The Aristotle Reaction Chronicles

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So begins the debut of a long overdue project. I hope you will enjoy it.

The Aristotle Reaction

By Roger Woehl

Copyright 2008

Historical Note

In 354 BC the prolific Greek philosopher, Aristotle, made his most profound discovery; a simple fact of reality that revealed the source of all knowledge, truth, science and most significantly, the very meaning and purpose of life.

In the following two millennia some of Aristotle’s works survived, however, this most profound discovery remained lost to all but a few. Those few nurtured the discovery with hopes of unleashing its power for the benefit of mankind. Centuries of war and turmoil passed and the discovery remained a secret, kept repressed by the powerful forces that ruled western civilization.

This is about to change…


Chapter 1.

Fog was the only thing rolling over the Golden Gate Bridge; traffic was stopped. Wisps of cold white mist blew silently over the well formed lines of expensive automobiles that sat motionless. In a black SUV stuck near mid span, a young, well dressed man with blond hair and piercing blue eyes sat quietly waiting for the inevitable.

He turned on the radio hoping for news to confirm that he had not arrived too early or too late to witness the event first hand. “…San Francisco is paralyzed as Trade Summit protesters have broken through the police barricades. Activists are spray-painting slogans on buildings and stopping traffic on all routes in and out of The City. A large group carrying a banner reading, ‘End Global Warming Now,’ has brought traffic to a standstill along the Embarcadero. On the Golden Gate Bridge traffic is stopped as… ”

He flicked off the radio satisfied with his good timing and took a deep contemplative breath. He rolled down his window, felt the cold sea air, and listened. Far off in the foggy distance he heard the sounds of protest, and he knew the rioters were coming.

Chapter 2.

Tall, lean, and unshaven, Edward Bertrand marched forward instep with his fellow activists, closing the gap to the riot squad. Behind the wall of armed men lay their objective, the Golden Gate Bridge with its orange towers extending into the dark thickening fog. Nearby, cameras stood ready to capture the inevitable conflict in time for the nightly news.

Edward ran point, leading ‘Students for a Green Tomorrow,’ the activist group he founded. They drove him, physically and spiritually, towards the riot squad hiding behind transparent shields. Euphoric, he imagined his professor’s pleasure in learning his star pupil was leading this heroic charge. Today Professor Milford, like the rest of the world, would witness their brave stand against corporate greed.

Clad in green shirts, his troop surged forward, pushing him with their passion. His army, like himself, was ready to make sacrifices. Heather, to his right, was a film major with dreams of shaping the culture. Jim, on his left, studied law with the goal of ending corporate destruction of animal habitats.

“Gas masks on,” shouted Edward like the drill they had practiced a dozen times. “Remember, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.”

The events were unfolding just as he and Heather had sketched in story boards. Each special effect and news shot was planned to achieve the maximum exposure. Even the news cameras were positioned as he’d advised them.

The next crowd pulse moved him to within a foot of the cop behind his transparent shield. Suddenly, Edward’s abstract conflict with corporate America was concretized in the face of the officer determined to stop him. The events that led him here flashed through his mind. He recalled how three weeks ago, Professor Milford, dean of the philosophy department, had invited him to a private meeting. A great man, he treated Edward like a peer rather than a mere student of philosophy. When their conversation turned to the upcoming Trade Summit, the professor asked for Edward’s advice. “Someone should stop it,” he said resolutely. The professor heartily agreed saying, “It is a shame that more intellectual leaders are not willing to stand against the greed of the corporate elite.” Lying in his dorm room that same night, Edward conceived of a brilliant idea now coming to fruition.

His thoughts returned to his mission. Over his shoulder hung long ropes and mountain climbing gear while others of his troop carried implements that would ensure their message was emblazoned across every newspaper and TV station in the country.

“Far enough,” he commanded, his voice muffled by his gas mask. He felt the crowd continue to advance and he pushed back to halt the progressing mass.

“STOP!” he yelled again, but the pressure from behind continued to build until his face was pressed against the police shield. Others were making the same urgent plea to “Stop”, but the throbbing pressure continued to build. His euphoria was turning to panic as he was shoved harder against the shield. The gas mask hid his fearful expression from the officer who looked ever more determined. The relentless pressure made it difficult to breathe. He cinched his arms tight to support his comrades, but Heather’s arms were limp. Her pale masked face was pressed against a shield and her eyes were rolling slowly upwards.

The officer before Edward saw the unconscious girl, turned to his partner and shouted, “She’s being crushed, let her through.” They moved their shields to create a small gap in the wall and as they did Heather’s limp body fell through the crack to the ground.

Edward saw his opportunity and lunged forward. He wedged his body between the shields, prying them open to release the pent up pressure behind him. In the next moment he flowed through the gap with a torrent of people rushing past the blockade and streaming onto the bridge.

Heather’s body vanished in the violent flow, but Jim remained at his side as they sprinted to their planned rendezvous mid span. The fog grew ever thicker, obscuring their victorious charge, and alas leaving Edward dismayed; the news cameras would miss his dash to glory.

Chapter 3.

Through an open car window, cool calming air flowed onto the blond haired man who sat mid span in quiet contemplation of his fate.

None who saw him through the window of his expensive SUV, with his trimmed blond hair and tailored suit, would suspect his radical ideology. His extreme views ensured that no accredited university would accept him, had he bothered to apply. At age 24 he had never spent a single day in a conventional classroom, yet he had the finest education from private tutors; fully rounded in history, law, mathematics, physics, literature, science, engineering, and philosophy. From birth he’d been groomed to achieve great things, and he knew he would.

Thinking of the traffic and the unseen protesters that caused it, he took another deep breath, and reminded himself, that the students were not the cause of the country’s declining standards, merely a symptom. They repeated the tired clichés they had heard since birth. Parents, media, peers, and teachers all expounded the same message of evil corporate greed and the need to sacrifice for the poor and environment. They accepted this moral code because they knew no other; and could not imagine the glorious life his alternative could offer.

These thoughts washed over him, escalating his urgency to move forward with the program that would make his alternative view the mainstream. Just the night before, he had taken the first small step to instigate his plan. Although incomplete, this first move would start a reaction of world transformation.

His actions were in defiance of the counsel that funded his program. “The people are not ready for the truth,” they told him a thousand times, but he was not convinced. “My plan will condition the population to accept the truth,” he whispered as a silent affirmation of his motives. For the briefest moment the image of a girl with stunning green eyes flashed into is mind, but he quickly turned from that heavy thought and focused on his mission.

From his car, higher than most, he peered into the intermittent wisps of fog and searched for the source of distant shouts, but saw only the golden suspension cables extending upward into a looming white cloud. Then he spotted shapes approaching from the opposite side, a throng of people in green shirts running toward him.

Although he has expected them, he was not prepared for the site of the protesters and he fumed at the sight.

The approaching crowd grew as more emerged from the fog. They were not confined to the sidewalks, but weaved in and out among the cars which were stopped like a parking lot. Drivers and passengers got out and joined in support. Car stereos blasted and people cheered in what moments before had been a somber commute.

He fought to retain his composure. “Our time will come,” he told himself again and again.

When the group reached mid span, just a few yards from his car, they stopped abruptly and climbed over the orange fence separating the road from the walkway. Facing Alcatraz Island and the Bay, they removed a huge green piece of tent-like canvas. In a single well-orchestrated motion they unrolled the sheet, fastening ropes to the top, and weights to the bottom.

Transfixed by the spectacle, its purpose was unclear, until a boy, tall lean and unshaven, lifted the canvas edge just as a gust of cold wind swept in from the ocean. In an instant it unfurled to reveal its purpose. Giant white letters, clear against the green sail, spelled out the words, ‘Human Need, Not Corporate Greed.’

Around him cars erupted in honks of approval as the banner fluttered over the side, suspended above by ropes tied to the massive orange suspension cables. The evident leader lifted his hands high above his head in triumph, just as wisps of thickening fog obscured his image.

A small group shuffled from car to car, affixing bumper stickers that read, “I Support a Green Tomorrow.” Suddenly a girl with stringy brown hair was staring up at him and waving a sticker, “Would you like to show your support for our cause, and end destructive corporate influence?” she asked.

Unable to maintain his well practiced composure, he uncharacteristically blurted his resentment. “Never, you should all be ashamed of yourselves.”

“Don’t you care about our future?” asked the puzzled girl.

He reflected on the unending succession of waking hours devoted to ensuring a proper future for mankind; days and nights of secluded work for one purpose that was the antithesis of this girl and her pointless cause.

“Your cause restricts liberty, hampers productivity, and saps financial resources. I have seen the future this will bring, and you would not wish it on your children.” He stopped, suddenly, wanting to say more, but knowing it would be wasted, she simply lacked the context to understand. He looked at her blank stare and knew who to blame - the college professors who crippled her mind, denying her the tools to make sense of the world.

The girl’s eyes widened and for a moment she stood stunned, staring up at his fine suit and tall Black SUV. Then she called out, “I found one, Edward. He talks like a greedy corporate pig. We should use his gas guzzler.” In the next instant, a dozen surrounding protesters converged on the car and rhythmically banged their fists chanting, “Human need not corporate greed.”

Suddenly, Edward, the tall pale boy, was standing before his car. From a bag, he produced a bottle of clear liquid and poured the contents on the hood. He glared through the window as if daring the man to step out. The smell of kerosene filled the air.

The man in the car had come to the bridge only to witness the predicted events and confirm his claims to the council, but this protestor was more than he could tolerate. They had desecrated the city, mocked America, and were now vandalizing his property. He sprang from his seat with fists clenched and rushed towards the vandal, shouting “What do you think you’re doing?”

Edward answered in a well rehearsed proclamation, “We seize this car in the name of mother Earth from which it came. On her behalf we liberate these resources to ensure her message is heard. Your corporate destruction of our land and indigenous cultures must end.”

The events that followed happened quickly. Edward produced an unlit match and the man sprang forward to stop him from lighting it. Startled, Edward dropped the match and cocked his fists. The man prepared to defend himself and property. The boy swung first, but the man pulled back and the punch just grazed his chin. He saw his opening but his punch was hampered by a girl clinging to his arm, and the man’s opportunity passed. The boy swung again, but this time it could not be dodged. The man’s body was held firm by hands from the crowd. The fist landed squarely on his face. His thoughts grew cloudy like the bay fog that enveloped him. He felt himself falling to the ground and his burning anger surpassed any fear of death. Then his thoughts turned to his unfinished project, and all that it meant to his life, his love, and his future. Suddenly the car was not important. ‘I must finish it’ he thought in desperation, but just then a sharp kick struck his forehead and he collapsed.

Behind him were the sounds of breaking glass and the smell of kerosene. He tried to rise again but the crushing blow of a boot ended his progress. Through the fog and pain his thoughts returned to the project and then to its one unbearable price; her name silently crossed his lips, ‘Tori.’ He tried to rise; his project had to be finished for his sake and hers. Their happiness could not have been traded for a half measure - an incomplete effort with no hope of revealing the truth.

A kick to his chest halted his motion. Peering through blurred eyes, he could make out the vision of a bright light growing ever more intense through white clouds, a vision not of approaching heaven, but of hell, as frolicking protesters danced and kicked in the orange glow of his burning car.

