

Okay, that’s reason enough for us to make sure mystery writers always outnumber professors by about 5 to 1 in this project. But I did run across a professor (no, I didn’t run across him, he was pointed out) at a university-based researched lab in the UK who is developing Artificial Intelligence software:

...for generating narrative content from social networking processes... we have been actively developing AI-based tools to support constraint-based narrative structures... Please let me know if I can help you with anything.

His email generated one of those “what-you-talkin’-‘bout,-Willis” moments. The Professor’s name is Paul, not Willis, but I emailed him back because I want to know if by using his AI software could a creative group anywhere in the world add their own chapter, or chapters, to the branching mystery narrative that The Bay is Dying will become?

Then suppose the other UK creative technology lab, which has been interested in our efforts for months, developed AI-based tools into which a group could put the data on a specific environmental issue, or cause, and the tools would automatically create “game quests” that players would have to undertake to win points and prizes, as the story unfolds over 24 months of serial online publication.

What if the Nerds (there are 100 of them in their company in Minnesota, and they just opened a branch production studio in Chicago)... what if the Nerds (The word gives me confidence in their ability but I wouldn’t just say “hey, you Nerds.” The term was a negative in my generation.)... what if the Nerds could program the two pieces of university-developed software to work with their “Story Maker.”

Um-m-m! Is all of this what Rev. Anderson was talking about when she said: "Our dream may already be true! It is just waiting for us to come true.”

George Davis, as creative director of Quest Digital Worldwide, has assembled a world-wide team of volunteers and Strategic Partners to build an interactive, group-authored, Internet novel-as-a-game-for-good. The game-novel, The Bay is Dying, is about a global struggle to save the environment. 

George Davis is professor emeritus at Rutgers University. His latest book is Until We Got Here.

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