In one of my classes, we’re exploring the question “what is a moral technology?” Specifically we’re looking at electronics and computing technologies, and if or how morality is part of their design.
My initial reaction is that all technologies come pre-loaded with a moral code (pardon the pun). I attribute this to the format of the most basic structures of computing: you’re either 1 or 0, on or off, yes or no, true or false. Computers are based on logic and formulae – there is no room for maybes, for mediation or judgments in that language. In this way, computers can only be the strictest gatekeepers: exceptions have to be consciously calculated outside of the normal routine.
So, this got me thinking about D&D characters. I have never played D&D, but think I would love it, and recently started looking into the mechanics. I was completely fascinated by the concept of character alignments, which categorize characters like a personality test (I am also completely fascinated by Myers Briggs tests). You can be any combination of good, evil, or neutral (roughly aligning with ethical standards), and lawful, chaotic, or neutral (roughly aligning with a personal moral code). So, from what I understand “Lawful Neutral” will generally abide by the rules of society but may do things that he personally considers bad; A “Chaotic good” player will allow his own personal visions of good to guide his actions rather than the rules of society. When you can rationalize yourself and others based on these simple formulae, the game (and life) can be easier to play – you know your allies, you know your enemies, you can predict how your character might react in a certain situation.
But what if you had to assume everyone was Chaotic Neutral? What do you do? How would you play the game? To me, that is the much more difficult game to play, and closer to what life actually throws at you. So, how do you program a truly Chaotic Neutral character – can this really be a program at all, or is it a bug?