A final blow to the head, and his consciousness drained away to the lamenting sound of the pale boy’s voice, “I don’t think the cameras will see the fire in all this fog.”

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The Aristotle Reaction Chronicles, Episode 2.

In our last episode we encountered a violent clash on the Golden Gate Bridge, and came to know a little of the ardent environmentalists who were its instigators. Sadly, we also witnessed the horrific fate of a passionate young man, who might have been a fitting hero for our chronicles, had he not met such a disagreeable end.

We now turn our attention to a California university campus where two students are discovering the challenges of being active minded in a very open minded university. We also catch the first glimpse of an odd computer game that has captivated the attention of the subjects of our story.

I hope you enjoy this installment that is laying the ground work for exciting things to come…

Chapter 4.

Tori Anderson brushed a lock of brown hair from her green eyes. She paused, her hand lingering over the keyboard, unsure if she should email her last game invitation to a guy she barely knew. She had only three, and her first two were gone, one to her youngest brother, the other to a friend back home. Her roommate, Jennie, had begged for the final invitation, promising many favors, but Tori declined, not wanting to waste it. For Jennie, the invitation was simply a status symbol.

Tori's invitation had arrived over the summer, long before anyone she knew had heard of the game. She found the invitation email and opened it only by accident. For the briefest moment she thought it came from her old boy friend, Alex, but she quickly dismissed that painful notion, and before long was absorbed in the peculiar online game. Over the summer she played with increasing regularity, as its addictive nature kept drawing her back with ever more intriguing questions. When she returned to school in the fall she found others equally mesmerized by the simple game. The game spread through campus like a virus as new players carefully and selectively passed along their precious three invitations to their most worthy friends.

Tori pulled her hands away from the keyboard, and turned the question over again. Why Jake? Her broken heart had not recovered from the cruel rejection by Alex, so she had no desire for romance. Her interest was platonic, she told herself. It was merely a friendly gesture to a person she thought would appreciate the game as she did.

She knew little of Jake except that he was articulate and obstinate. Their relationship consisted only of intense argument. On any historical or topical question he always took an opposing view. She suspected this was intentional, and she could not pinpoint his personal views on anything.

Their clashes kept her entertained but with no thought of a relationship. Jake was safe, she decided, he was smart but lacked the intensity and commitment that had drawn her so irresistibly and disastrously to Alex.

Pondering the question one more time, Tori at last made up her mind; an invitation to Jake would not be wasted. He would appreciate the game's subtlety. She hit the send button, and her email was gone.

Chapter 5.

Jake Smith sat in his dark dormitory room illuminated by the bluish glow of his computer screen. The usual noise of college life had died in the hall and the only sounds were from his keyboard and an occasional snore from his roommate.

Jake was fully engaged in a computer programming assignment due the next morning, a simple 3-D graphics engine. For hours he worked to resolve the remaining bugs. The task was so engrossing that he barely noticed when his roommate, Edward, entered and greeted him with a sneer before flopping into bed fully clothed. Jake had nothing in common with his activist roommate and generally tried to ignore him.

A chime announcing the arrival of a new email interrupted his typing. The subject and sender flashed on the screen and caught his eye: "AR Invitation, Respond by 12:00AM, from Tori Anderson."

This was an unexpected surprise. Tori was a history major he met at several campus functions. Their meetings had a distinctive pattern; "Oh, it's you again" she would say, and then provoke a conversation with a challenging question. "Why did the U.S. abandon the Vietnam war?" or "What caused the great depression?" These were unlike the typical party conversations and quickly evolved into a serious debate. Jake, who spent four years on his high school debate team, found the challenges irresistible; that and Tori's good looks.

She was a petite girl with wavy brown hair. He recalled that her green eyes narrowed with deep concentration when listening, then widened with intensity as she passionately presented her views.

No matter the question, he took the opposition for the challenge. She argued logically with an excellent command of the facts with original views that defied the tired clichés he heard from others. She was a worthy opponent and he was certain she equally enjoyed the exchanges.

His intrigue grew after a discussion on whether the ideals the Declaration of Independence would still be supported by the country. She argued 'No,' and he therefore argued 'Yes.' The debate ended in a stalemate, he thought, and only weeks later did he learn that she had won a full first year scholarship for an essay she'd written on the subject. She had not used this credential to trump his argument, and this added to her allure.

At times the debates blurred the line between serious discussion and innocent flirting, leaving Jake uncertain of Tori's interest. He considered asking her out, but the right opportunity never presented itself. She was very attractive, perhaps too much so for his average looks: tall, firm jaw and dark hair. However he felt their connection was intellectual and he was confident that if asked she would accept.

The email invitation was intriguing. Jake had heard rumors of this "AR Simulation," an online game with a growing underground following on campus. It was notoriously addictive and players often went for days without sleep. Tori didn't seem the type to play video games, yet she made the effort to track down his email and send the invitation. Her note simply read, "You will enjoy this." It was signed, "Tori (Athena92)." At the bottom was a blue link labeled "Click here to begin. This offer expires at midnight Thursday October 20th."

According to the rumors, this was typical of AR invitations. Always a link that expired a few hours after the mail arrived. Normally Jake would have ignored this as his busy schedule left little time for games, but this invitation provided an excellent excuse to call Tori. He just needed to finish debugging the code for his assignment due at 8:00 A.M. the next day.

At ten to midnight Jake contemplated stopping to check the game, but he was too close to solving his bugs. He let the deadline pass figuring he could still call Tori and ask for a new invitation.

At 3:26 A.M. his program produced a spinning 3-D pyramid that did not crash as it had done repeatedly for eight hours. Jake's relief erupted with an audible shout, "YES!"

Immediately Edward Bertrand rolled over and bellowed, "SHUT UP, nobody cares about your stupid computer code."

Chapter 6.

Jake arrived at his 8 A.M. programming lab groggy but on time. His fellow classmates looked similarly disheveled with baggy eyes that confirmed they also spent a late night on the assignment. He was the only person to complete the graphics engine on time, but the professor caved to the class pleading and granted an extension until Monday. This left Jake feeling cheated; he missed Tori's game invitation for nothing, and his only consolation was a free weekend, a chance for some end of season sailing on the bay.

His day off to a bad start, Jake walked wearily to the Liberal Arts building for "Introduction to Western Philosophy," his only general education class, and a great disappointment.

Like most 20 year olds, Jake questioned the world view of his parents. A baptized and confirmed Catholic, he spent four years at a private Jesuit High School, but increasingly he questioned the idea of an all knowing all powerful God. His doubts were the source of a growing rift with his devout parents. He was looking for alternative views and hoped to find it in a college level philosophy course. What he found both confused and fascinated him.

The course was taught by the charismatic Professor Milford, Dean of the Philosophy department. His silver grey hair and close trimmed beard made his exact age hard to guess. He always wore black, and was easily mistaken for a priest. The professor was confident, knowledgeable and captivatingly articulate. Jake knew that Professor Milford was something of a celebrity owing to a best selling book he had written fifteen years ago. The book titled, The Unity Principle, still made him a sought after speaker and advisor to politicians and corporate leaders.

At first Jake listened with rapture to the professor waiting for some nugget of information to back his conclusion that his parents were wrong. On any question or issue, his hand was in the air, and from the first day, he earned a reputation for his eagerness to debate. It started when the professor was explaining that, "the purpose of philosophy is not to find the answers, but merely to identify the questions." Jake, who was looking for answers, found this position unsatisfying, and quickly asked; "What is the point of teaching a subject with no answers?"

Milford responded warmly, "As students of philosophy we savor the diversity and underlying unity of history's thinkers, we don't judge. Who is to say what is right or wrong? Only the most arrogant and disunified minds ever claim there is only one correct answer. This class will help you to keep an open mind and embrace the views of all of histories great thinkers with an equal degree of unity and consideration. One can never be certain, and therefore we must strive for unity rather than certainty."

Jake struggled to comprehend this view. He wanted a broadened mind but also certainty, like in his engineering courses with clear answers and the methods to solve problems. The professor's claim that no one can be certain only raised more questions, and so he asked the most obvious. "How can we be certain we can't be certain?"

Milford looked sharply down at Jake. He had seen such students before; engineers always wanted clear black and white answers. Accordingly he made it his personal duty to help them appreciate the subtle shades of grey in the higher planes of thinking. In his 40 years in academics, he'd heard every argument and knew exactly how to set an engineer straight.

"Mr. Smith is it?" ask Milford kindly.

"Yes," replied Jake.

"Can I assume you have taken your required physics courses and are aware of the appearance of certainty in the laws of Newtonian physics?"

"Yes" said Jake hesitantly.

"Can I also assume you have studied atomic physics and theories of relativity?

"Yes, the basics."

"Excellent!" exclaimed Milford, "then you must already know that the great physicists of our age have confirmed they can't be certain. At the atomic level we discover the uncertainty of nature and the deeper we probe the more clear the uncertainty becomes. You must be familiar with the wave-particle paradox of light. You see how light behaves like both waves and like particles at the same time and in the same respect; clearly a contradiction, but yet true, wouldn't you agree?"

"I'm not sure," said Jake hesitantly.

"Precisely," continued Milford, "because you can't be sure. If the very nature of light is uncertain, then how can we trust our own sight?"

Jake started to reply, "Yes, but we do know that light waves…"

"If you please," interrupted Milford, "I know this is a fascinating subject, but it is suited for more advanced students. I merely mention this to point out that things are not always as they appear, and we must therefore hold our judgments.'

Despite Professor Milford's subtle reproach on the first day, Jake continued to challenge, but always there was a response that left him no where to turn. As much as he disliked the idea that the world was so uncertain, he was starting to realize he needed to keep an open "unified" mind and his eagerness for debate faded.

Today Jake sat in the old auditorium style classroom, trying to stay focused on Milford's final summary of Plato. He learned from the first quiz that Milford expected students to respond exactly as taught and creative interpretations were not appreciated. He needed to recover from a D on his last essay to keep up his grade point average, but found it hard to pay attention or even stay awake.

The Professor spent the last three weeks covering the Greek philosopher Plato. They reviewed the "Allegory of the Cave" which explained Plato's view that a true reality existed on a higher plane that man could not experience directly. Man experienced only a shadowy projection of the true reality. Like shadow puppets on a cave wall, men can experience the shadows but not the real entities that create them. Milford explained that Plato was the first to systematically demonstrate that reality was an illusion, and in doing so had created the foundation for all modern philosophy.

Despite the professor's advice to the contrary, Jake looked for answers in Plato's views. Instead, he only found a confirmation of Milford's notion that knowledge was uncertain.

The class also covered Plato's political theories in which the ideal rulers were "Philosopher Kings" who interpreted the "true reality" to the people who lived in a controlled society. Milford summed up this lecture by adding, "Alas it is regrettable that Plato's noble ideal has not become the norm. Today we are ruled by the materialistic greed of big business and not the wisdom of philosophers." This last statement received a general murmur of approval throughout the class.

"This concludes our study of Plato," he went on. "On Monday I will give a brief discussion on Aristotle and then we cover, 'Jesus as Philosopher.' You have no reading assignments this weekend but those who feel compelled can go directly to Christianity."

Jake knew a little of Aristotle from the old Jesuit brother that taught his high school debating class. They studied his writing on rhetoric for effective debating and his system of logic to identify contradictions in arguments. He was looking forward to learning more. Without waiting, he called out, "We spent three weeks on Plato, is one day enough for Aristotle?"

Milford responded with a quick dismissal, "I have limited time to inject some enlightenment into the Engineering disciplines. I cannot dwell on every pontificator, no matter how ancient. One day is enough to dispel certain myths surrounding Aristotle."

Jake persisted, "I thought Aristotle invented logic; that must be a relevant topic for engineers?"

Growing weary of the insistent questioning, Milford smiled wearily and replied, "I am well aware of Aristotle's logic and its limited applicability to the experiential realm that is the preoccupation of engineers. However, logic has little relevance in understanding the higher realms of existence. You will soon learn that his ideas were shown to be flawed long ago, and therefore not relevant to modern thinking."

As the classroom emptied several students shot disapproving glances at Jake for his constant questioning.

Philosophy was not as enlightening as he'd hoped and now he abandoned the search for answers in the hope of merely finding a passing grade.

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Hmm, I think this is a very interesting work. I'm surprised, actually. Perhaps it is because I'm in college right now, but I think the characters are intriguing. I'm really not sure where you're going with Jake or how Tori fits in. I hope Tori finds out that Alex was stomped to death (he is dead, right?), and that he broke up with her in order to carry out his plan. I guess I'll have to wait and find out. I hope you put the next installment up soon.

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Roger, this is definitely becoming more interesting. The length of the episodes is nice, too. Like realitycheck I, too, look forward to more.

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Roger, this is definitely becoming more interesting. The length of the episodes is nice, too. Like realitycheck I, too, look forward to more.

Royce and Reality Checker,

Thanks for the feedback, it’s great to here. I’ll post a new episode on Thursday, where you will hear one of our characters say:

“People are too naive to know what’s right, but big companies know better. They could produce environmentally responsible products, but they are too concerned with profits. These new laws will force them to do what’s right. Besides it will keep unnecessary products off the market, Americans consume too much as it is.”

hmmm, I wonder who, and what of these "new laws"... stay tuned.

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Having met our principle players in Episodes 1 and 2, we start today by adding one more good fellow, and then by turning our attention to the seemingly trivial dilemmas of our man, Jake. Thus far his tribulations include, (in no particular order): his professor is perplexing, his roommate is irksome, he missed his game invitation, and he has yet to score a date with one green eyed beauty, aka Tori.

But surely there is more to this story than the common problems of college life? In deed there is more; but our story is still young, and we need time to uncover the motivations that drive our players. In the mean time, let us hope things improve for Jake...

The Aristotle Reaction Chronicles, Episode 3.

Chapter 7.

Directly after Milford's class Jake went to the computer lab, an old converted chemistry laboratory which he liked because it was hidden on the top floor of the engineering building and few students knew of it. The few who did were regulars, and the most regular was Vinod, an exchange student from Poona, India.

Not surprisingly Vinod was in the lab, the only person in a room of thirty computers. They became friends when Vinod helped Jake resolve a difficult programming issue. Their friendship was spawned from software collaboration and cultural exchange. Jake was curious about Indian culture and Vinod was confused by America's.

They would often work late in the lab, and eat at a small cheap diner near campus. Vinod always carried a small shaker of curry spices that he sprinkled liberally on everything while complaining that all American food was bland.

Vinod's said his name was Hindu meaning "joy," and true to it he was always happy. He lacked the cynicism typical of many American students. His thick black hair and dark complexion framed a wide smile. He spoke excellent English and his thick accent had declined considerably since he arrived. His conversations, like his food, were spiced with unique Indian phrases that were most intense when he was excited.

"Hi and good morning, Jake," said Vinod with his usual good cheer. "How are you being today?"

"I'm OK," said Jake flatly.

Vinod detected the ill mood and ask, "What is causing the bother with you?"

"My philosophy class is much less interesting than I had hoped. It is not a very practical subject."

This was the kind of American statement that Vinod never understood. "What could be more practical than knowing what is real?" he asked.

"According to my professor nothing is real, or at least we can't be certain of it."

"You don't believe that, do you?" ask Vinod inquisitively.

"Well, I'm not sure. I always assumed there was a reality, but after listening to my professor, I am starting to think I was naive. Do you think it is true?"

Vinod raised an eyebrow and looked at Jake. "If I believed there was no reality, then I would not be a very good engineer. Engineers must know that reality is real and governed by natural laws that can be discovered and applied. If you don't believe that, then you need to rethink your profession."

"Professor Milford says that all the great scientists have proven that reality is uncertain."

"Ah, professor Milford," exclaimed Vinod with recognition. "I started his class, but dropped it quickly because his only interest was pushing his own view."

"How did you know the difference?" ask Jake.

"My father encouraged me to study philosophy. He was passionate to know why India remained stagnant while the west prospered. He believed the answer was in philosophy. He said a man's view of reality governs his fundamental choices. If his views are consistent with reality then he will make good choices, otherwise not. In the consequence I learned a lot from him. He showed me the proper methods and the roots of many views. He insisted I think through my own views and study those of others to know what motivates their choices and actions."

"That sounds reasonable," said Jake.

"Yes, my father is a wise man. India is a country of many views of life and reality that differ from the west. My father encouraged me to study in the U.S. and learn the western views first-hand."

"Was your father a Guru?" asked Jake.

"No," said Vinod with a wide smile and amusement with the stereotype. "My father is not a spiritual Guru, just a wise man."

"So did he teach you Indian philosophy?"

"A philosophy, he said, should be classified by truth or falsehood, not region. He studied many, but his favorite was Aristotle's."

"Really?" asked Jake inquisitively, "I was hoping to learn more about Aristotle, but Milford said he was not worth studying."

"I am not surprised," said Vinod. "Aristotle believed in one reality, knowable through reason. This view clashes with Milford's. I dropped the class when I realized he would not be objective."

Jake was puzzled, "Why would a respected teacher skip an important philosopher? It makes no sense."

Vinod glanced at his watch, and suddenly exclaimed, "Oh my god, I'm late for class." In a flash he bolted from the room leaving Jake to ponder if Professor Milford really was deliberately avoiding Aristotle.

Chapter 8.

His classes over for the day, Jake returned to his cluttered dorm room to call Tori. The game invitation provided the opportunity to ask her out and he needed to do it before his roommate returned. He sat on his bed nervously rehearsing and when finally composed, he picked up the phone and dialed.

"Hello," said a rushed voice that sounded like Tori.

"Hi, Tori, this is Jake Smith."

"Oh, it's you again," she declared, "I can't talk now; I'm in the middle of a simulation."

Jake heard the sounds of a clicking mouse in the background. "Can you put it on pause?"

"There is no pause; once you start you have to finish the session. You should have figured that out by now."

Jake started to reply, "Well, that is what I am calling about…"

Tori interrupted "I can't talk now, my people are unhappy. Call back later."

"When?" asked Jake, confused.

The reply that followed made no sense, "Employers should hire whoever is most qualified for a job?" There was a short pause, a click, and she said "Encourage!"

Clearly she was pre-occupied with her game, but seeing his opportunity, Jake asked, "Will you just meet me at the Java House at nine tonight?"

There was a pause, the sound of clicking followed by another question, "Employers should be free to discriminate based on their own prejudices? Discourage!" after a short pause she said, "Ok, fine." She hung up.

Jake at first felt pleased with his quick thinking and the prospect of an actual date, but then he wondered, "had she even heard him?" Was her reply of "OK, fine" for him or the game? He tried to make sense of the entire conversation. "My people are unhappy." "What was that all about," he asked himself?

Jake's thoughts were interrupted when his roommate, Edward, strolled through the door. "Why aren't you working on your little computer," he jeered, throwing his coat on the floor. Edward was a wiry fellow with a pale complexion. He had dark black hair and a perpetually scraggy beard. He wore little round "John Lennon" spectacles because he thought they made him look "intellectual." His wardrobe consisted of sandals, shorts, and tee-shirts supporting his many activist issues. He rarely left the room without music and headphones attached. He was a philosophy major and maintained a well-crafted image of an avant-garde bohemian beatnik deep-thinker.

Jake had not selected Edward as a roommate, and they first met on the day they moved in together. They were paired because they were older than most in the dorm. Jake had transferred to the school in his third year and chose the dorm because it was convenient. Edward on the other hand liked the interaction with impressionable freshmen.

At first Jake thought a philosophy major would engage in interesting conversations; deep and thought provoking. He assumed that even disagreement would make for a challenging debate, which he always enjoyed. He was wrong. Whatever the topic, Edward always ended up claiming that Jake was too close-minded to appreciate the "higher realms;" a term that he never explained to Jake's satisfaction.

To Edward, Jake represented all he believed wrong with the world. Jake wanted a degree in Engineering and a corporate job designing new products. Edward considered him a coward unwilling to fight against the injustices of corporate America. Jake's refusal to accept "Corporate America" as the problem left the two in a deadlock.

As a rule Jake avoided confrontation by avoiding Edward. In particular he avoided Edward's involvement in a riot that resulted in a student death. Like everyone, he knew that Edward was at the girl's side when it happened. He also avoided other strange rumors, like that of a murder and cover up on the bridge. It seemed too improbable that a man would disappear without a trace or investigation.

Unlike Jake, Edward lived for any opportunity to advance his causes. Today he had a new one and nonchalantly gloated, "It looks like someone has finally tamed corporate America. The Environmental Freedom Laws were just signed by the President."

"What are 'Environmental Freedom Laws?'" asked Jake wearily.

"Honestly Jake, don't you even care enough about the world to read the paper?" chided Edward. "The laws are important legislation to protect the environment from big business. Now all products produced or sold in the US must submit conclusive proof that they will not harm the environment. Companies that don't comply will be fined or face criminal prosecution."

"How will they determine what is a harm to the environment?" asked Jake.

"The EPA will decide on a case by case basis. One thing is certain; there will be a huge new demand for environmental consultants. With my degree in environmental philosophy, I will be in high demand, especially given the pivotal role I played in getting the law passed."

"What role was that?" questioned Jake skeptically.

"Professor Milford says my organization, 'Students for a Green Tomorrow,' was pivotal in bringing public attention to the scandals of corporate America. These laws would not have been possible without my efforts."

Tired of Edward's constant preaching, Jake snapped. "Your efforts got a girl killed," he said harshly.

"That was not my fault," declared Edward indignantly. "How dare you disrespect Heather Sheldon? She gave her life defending your planet!"

"Defending it against what?"

"Against big corporations consuming the earth's resources faster than they can be replenished."

"Edward, big corporations are only big because they sell things that everybody wants. Shouldn't you blame the consumers, and not the corporations?"

"People are too naive to know what's right, but big companies know better. They could produce environmentally responsible products, but they are too concerned with profits. These new laws will force them to do what's right. Besides it will keep unnecessary products off the market, Americans consume too much as it is."

"I've noticed your concern for consumerism has not stopped you from owning a car, a computer, and a very nice music player," observed Jake.

"So now you're attacking me personally because you don't like what I stand for," accused Edward.

"I'm just pointing out the contradiction between what you practice and what you preach."

"Don't start with your debating logic again; it is so naive. If you had studied philosophy, as I have, you would know those methods are just gimmicks to give the illusion of certainty. All you've really done is close your mind to the unity of higher realms."

Fed up with Edward and his "higher realms," Jake decided to press his point with the rumors, "So, how many people did you kill on the bridge to achieve your higher realms?"

Edward reacted immediately, dropping his normal cool superiority, "Who told you that?" he asked, and without waiting for a response continued, "It's not true, nobody was murdered. Nobody has ever proven anybody was ever murdered. I don't know what you're talking about."

Jake knew he'd hit closer to the truth than expected. Edward's uncharacteristic response gave credence to the rumors that something more took place on the bridge. "I was talking about Heather," he said, backing off. "What were you talking about?"

An involuntary look of relief crossed Edward's face. "Oh, yes, I was talking about Heather also. Everyone knows she died at the feet of the police, it was not my fault."

"Well, if you say so," said Jake. Pleased to have ended Edward's gloating, he grabbed his books and left.

Chapter 9.

Jake strolled to the Java House taking a long meandering route through campus. As he walked his thoughts were a jumble, one part contemplation of Edward's uncharacteristic response, and one part anticipating Tori.

Arriving early he ordered a black coffee and settled into a soft worn couch. The Java House had an unpretentious atmosphere that suited Jake. Its collection of black and white photos and eclectic comfortable old chairs increasingly provided refuge from his housing dilemma.

Nine O'clock rolled by with no sign of Tori. He had long since finished nursing his coffee and was reading. With nowhere to go, he remained optimistic that she might still come. He could not admit to being stood-up, and rationalized that he misinterpreted the meaning of "OK, Fine," Tori's terse response to his invitation.

A loud thump against his book startled him. He looked up and saw Tori sitting in an old paisley-patterned chair across from him. She was smiling.

"Oh, it's you again," she said.

"What are you doing here?"

"I thought you had invited me."

"So did I, but by 9:30 I was not so sure."

"I'm sorry," she began, "but I started a quick game with a new strategy, and it worked so well I just could not leave. I broke my high score and was able to play for another 30 minutes," Tori said this while smiling at Jake expecting him to be impressed, but he did not react.

"Why couldn't you stop?" he asked.

The smile vanished. Tori's green eyes widened, "You haven't played yet. You missed my invitation, didn't you?"

"Well actually…" Jake started when she cut him off.

"Now I don't feel so bad about being late. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get an invitation?"

"No," he replied. "Why don't you just send me a new one?"

"A new one? I don't have new ones. You only get three, and my other two are gone. I can't believe I wasted an invitation on you. My roommate was furious when I gave it to you and not her."

"Well, how was I to know, and why only three, and why send it to me?"

"You don't get out much do you?" she asked. Without waiting for a reply she went on, "Everybody I know is trying to get an invitation, and they all know you can only send three."

"Ok," he said "I guess I'm not a big follower of video games, but why me?"

"A video game! Is that what you think? I don't play 'video games.' AR is not a VIDEO game! It is an internet based simulation and it's extremely engaging. Once you start it's hard to stop."

"What is so addictive?" questioned Jake.

"Have you ever played a computer game over and over?"

"Sure" said Jake, "I've played games: Solitaire, Auto Racing and the usual."

"Like those games, AR is very simple, and you want to keep improving your score. As soon as you lose, you start again hoping to do better. But that is where the similarity ends. If other games are addictive like nicotine then AR is heroin. It challenges you on many different levels and becomes a personal quest. It's affected me more than I thought possible."

"What is the game about?" asked Jake, his curiosity peaked.

"The AR site does not say, but I've read several theories. The most prominent says the player is the ruler of a population of people. Some theories suggest that you are playing God and or the 'collective conscious' of a country. As the ruler, or whatever, you try to influence the population. The longer your advice keeps people alive and happy, the longer you play and the higher your score."

"OK," said Jake, his curiosity satisfied, "I've played games where you control the resources like civic infrastructures and factories. If the economy is balanced the city prospers."

"AR is different," insisted Tori. "You don't control things, you simply 'Encourage' or 'Discourage' ideas. Your people do whatever they think is right; you only influence them. If you can encourage something to enough people, it might get done. They might pass laws, go to church, or grow their businesses."

"So if you don't control anything how do you even play?"

"To begin with you select your population from any time or location. I think most people just pick the present day U.S. The screen is divided into four quadrants. On the lower left is the 'Event Window' where News, questions and issues scroll by. You can choose to Encourage, Discourage, or ignore each event. If you don't answer in time, the issue goes away. The top left is a graph that shows your population's happiness on a scale from 0 to 100%. The graph on the top right shows the overall standard of living. The lower right section displays various statistical breakouts of the population, things like crime, charity, pollution, innovation rates, etc. The game keeps going until the happy graph drops and your influence has diminished."

"It sounds very abstract, not the sort of thing you would expect to be so popular."

"Yes, it is abstract initially, but once you've played, you become attached to your population and think of them as real. You want the best for them. When things are going well you're proud, but when bad you feel responsible. "

"It doesn't sound that hard. Just give the people what they want," concluded Jake.

"Which people? There are different groups and demographics, all seem to want something different, and the longer you play, the more groups there are, each making demands until you just can't keep up."

"That does not sound addictive."

"Oh it is. There is a strong connection to your ego. Everyone likes to think they know best, and the world would be better if everyone followed their advice. What if you had that power, but things got worse instead of better. You would want to know why, and you would want to fix it."

"So did you screw up the world?" teased Jake.

"Yes, my first session lasted about 12 minutes, about six weeks in game time. I started encouraging laws to fix things I thought were stupid, and the next thing I knew everyone was unhappy. But I have improved since then. My game tonight lasted one hour and twenty-six minutes, almost four years."

"I hope you're not planning a career in politics."

"That is not funny, Jake. I became a history major to learn from past mistakes so we don't repeat them. I expect to do better than just four years."

"Aren't you taking this too seriously? It is just a game or simulation, not reality," said Jake, trying to sound sympathetic while giving some perspective.

"This is probably hard to understand if you have not played AR, but it's uncanny how closely this models human behavior. I know enough history to appreciate that. I don't have time to explain everything, but I have heard some bizarre rumors about the accuracy of AR's historical predictions."

"This sounds like science fiction. I am sure there are lots of strange coincidences, but people are likely just reading too much into their graphs, like tea leaves and astrology. They are probably just coincidences."

"Now you are being condescending," snapped Tori. "You think I am too silly and stupid to know the difference between a computer game and reality."

"I don't think you're stupid or silly, I am just trying to understand what you are saying," said Jake; then trying to change the topic he asked, "Do you know who makes this game?"

"I don't know and apparently nobody does. Several web sites are devoted to theories about what AR is, who made it, and why, but no one knows for sure. I was hoping you might have some idea."

"Oh, so you invited me hoping my computer know-how could hack the system and reveal the secrets," said Jake, feeling used.

Tori rolled her eyes, "Oh get over yourself. You can't even login much less hack the system. Why don't you use your 'computer know-how' to get a new invitation, so you can play. That is certainly not why I invited you."

"Then why did you?"

"I'm not sure, but you were the first person that came to mind. I wondered how you would play because you don't think like other people I know. I figured you might do better than most by cutting through the garbage to find what's most important. That is why I sent you the invitation," said Tori admitting more than intended and perhaps more than she had been aware.

Jake considered how to return the complement without sounding insincere, but when he looked up Tori was reaching for her purse. "I have to go now," she said suddenly. "I will try to find you an invitation. You should ask your friends as well. "

Jake walked Tori to her car. An awkward moment hung while he debated between a kiss and a handshake, but the moment passed with neither. "Well, I guess I will see you around," he said.

Alone, Jake walked to his dorm fully enamored with Tori, her striking intensity, and her intriguing game.

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This post is a rework of chapter 7, and you can skip it if you are just reading the story.

RealityChecker44 pointed out that the dialog between Vinod and Jake in Chapter 7 sounded contrived. I have taken his suggestions and reworked the chapter. It includes RealityChecker's idea to use the building of a bridge to concretize Vinod's point. This feedback is much appreciated and has resulted is a greatly improved chapter.

"Hi and good morning, Jake," said Vinod with his usual good cheer. "How are you being today?"

"I'm OK," said Jake flatly.

Vinod detected the ill mood and ask, "What's causing the bother with you?"

"My philosophy class sucks," said Jake.

"What is sucking about it?"

"It's not practical, and a waste of time. I don't see why engineers have to take philosophy anyway."

This was the kind of American statement that mystified Vinod. "Isn't reality practical?" he asked.

"How can we know if anything is real?" Asked Jake, applying Milford's lesson.

Vinod raised an eyebrow and looked at Jake. "If I was not believing in reality, how will I know that the bridges I build will stand? How would I know what principles to apply? Engineering would not be possible if I was not believing in reality or if I was believing that reality is unknowable, and certainty is unattainable. The bridge will either work, or it will fail. Two plus two MUST equal four. Not three, not five, not whatever I feel like that day, but four, always."

"Professor Milford says that all the great scientists have proven that reality is uncertain."

"Then perhaps you have the wrong professor," observed Vinod.

"How do you know who is right?"

"I was lucky. My father loved philosophy, and studied it was great passion. He believed it held the answer to why India remained poor while other parts of the world prospered. He shared this passion with me, showing the proper methods and the roots of many views."

"That sounds reasonable," said Jake.

"Yes, my father is wise. You see, India is a country of many conflicting views, and you need some standard by which to judge which are worth studying, and which are best ignored."

"Was your father a Guru?" asked Jake.

"No," said Vinod with an amused smile, "just a wise man."

"So which views are worth studying?" asked Jake.

"The ones consistent with reality, of course."

"But how will do I know that?"

"Start with what you can observe, and build from there."

"Ok, but who can help me. I've been observing reality for 20 years, and I still don't have it figured out."

"Then I recommend you start with Aristotle. He was the first to insist that philosophy should start with what you can see, not with what you can't."

"Really?" asked Jake inquisitively, "I was hoping to learn more about Aristotle, but Milford said he was not worth studying."

"I am not surprised," said Vinod. "Any philosopher that does not like certainty will not like Aristotle."

Jake was puzzled, "Why would a respected teacher skip an important philosopher? It makes no sense."

"That is easy," said Vinod as he glanced at his watch. Suddenly he jumped out of his chair, "Oh my god," he declared, "I'm late for class." In a flash he bolted from the room leaving Jake to ponder if Professor Milford really was deliberately avoiding Aristotle.

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The Aristotle Reaction Chronicles, Episode 4

Setting aside Jake's problems, this episode turns to Professor Milford; a character who, I admit, has a bit of Toohey in him. We find a man of great conviction, a man who knows the power of ideas, and who is not afraid to use them. In addition to learning a little of Milford, we uncover more details of events that occurred on the Bridge as our story began.

Chapter 10.

Professor Milford sat at a large oak desk in the study of the small Victorian style home he shared with his aging mother. The desk was the centerpiece of his favorite room, a private study with its high ceilings and ornate trim. A tall bookshelf lined the wall opposite his desk. The locking cabinet doors were an improvement he made years before to protect his prized collection of rare books and manuscripts from history's great thinkers. His most valued items were fifty leather-bound archive journals that were blank when he purchased them 35 years ago.

He purchased the journals upon the realization that future historians would need to fully understand his life and motives. He needed to leave a full account of not only what he had done, but why, and how. These journals were the meticulous documentation of his life's work and legacy.

Tonight he considered how to present the next and most difficult chapter. It needed to let future generations know how he carefully orchestrated events preceding and following June's Global Trade Summit; how he was responsible for disrupting the meeting, and vilifying the attending corporate leaders. Most importantly he needed readers to know that he was responsible for the important legislation that followed. Yet the difficulty was to remain blameless for the unexpected death and any connection that would tarnish his reputation.

While the death of a student was tragic, it enabled him to achieve certain objectives years ahead of schedule. He wanted to clarify these monumental events to historians who would need his help to see through the fog of media and politics that clouded the issues. He owed them, he believed, a firsthand accounting.

After a time he arrived at the perfect spin to create the needed effect. He opened journal number thirty-six where he had left off, and started to write in his near flawless penmanship.

The events of June 22nd mark a monumental turning point in America's quest for freedom from the oppressive burdens of corporate corruption and the materialistic values they represent. The person at the focal point for this great shift was Heather Sheldon who freely gave her life so that others might know the depth of CEO treachery. Her sacrifice was the switch that turned the blinding light of public attention onto the dark and secret activities of corporate leaders and their Global Trade Summit. I, like the rest of America, owe Heather a debt of gratitude for her service to this nation. In the interest of historical accuracy, I will provide here a detailed accounting of how these tragic events were made to serve the unity of greater good before they could be twisted to the selfish interests of the corporate elitist.

Yes, thought Milford, this sets the right tone. He grinned as he again recalled his quick thinking on the night of the summit.

He watched the news of the Golden Gate protest eager to see the results of ideas he had planted with Edward and thrilled as the events unfolded with far greater dramatic flare than he'd imagined. He saw the clash between the police and green shirted activists, and the mad dash onto the foggy bridge as they broke through the barricade. Like a proud father, he observed the huge banner unfolding with his favorite slogan: "Human Need Not Corporate Greed." It flashed on the screen for only a few moments before it was obscured in a blanket of milky fog. The effect could not be more vivid; the fog blanked the screen leaving the viewer to imagine what was happening behind the curtain. The professor sat in suspense, like millions of Americans, listening to the commotion and peering into the fogged white screen for a glimpse of the action.

Milford gasped with admiration as the fog suddenly turned bright orange, and for the briefest moment cleared to expose the banner and glowing outline of a car engulfed in flames. Instantly he knew the image would adorn the front page of every newspaper in the world. At that same moment his phone rang.

"Hello, this is Professor Milford," he said calmly, having anticipated Edward would call seeking his approval, but the voice was not Edward's.

"Hi professor, this is Skyler Wilson, I am sorry to, like, bother you, but Edward Bertrand said I should call you in, like, case of an emergency."

Milford cringed, and immediately considered the possibilities. "I hope everyone is alright," he said calmly.

"Yah Professor, everyone is fine; I mean the Students for a Green Tomorrow are fine, but, we are on the Golden Gate Bridge and, like, things got out of hand. There was this guy, and it was like all foggy, and then there was like a fight and, I don't know what happened, but I think the guy is, like, dead."

Milford's mind reeled, was the poor boy trying to say they had killed someone? He stopped himself from probing deeper. He did not want to know more. "I am not interested in rumors," he said, "and I don't want to hear any more nonsense. After all, how can you be certain? With all that fog, it would be difficult to be certain of anything, if such a thing is even possible."

"But the guy is, like, dead on the ground and he is all bloody and beat up. What do we do, Professor?"

"I told you, I am not interested in rumors or speculations, and I could not give advice in such matters, even if it were true, which seems unlikely. You claim there is a 'like' dead man, but who is to say what is actually dead, and what is 'like' dead. If the man is 'like' dead, but in fact is not, then he could be gone in five minutes from now, and if there is no 'like' dead body, then there can't have been a death, and how could you have possibly caused the death of a body that does not exist?"

"But professor, this is not like in class, this is real. There is a real dead guy here."

"If hypothetically, there is a dead body then, of course, you should call the police, but if there IS NO BODY, then, there is nothing to call the police about, is there?" Milford enunciated the words 'IS NO BODY' very slowly and deliberately.

"But I don't understand, Professor."

"Listen, young man, I have enjoyed our philosophical discussion, but I am terribly busy and I must go."

"But professor, what should we do?"

"Tell Edward what I have said, he will think of something. Now hurry and get off the bridge before you catch your death of cold. Those strong tidal currents produce the nastiest fog as they rush out to the deep and unyielding Pacific. Now, good night."

Milford hung up the phone and promptly compartmentalized the entire conversation as, "a simple philosophical discussion with a student concerned about a hypothetical dilemma." He pushed the details out of his mind.

When the phone rang again an hour later, it was Edward Bertrand calling from jail. Milford breathed a deep sigh of relief when Edward explained that he was arrested for inciting public unrest and a dozen other minor charges. Edward franticly told him of Heather's death in the mayhem, but he made no mention of a fight or a 'like dead man,' and Milford did not probe further.

The student death was the worst case scenario, but having occurred, it needed to be exploited. The Professor calmed Edward, and assured him all would be cared for.

Milford first reassured himself that his reputation would remain blameless. Edward organized the group on his own initiative. He had not even suggested it, but deep down he knew Edward's eagerness to please and the effect of a few well-placed remarks. His reputation would insulate him from speculation; no one could prove he was the instigator.

Milford had anticipated the need for some action, and he was ready. He quickly placed calls to former students with whom he maintained close contact. Of course by now these students were twenty and thirty year veterans of the work force. They held important positions in the government and media. He was reaping the bounty of seeds carefully sown and nurtured for years.

Tim Burleson was the producer of Deadline News, a weekly program that investigated important social issues. Tim was happy to speak with his friend and professor. Milford explained how a student had been brutally killed by police during the protest. The police were trying to cover up the incident by claiming the girl was trampled in a stampede. But eyewitnesses could verify that she died at the feet of armed riot police. Within minutes Tim had a local news affiliate working the story at police headquarters.

After a few similar calls, Milford turned the entire incident to his advantage. One call to Bruce McPherson, Director of the National Bureau of Anti-Terrorism, ensured that pressure was applied at the highest levels. Edward was quickly released as police scrambled for public damage control. The mayor declared a state of emergency and revoked all the convention permits effectively shutting down the summit. Sandra Foster, a newspaper reporter tracked allegations that the Summit organizers suspected trouble and were therefore responsible for the mayhem.

Milford placed a call to a former student who was now part of the presidential press corp. He was elated when she asked the President the exact question he proposed just minutes earlier. "In a free country, why are big businesses allowed to conspire for their own corporate self interests?" The President's answer thrilled him even more, "We are investigating these anti-competitive practices for any violation of anti-trust laws." This was more than Milford could have hoped. Anti-trust laws were so wonderfully ambiguous that it was impossible for a company not to be guilty of something, and this would make for great leverage.

Milford's thoughts returned to the present. Sitting at his dimly lit desk, he chuckled at how quickly Americans demanded the government take away their freedoms and how easily conservative and liberal politicians accommodated their wishes.

He had experience exploiting the population's eagerness for government protection. Two years ago, following train bombings in Chicago, he successfully lobbied his deep connections to create the Bureau of Anti-Terrorism, a new domestic agency with authority and resources to eliminate "terrorism" within American boarders. It was another small step in his plans, an organization not hampered by the burdens of traditional due process. Under his subtle influence the new director was a man of his choosing.

Like then, this protest was a test of the influence he had carefully nurtured in both parties. Politicians needed his academic validation to justify the bills that advanced their personal power base, and he needed their legislative powers to achieve a much broader social mission. The relationship was mutually beneficial.

In the days that followed the Summit, twenty-four hour news stations whipped a political frenzy around the events and the public quickly demanded new environmental protections. The nation, distracted by partisan politics, failed to grasp the fundamental issues and Milford was ready to exploit the partisan squabbling. Congressmen in both parties prepared new legislation. The bills had subtle differences but both were based on the same meticulous documents which found their way to young congressional staffers eager to please their important bosses.

The new laws required businesses to submit "sufficient and compelling" evidence to prove their products would not harm the environment. The laws gave few guidelines for what constituted "harming the environment" and gave the Environmental Protection Agency discretion to choose who to prosecute.

The briefs made the argument that the EPA needed to protect the environment the same way the FDA protects consumers, by ensuring products will not harm the environment 'before' they are produced.

Milford's picked up his pen and continued.

Protecting the environment is not the primary purpose of my work, but rather a convenient means to achieve a greater unifying end. The earth will survive the puny efforts of man, but I will raise mankind to a higher plane, unity, and love. This noble idea is not new but will finally be achieved by the new methods that are my legacy to mankind.

Unfortunately all men do not aspire to these ideals and, like children, must be guided by the gentle hand of government. The new laws constrain the boundaries that keep men's ego in check. My achievement is not that laws were passed, but that they were freely chosen by a democracy.

History has shown the futility of forcing men to make the sacrifices needed to achieve this ideal. In their haste to achieve a noble end, the communist nations used military force like an overbearing parent and the results were not lasting. These leaders failed to see that a society, like children, must freely choose their behavior. The sparing hand of force should only discipline those who greedily take more than their fair share to the detriment of the greater unity.

The transformation of a society is a slow process requiring generations. The people must be conditioned with the right ideals, and this has been arduous task in America due to the disunifying effect of individualism. Fortunately, our concern for the environment has illustrated man's shortsightedness. Our willingness to protect the environment has finally produced the unifying effect and laws necessary to enforce the sacrifices to protect our future. We are near to achieving the goal and after years of patient guidance, the population is teetering on the verge of a wondrous unification that will be my legacy.

Milford closed his book, pleased with his progress and the anticipation that his goal of unity might be achieved within his lifetime. America was so close, he thought, it just needed one more event to tip the balance and align the entire population behind his ideals.

His only regretted that his mother would not live to appreciate all he did for her. She was the inspiration, the one who helped him realize his calling to lead men from their selfish disunifying ways towards a better unified life of love and compassion.

Chapter 11.

Jake woke early on Saturday with nothing to do. A quick glance at the weather confirmed that sailing was out. The first of the winter storms arrived overnight. Anyone who followed the news expected it, but daily news rarely penetrated Jake's life at the university. He packed a few books and quietly left before Edward awoke.

He frequently spent nights and weekends studying at a long table in the library. Today he sat at the table across from a window overlooking the rain soaked campus. He opened his philosophy textbook, "An Enlightened Guide to Western Philosophy," authored by Dr. Archibald Milford. Although not required, he decided to read Aristotle for himself. It did not take long.

"Aristotle, born in Greece, 384 BC … a student of the great philosopher Plato…tutor to the bloody world conqueror Alexander who paid Aristotle with slaves… started a school called the Lyceum where he taught until he was run out of town on charges of impropriety… The writings attributed to Aristotle are not conclusively established to be his own, and were likely edited by his followers… His works show a 'flip-flopping' of views - first supporting Plato's ideas then rejecting them (the rejection possibly attributable to being passed over as Plato's successor at the university in Athens) …his works included writings on logic, nature, physiology, ethics, politics and art…In summary, Aristotle's ideas have made no lasting impact on modern philosophy. He remains an historical footnote on how an unbridled ego can produce extremist philosophies leading to dire consequences when put into practice by impressionable youth as was seen with Alexander the so called 'Great.'"

The chapter on Aristotle was only two pages - compared to Plato's 36. Those two pages said nothing about his philosophy but simply mixed historical facts with innuendo. The book so blatantly panned Aristotle that Jake wondered about Vinod's claims that Milford was hiding something. He decided to investigate.

On the second floor he found the philosophy section consisting of rows and rows of empty bookshelves. He double checked the sign labeled "Philosophy," and then walked down the aisle. It was picked clean and only a few books remained. Jake mused, Milford could not have checked out every book just to prevent him from reading Aristotle.

Jake found the librarian and asked, "I'm looking or a philosophy book, but the entire section is empty, has it been moved?"

Instantly the stern face of the short grey haired library turned red with anger. "Listen young man, this library is for academic pursuits, not games. In the last two weeks my history and philosophy sections have been emptied. You are interfering with the functioning of the university, and must stop!"

Jake was mystified. "I need a book for my introduction to western philosophy class; I don't intend to play games with it."

"Don't get cute young man. Introductory courses should not require any reading beyond the textbooks. What are you up to?"

After ten minutes of persistent arguing, Jake convinced the librarian his intentions were legitimate. She apologized and explained how three weeks ago students started checking out philosophy and history books. At first they were looking for very specific topics, and she was happy to assist. But by the end of the second week, it was a free-for-all with students taking whatever they could get. Now the shelves were emptied with the exception of newly returned books or ones no one wanted.

Jake wondered if the missing books were connected to Tori's game, but he did not share his speculation.

He went back to the empty rows and scanned the leftovers. He checked the indexes for references to Aristotle, but found only one in a book titled, "Philosophy: Who Needs it," - oddly the exact question he had been asking himself. On page 7 Jake found a clue.

At the root of every civilized achievement, such as science, technology, progress, freedom - at the root of every value we enjoy today, including the birth of this country- you will find the achievement of one man who lived over two thousand years ago: Aristotle.1

This revelation only added to his confusion. Milford claimed Aristotle's contribution was miniscule, and yet this author claimed it was paramount.

He read further looking for an explanation for the discrepancy. The author, named Ayn Rand, championed the philosophy of Aristotle because it was based on an objective reality knowable through reason. A view which she claimed was under attack because it clashed with both the mystic idea of a reality governed by God and knowable through faith, and the modern subjective philosophies of personal realities.

Perhaps, thought Jake, these views are equally naïve. Vinod's support of Aristotle might be yet another closed minded influenced by his father. Maybe Vinod dropped Milford's class because the ideas differed from his own. Jake's questions mounted as he searched for a source he could trust. Between his parents, Vinod and Milford he was pulled in three different directions.

Frustrated and looking for a change, he left for the computer lab where he hoped to find details on Tori's game.

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Since English is not my first language, my appraisal of your work , will consist only of those aspects I find enjoyable to read.Although there's a philosophical content in your story, you didn't choke it with it, ( so far) and you left Jake psychologically unmolested, so to speak. One does not have to interrupt reading, to ask a question"what did he mean by it?" ( unless you are a post modern)

I find it a breeze to read.

You paint your descriptive passages beautifully and convincingly. The pace is just right, and the dialogs are easy to follow.

(It's so annoying when you have to go over a long dialog twice, to make sure of who said what, to whom- but not is your story)

The concept of video game is very intriguing, and I suspect it will weigh in more on the story as it progresses. The video game in itself is fascinating , and I wish that someone had invented it already. I eagerly await the next instalment

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The concept of video game is very intriguing, and I suspect it will weigh in more on the story as it progresses. The video game in itself is fascinating , and I wish that someone had invented it already. I eagerly await the next instalment


Oddly, I wrote the software before the story, and in many ways it was the inspiration.

Your feedback is very gratifying. I'll post a new Episode on Monday, (which may be your tuesday morning).


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Excellent writing, Roger. Thank you for the Easter morning treat! Milford's "own" writing is top-notch and the whole thing flows along quite easily.

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The Aristotle Reaction Chronicles, Episode 5.

To this point we have heard tell of a strange computer game known only by its cryptic initials, "AR." At long last, this episode gives a first glimpse of the game, and I am certain you will find it unlike any you have ever played. I hope you will enjoy…

Chapter 12.

The computer lab was empty and even was Vinod missing. Jake sat at his favorite computer in the far corner and searched the web for details on the AR game. The search engine returned only information on Arkansas. "AR Game," returned Arkansas Department of Fish and Game. He spent twenty more minutes but found no relevant information.

It was getting late, and Jake was hungry. He checked his email and saw a note from Tori, "Call me when you get this."

He called from the lab and Tori answered with her typical abruptness, "Jake, I have a new invitation for you."

"Where did you get it?"

"After playing last night I received an email that said, 'You have earned a new invitation.' I logged in and, sure enough, there it was. I filled out the registration, but wanted to be sure you would play if I sent it."

"I can reschedule my time and play tonight," he said, but honestly he had nothing better to do.

"I will send it now," she said and then added, "And make sure you use it tonight!"

"Alright already, I get the point; but why did you get a new invitation?"

"I must have reached some new level. I started a game this morning, and it lasted for over three hours. When I was done I got the invitation."

"Three hours? I thought your longest was two."

"It was, but I'm getting better and my times have gone up. But the game was increasingly complex with more issues and requests than I could manage; eventually I lost control."

"So what is the secret?" asked Jake.

"Figure it out yourself," she said and hung up.

From his email Jake opened the invitation. As before the link expired at midnight. He clicked it.

A page opened and proclaimed, "Welcome Jake Smith." Followed by a terms-of-use agreement unlike any he had ever seen.

* This educational service is for the exclusive use of invited guests. It is provided only to those committed to understanding the relationships between ideas and actions. All users must swear an oath to abide by the following:

* I will strive to understand the relationship between my choices and simulation results.

* I will carefully consider how the simulation relates to reality.

* I will continually question the motives and assumptions behind my choices.

* Do you, Jake Smith, swear on your sacred honor to accept these terms?

Jake considered this bizarre request. He was accustomed to legal disclaimers but not oaths of "sacred honor." He read it again, and concluded it was a fancy request to "keep an open mind." A bit overly dramatic, but nevertheless, he checked "I DO" as he was already striving to be more open-minded.

* Please select a User ID and Password.

Jake considered a User Name. Tori's he assumed was "Athena92" and following her example and typed "Apollo" for the Greek sun god. The system responded "That name is used, would you like 'Apollo532.'" Apparently Greek names were popular in the game and Jake accepted and entered the main screen.

The site gave little indication of its purpose. It was designed with strict economy of elements, with no advertisements, logos, or self-promotion. In fact nothing indicated the site was even called "AR."

On the left was a "Start Session" button and on the right a list of the top scores. Jake was ranked last, number 12,346. He scanned the names of the top 100. Many were Greek gods, including an Apollo, Atlas, and a Prometheus. Oddly a few were named JohnGalt and he wondered, "Who is John Galt?"

Jake looked for help but found none. With no other options he selected "Start Session."

It next asked him to select a country and time period. The default was "America, Present Day" and he accepted. A message flashed.

* Parameters optimized for present day America

The game screen was as Jake expected from Tori's description of the four quadrants. Three had graphs and the lower left was called an 'Event Window.' It had the same minimalist aesthetic of the home page and all the appeal of an accounting ledger. The lack of graphics, thought Jake, ran contrary to every commercially successful computer game.

The bottom display showed "Generation: 1, Year: 1, Month 1"

The top half of the screen displayed two graphs. The left graph was labeled "Standard of Living Equivalent (SOLE)" and the right was labeled "Happiness (H-Factor)."

Jake wondered how a computer program would quantify 'happiness.'

Clicking a question mark above the graph produced a small window that read:

* The population happiness is the average of each individual's happiness. An individual is happy when his or her actions result in the achievement of his or her values. It is measured on a scale from 0 to 100%. It is updated with each game cycle.

Jake studied the H-Factor graph. Like the pulse on a cardio graph a line ran from left to right moving up and down with the happiness of the population. It currently showed 52%, but it was already declining from a starting point of 60%.

This information provided a few clues about the game. It was a model society he concluded. If they got what they wanted, then they were happy. That made sense; if he got what he wanted then he was happy.

Jake looked at the Standard of Living graph, and found a similar question mark. This one read:

* The population's Standard of Living Equivalent (SOLE) is the average of every individual's standard of living. An individual's SOLE is the measure of wealth spent to sustain the quality of life. A minimum of 30 units per cycle is required for subsistence level survival.

While Jake studied the game it advanced. The H-factor dropped two points and issues stacked up in the event window. The issue first read.

* The 15% tax bracket for the wealthy is too low.

Three buttons followed. Encourage, Discourage, and Ignore. On the right were three numbers under the heading "Poll: Agree 72%, Disagree 12%." The numbers Jake assumed were a poll of the population's response to the issue. Jake decided to go with popular opinion and selected "Encourage."

He looked at the population stanadard of living and happiness graphs, but nothing happened. But three new questions appeared in the event window:

* The wealthy should pay a greater share of the taxes.

* The poor should pay less tax.

* Taxes should be used to redistribute wealth.

Jake encouraged all three, as they seemed to say the same thing. The Generation Clock clicked to Month 2, and the graphs advanced. The H-Factor started to level off from its prior decline. SOLE was holding steady. This was good, thought Jake, give people what they want and make them happy.

With each selection several new issues appeared, starting a rhythm: read the issues, consult the polls, make a choice, and wait for the effect.

Occasionally news items flashed that did not require an action.

* News - the wealthiest 10% complain taxes are too high.

More questions scrolled across the screen.

* People have a right to own private property: Encourage.

* People have a right to use their private property as they choose: Encourage.

* Use of property should be regulated: Encourage.

* News - Environmental groups seek moratoriums on timber logging.

* The government should own all property: Discourage.

* Businesses have a right to property: Ignore.

* People should use their own Judgment: Encourage.

* Government should protect the environment: Encourage.

* Business should be regulated: Encourage.

* Consumers should be protected: Encourage.

A stream of issues flowed down the list. Each response produced related questions as the system probed the boundaries of his view. He tried to consider each but time was limited and question disappeared if he waited too long.

* Education is important: Encourage.

* Government should fund education for children: Encourage.

* Government should offer continuing education for adults: Encourage.

Many questions were hard to answer because he lacked details. Typically he agreed with the popular opinion. As the generation counter ticked by, Jake achieved a slight increase in H-Factor. His people seemed happier with his leadership and he felt a twinge of pride. There was a dip in the SOLE but the people were happier, so apparently money was not everything, if he could assume SOLE translated to dollars.

* News - Charitable contributions are on the rise.

* People should volunteer for causes they believe in: Encourage.

* People should volunteer to the community: Encourage.

* News - Demand for charitable help is on the rise.

* People should volunteer to help the needy: Encourage.

* People should do without to help the community: Encourage.

Four ways to say the same thing, thought Jake.

* People should put community needs before their own.

Jake paused, 65% of the population agreed and this was consistent with his Sunday school teaching, but not really the way he lived. He wavered then selected "Encourage," figuring it best if everyone followed the advice. This choice only prompted a barrage of new questions:

* People who don't put the community first should be punished: Discourage.

* News - Local Business threatened by globalization.

* Business should give back to the community: Encourage.

* Community should support local businesses: Encourage.

* Business should put profits first: Discourage.

More questions followed on the relationship between business, community and government. All issues that he had never considered in depth. He followed his gut instinct and generally his views were supported by popular opinion.

Thus far the game was simple, and he wondered why Tori had such problems. Then things started to go wrong.

The H-Factor had risen to 60% but the SOLE was in decline. A series of news alerts appeared.

* News - Personal income is down.

* News - Unemployment is on the rise.

* Government should work to create more jobs: Encourage.

* News - Crime Rates on the rise.

* News - Tax revenues are down.

* News - Demand for government welfare programs on the rise.

* News - Tax review shortfalls cause cutbacks to government.

* Business Profit Tax should be increased: Encourage.

Things were unraveling quickly and Jake could not stop it. He did not control the government and therefore could not take decisive action. He could only promote ideas but those took time. SOLE was declining and the H-Factor had dropped to 43%. "My people are not happy,' thought Jake.

News and issues continued to stream by.

* News - Community groups claim greedy businesses are firing people to increase profits.

* News - Businesses are demanding reduced regulation.

* Business regulations should be reduced: Discourage.

* News - Business leaders make 10 times more than the average employee.

* News - People for Jobs demand salary caps for CEOs.

* CEO Salaries should be capped: Encourage.

* Business should not be allowed to fire people without permission: Encourage.

* News - Standard of Living hits lowest point in 50 years.

* News - Record number of businesses closing.

* Major Business should be run by the government: Discourage.

In the ten minutes that followed things went from bad to worse. The SOLE plummeted and with it the H-Factor. Businesses failed and people clamored for more assistance while government resources dwindled. Jake could not make things right. It never asked if the government should borrow money the way real governments worked. In the end Jake watched dejected as the H-Factor dipped below 20% and the time counter read: Generation 1, Year 5 Month 2.

He had ruined the economy in just five years and could not understand why. He had been democratic, followed the population's advice, and applied the conventional wisdom.

"This game is rigged," he thought discouraged by his failings.

A final message plastered on the screen read:

* Simulation Over. Your influence has dropped to 0%. You can no longer impact the population. Please review the performance graphs to identify causes of failure.

Jake looked at the graphs. H-Factor had risen slowly then made a sharp downturn. The SOLE had declined slowly then gradually accelerated. There was no clear correlation between the two and was no help to Jake.

Scanning the screen he realized that during the game he did not look at the details in the lower right. There was a section box that allowed him to select multiple parameters to be displayed on a single graph. The list included the following:

Savings Rate, Productivity, Innovation Rates, Charitable Donations, Crime Rate, Tax Rate, Ability, H-Factor, SOLE, Individual Freedom, Influence.

A set of controls allowed demographic filtering. The number of parameters was overwhelming. Jake scanned the list:

Ages: 0-15, 16 - 25, 26 - 35, 36 - 50, 51 +

Gender: Male, Female

Income: Bottom 20%, Middle 60%, Top 20%

Education: None, Elementary, High School, College, PHD

Business: Owner, Employee, None

Race: Asian, Black, Caucasian, Hispanic, Other, (more)

Religion: Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Other Christian, Mormon, Muslim, Other, None, (more)

Political: Liberal, Conservative, Green, Independent, Libertarian, Capitalist, Communist, Socialist, Fascist, Theocracy (more)

Cause: Environment, Religion, Individual Rights, Minority Rights, Majority Rights (more)

Group: People for Jobs, People for Rational Living, People for Spiritual Enlightenment (more)

Clicking "More" opened an expansive list for every conceivable combination. He could only assume the lists were optimized for the time and country selected at the start. The number of parameters was immense. Jake questioned how he could resolve every combination to keep everybody happy. The old saying came to mind, "You can't please all of the people all of the time."

He decided to ignore the detailed filters and spent the next hour analyzing the results for the relationship between his choices and game results. Eventually he concluded the economy entered a recession resulting in massive job loss. This impacted the government revenue. Initially surpluses subsidized government programs and the SOLE remained constant. Total SOLE dropped mainly in the wealthy, but the middle class remained constant, and the lower class even rose. When government resources ran thin, the SOLE dropped across the groups and the H-Factor eventually fell accordingly.

Jake believed he could better use the expanded graphs and was confident his next game would improve. He simply needed to prevent the recession, and keep the tax revenue sufficiently high to fund the programs for the lower income. His father had always said recessions were a business cycle correction for overzealous growth in proceeding years. He was unsure how to stop 'overzealous' growth or prevent recession as he did not control the economy; however he vowed to try just the same.

His game had lasted about 25 minutes, nearly twice Tori's first try. She said her longest game was three hours, but Jake wondered if that was good. He returned to the opening screen to see if Tori was listed in the top 100.

The score was computed by combining the duration with the happiness. Jake's own score now listed as 140. He was surprised to see his rank as 12,025 out of 12,652. He recalled there were only 12,300 players when he started and it had grown by over 300 while he played. 'At least I was no longer at the bottom of the list,' he thought.

He scanned for Tori's Athena92 but it was not in the top 100. In fact, the top scores were astronomical compared to Jake's meager five years. Most had a mark by the name which indicated it was still in progress, a feat that seemed impossible.

Just then Vinod entered the lab.

"Hello, Jake, how are you?"

"I'm perplexed", said Jake, and it then occurred to him that Vinod might know something of Tori's game, "Do you know anything about an online computer game called AR?"

"No Jake, I have not heard of it. But I don't play games much. My father would be unhappy if I wasted my time playing games. But I would be happy to email my cousin Rupak in Poona to see if he knows anything about a game called AR."

Vinod had a remarkably large extended family back home, most of whom were engineers or software developers. For most any technical question, he could send an email and have an answer the following morning.

"You don't need to trouble your family, I was just curious," replied Jake.

"It's no problem. I can always ask my cousin later." With a smile and nod of his head Vinod sat at his favorite computer and was immediately absorbed in his work.

Jake returned his attention to the game. He located the top score. It was still going at 1420 Generations at 92% H-Factor, more than twice the second highest score. The User ID of the Top Player was simply the initials "AR."

Chapter 13.

Tori lifted her head from the pillow and looked at the clock again. 1:54 A.M., just ten minutes after the last time she checked. For hours her mind would not rest. Each time she closed her eyes, a stream of questions flooded her thoughts. Before bed she attempted another game but this time the questions were unlike any she encountered before.

* Reality is an illusion?

* Reality might be an illusion?

* We are all part of a collective consciousness?

* Faith will lead you to the truth?

* Truth is in the eye of the beholder?

* Nothing is certain?

* Faith is important?

* Logic is flawed?

* Question reality?

* People have a soul?

* The Devil exists?

* Men are evil?

* Life is a mystery?

* Life is a means to an end?

* Life is an end in itself?

The questions frustrated her because they had no apparent relevance. The game was about leading people, not religion and philosophy crap. Her goal was to build a thriving population, not preach religion. One's belief in God was personal and did not matter so long as they made practical decisions, she thought. Her population needed simple common sense and their religion was not her concern.

Perhaps, she considered with distaste, the questions were included to confuse those "philosopher" types who wasted hours discussing these questions.

She recalled an incident in her first year when she joined a group of older students for a discussion on the role of philosophy in historical analysis. It quickly deteriorated into a debate about whether in reality: "everything was nothing," or "nothing was everything." For forty minutes Tori endured a jargon laden discussion. Finally Tori reached her limit and interjected, "what if everything does exist?"

The group of eleven stared as if she'd suggested the earth was flat. Tori looked around the room confused. At last the group's leader, a tall pale boy, stood and explained her faux pas. "That is a naive notion but sadly a common mistake by those that have not studied philosophy. What is your major?"

"History," replied Tori put off by the boy's scruffy appearance and condescending tone.

"Well, that explains a lot. The historian's role is to collect the facts, leave it to philosophers to connect the dots. The human condition takes years of study to truly understand. Unqualified analysis leads to flawed historical accounts leaving mankind to repeat his mistakes. Just look at our countries' foreign policy for the proof." The boy sat down to the general approval of the group.

Tori felt like a scolded toddler. The boy's assessment, delivered with an air of superiority, left no room for consideration of her point. Embarrassed but determined not to be bullied, she pushed on. "But what's wrong with the idea that everything is real?"

The boy rolled his eyes and soaked in the amused smirks of the discussion group. "You just don't get it. If you did, I would not need to explain it. If you don't, there is no way I can. It's like trying to explain calculus to a kindergartener."

"Try me," said Tori adamantly.

The boy grinned, eager to put his philosophic training into practice. "If 'everything exists' as you say, then it should be a simple matter for you to prove it. Go ahead."

"I am here, that proves I exist," responded Tori, after taking the briefest moment to consider the question.

"Where is 'here'?" asked the boy.

"'Here' is in this room, talking to you."

"How do you know I exist?"

"You are talking to me, answering my questions. You are here, and you exist."

"How do you know you are talking to me?"

"I can see you and hear you." responded Tori with a hint of irritation.

"Have you ever seen a rainbow?"


"Do rainbows exist?"

"Well…No…not as such" stammered Tori.

"So if your eyes can fool you, how can you trust them to know I am really here?"

"I can touch you," exclaimed Tori, growing even more frustrated with the exercise.

"Have you ever had a tingling sensation, or a ringing in your ears? Every sense is fallible, so you cannot prove that I am not a figment of your imagination."

Tori stared at the smug boy searching for a proof he would accept, but nothing came to mind, nothing that would not invoke an endless stream of silly questions.

After several moments of silence, the boy finally claimed victory, "You can't prove that you exist, much less anything else. It just confirms our position everything is nothing and you can't be certain of anything."

Tori was fed up, and knew that further argument was useless, yet she was not content to leave the boy with the last word. She picked up her note book, still blank, and tossed it across the room at the boy.

He ducked and the book smacked against the wall and fell to the floor. "Hey," he yelled, "why did you do that?"

"Why did you duck?" she asked.

"Because your damn book was about to hit my head!"

"You seem pretty certain of that," said Tori, and with that she turned and left the room.

Her encounter with the discussion group left Tori determined to study philosophy to be qualified to make her own assessments and defend them against pale boy and others of his kind.

For two semesters Tori took philosophy classes like bad medicine, hating every minute of it. She hoped the bad aftertaste would make her a stronger historian, but midway through her third semester she withdrew, unable to endure another lecture. She dismissed the entire subject and developed a loathing for anyone who claimed to be a philosopher and considered them all self righteous jerks whose perversion was discussing nonsense.

Tori closed her eyes and laid back down hoping in vain to fall asleep but as she started to drift the questions returned. She sat up, took a deep breath and tried to clear her mind, but habitually her thoughts drifted to Alex, and this she could not bear. Abruptly she whisked off her blankets and gave into the compulsion to play.

Still wearing her red flannel night gown, Tori sat down at her computer and resumed the game she abandoned at midnight. It was still running. Immediately it resumed the same line of questioning that befuddled her before.

* God created the universe.

Tori read the question and sighed. 'What difference does it make?' She asked herself. 'I'm trying to encourage a happy prosperous population. I don't care if the population believes in God.' She kept reminding herself that it was only a computer game and her population could not really be impacted by "faith" and religious matters.

Before she decided how to respond the question was gone, and a new question appeared.

* There is no God.

Tori found this irksome and irrelevant. "Who cares?" she shouted at the game. 'It does not matter so long as they use common sense.' Again the question vanished without a response.

Several news events flashed on the screen.

* News - Religious leaders insist that more faith-based education is essential for strong moral character in youth.

* News - Participation in organized church groups is up 20%.

"Whatever," thought Tori. Just give me a question I can answer, no more religion.

* Crystals have magical healing powers.

"This is just stupid!' she thought, and without hesitation clicked 'Discourage.'

* Faith in God can heal the sick.

"I don't know," she said with irritation. She never considered it. Her parents were not religious. They believed in God, but not organized religion. Her family did not go to church or say prayers, but generally deferred to Christian ideas when it came to morality and afterlife. Religion was just a fall back explanation for life's great mysteries.

Tori had no idea if God could heal the sick but gave it the benefit of the doubt. 'Would this be good for my population?' She asked but before she could decide the question was ignored by default.

A sneaking suspicion crept to the forefront of Tori's mind. Perhaps the maker has an agenda. The questions were pushing the player to accept ideas, maybe to promote a particular religion. While this new thought emerged, more news of religion flashed on the screen.

* News - Muslim leaders accuse Jews of blasphemy.

* News - Riots erupt between Jews and Muslims.

* News -Jewish leaders demand 'eye for an eye.'

* News - Fundamentalist Muslim leaders call for a jihad religious war against all infidels.

* News - Liberal Muslims reject jihad and call for prayer and peace.

* New - Fundamentalist Muslims reject liberal Muslim's call for peace.

Tori's influence graph showed a steady decline from ignoring so many questions. The game was going south quickly. Her population happiness was declining. Crime was on the rise at the same time donations to religious organizations were at an all time high.

Tori was helpless without a question to resolve the situation. "This is so typical of AR," she thought, "it plods along until a sudden event triggers massive change with no time to respond." Her population was drifting into religious turmoil.

* People are entitled to their own opinion.

"Encourage" she said out loud pleased to be on a new track.

* People should respect the opinions of others.


* People should be tolerant of all beliefs.


* All beliefs are equally valid.

She did not believe this but feared discouraging it would heighten the religious strife plaguing her population.

She 'Discouraged,' choosing her first impression.

* The Christian God is the one true God.

Tori was checkmated by the game. If she encouraged or discouraged the idea, the religious strife would worsen. If she ignored, her influence would drop. Tori paused in indecision, a sinking feeling growing in the pit of her stomach. She clicked "Encourage."

Immediately news bulletins erupted with the consequences. Christian leaders demand Christianity as the state religion. Muslims threatened revolt. Political issues rolled across the screen with Tori trying to discourage any involvement between religion and government. Her charts confirmed that spirituality and religious involvement were at an all time high, but no one group had a clear majority. The population was polarized and the economy was seeing the effect.

Ten minutes later the game ended. Nothing Tori did was sufficient to pacify the religious factions. The game ended with a population that was deeply spiritual but divided and suffering from a poor standard of living, and general dissatisfaction.

Tori reviewed her game graphs to determine what went wrong. She marveled at how the game mirrored historical events in regions like Kosovo, Palestine, Iraq, and other areas of the world with religious populations that supported multiple faiths. She made up her mind to discourage religious ideas that she did not support. In her next game she would keep the population homogenous, sharing a common belief system so that turmoil would not break down her progress.

The nagging question persisted. What is the maker's agenda? Is he promoting the idea that only one faith will achieve happiness, and if so, faith in what? Tori found the questions disturbing but dismissed them as speculation. She was hooked and paranoia would not stop her from progressing. She remained confident that religious differences could be overcome to construct a peaceful, prosperous, happy population.

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The Aristotel Reaction Chronicals, Episode 6

Welcome back to the AR Chronicles. Our last Episode showed us the odd computer game where players lead a population, not by managing resources, but by encouraging ideas. Jake has found the game to be frustrating; while Tori is utterly perplexed by the seemingly irrelevant questions.

This episode brings a little of everything: a portentous past, a dubious friendship, and an ominous parallel. I hope you will enjoy…

Chapter 14.

Professor Milford was at home, sitting in his den and working on his journal when his mother called out from her room down the hall. "Oh Archie, would you come here for a minute?"

"I'm coming Mother. Please be patient, I must finish this thought."

"No, that's O.K.; you finish your little book, while I sit here waiting. Never mind me. I always sacrificed for your education. You are what's important. I've lived through years of pain and suffering, I can certainly wait for you to finish your important thoughts. I'm just an old lady who needs her medication. No one else has ever done anything for me; I don't know why I should expect any different from my own son."

Milford winced. Mother got this way when he paid too little attention. He had so little time, and so much to do. His plans were in motion; plans she had inspired, the ones that would right the injustices inflicted on her and so many others.

"I'm coming Mother," Milford said abruptly, setting down his pen.

The widow Milford was once beautiful, but time had been unkind. A permanent expression of displeasure was etched on her face. Deep sunken eyes framed by thin strands of white hair expressed years of bitterness. She now spent her days in a small chair next to her bed. Milford brought her breakfast and dinner, but otherwise a caretaker tended to her many needs.

"What can I get for you Mother?" asked Milford patiently.

"I can't find my medications, that stupid woman hid them from me again. She knows I need my blood thinners or I'll have another stroke. I might not be so lucky next time. You don't want me to have a stroke, do you Archie?"

Milford dismissed his mothers all too common ranting. "Linda takes good care of you, Mother, and you should be grateful."

Even as Milford spoke the word 'grateful' he knew it was a mistake, and nothing could stop what followed.

"Grateful? What do I have to be grateful for? No one has ever done anything for me. I spent 30 years with those miserable people at the hotel, 'Wanda, clean the toilets. Wanda, pick up that trash.' Did they think I wanted to be a maid? That I liked cleaning up after those slovenly guests? No, but what choice did I have? None! After what your father did, I had to care for my child. My Archie needed clothes and the books for his seminary schooling. Of course you quit and threw away all my hopes and dreams. I was so proud when my Archie was ordained a priest, but who cares about me?"

Milford knew this same dialog ran through mother's head all day. These were the events that had shaped her life; a tiny recap of the injustices inflicted on her. It pained him that she included his departure from the priesthood as one of them. For his part, he knew why he entered the seminary, and why he had to leave, but she did not understand it was the only way to achieve his true calling - a calling he knew from the age of ten. He recalled the day.

He came home from school to find his mother sitting on the front porch; her eyes glazed in a vacant stare, her head slumped to one side. "Mom, what's the matter?" he had asked, tapping on her shoulder. She turned to him and in a vindictive voice said, "You just go in and see for yourself, see what your miserable father has done to us."

Archie walked into the house. The door to his father's study was ajar, but he knocked anyway. "Father, may I come in." His father did not answer. He slowly pushed opened the door to the dark study and saw a chair overturned on the floor, dangling above were father's polished black shoes, neatly tied to his feet. Only then did he see the note pinned to the door: 'I cannot live in your world.'

Milford stared at the suspended shoes, not willing or able to look up. He felt a tear well, but in the back of his mind he heard Mother's voice 'big boys don't cry.' In that moment the tear receded and a wave of clarity washed over him. He continued to hear his mother's voice: 'People are bad, but you are good Archie,' 'people are mean and stupid and get what they deserve,' 'your father is a lazy let down, but you won't let me down, will you Archie?' Suddenly all his mother had ever told him made perfect sense.

It was up to him. He was special, he needed to make things right, he needed to fix the bad. In that single moment the course of Milford's life was set; he returned to the porch and sat down next to his mother. "Don't worry Mom," he said, "I will make everything all right."

The suicide left them broke. His father, a prominent executive at a large bank, spent every penny trying to satisfy his wife's demands. The life insurance policy, purchased eight months prior, was refused and they were forced to sell their home in an upscale neighborhood and move to a two-bedroom apartment across town. His mother with no professional skills accepted a maid's position in the hotel where she once hosted extravagant luncheons for wives of the bank's top executives.

Their supposed friends deserted them. The banking wives refused to see her, saying she got what she deserved. She in turn cursed them for turning their back on her. This hatred fused her malevolent view of life; People are wicked and mean and only guilt and the fear of God kept them from destroying each other. Wanda turned all of her attention to her son, and Milford's path to the priesthood was set.

Chapter 15.

Jake spent Sunday playing the AR game. His performance declined with each attempt. Maintaining a balance in interest groups was hopeless; advances for one alienated another and they grew like weeds: Women for the advocacy of a clean environment, Hispanics United for a better life, Affirmative Actions for the end of Discrimination. The list was endless. Each group wanted a new law, benefit, or restriction: lower taxes, more health care, stronger business controls, economic freedom, better schools, less government, the list was endless.

At the start of each game Jake was sure his formula would succeed, and by the end his plans were smashed. He used analytical tools to assess the needs but it was no help. He was discouraged and yet compelled to keep trying. Others were succeeding, and he wanted to know their secret. This quest kept him going.

The inability to control the government exasperated him. He wanted to make direct policy changes, but the game required influencing the people not controlling the government. His role was more like a media personality with great influence.

He studied results from the last game and devised a strategy for the next. The analytical charts provided few clues. His last game was a desperate departure from his previous strategy, but equally discouraging.

In previous attempts the wealthy were the first to drop the standard of living, and the productivity of business quickly followed. This time Jake supported business with lower taxes, subsidies, and grants. The more he gave them, the more they wanted. The wealthy soaked up the tax revenue while the productivity dropped. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer, and the whole thing finally collapsed exactly as Edward would predict.

And just then Edward entered as Jake sat staring at the screen, head propped in his hands.

"What's the matter, has your computer crashed?" asked Edward snidely.

"No, I'm just thinking," replied Jake, wishing Edward would go away.

"Well, don't think so hard, you might hurt yourself," said Edward with a chuckle as he peeked over Jakes shoulder. "Hey, are you playing that game?"

"What game?"

"That online game where you rule the world. I have heard lots of talk about it. But I can't find anyone with an open invitation. Do you have one?"

"If I did, I wouldn't give it to you."

"Oh come on," pleaded Edward, "let me have an invitation, and I will leave you alone. I really want to try it."

Jake considered the benefit of Edward not bugging him and he did not have anyone else he wanted to invite. "No," he said for the satisfaction of denying Edward. "I need to keep my invitations."

"So, you do have an invitation!"

Jake had tipped his hand and Edward would nag incessantly. "If I send you an invitation will you stop bothering me every time you come in the room?"

"I swear you won't hear a word from me," said Edward most sincerely.

"All right, I'll send you an invitation, but don't forget you owe me. And you have to start playing now, or the invitation will expire." Jake knew his peace would be short lived, but he would relish in Edward's failure at the game, his twisted views could not prevail.

Jake went to the home page to send the invitation and was surprised to see over 8000 players had joined since yesterday. He found the invitation screen, and sent it. Edward, sitting at his desk, received it within minutes and called out, "Thanks Buddy, I owe you one." Jake winced at the thought.

He checked his own email and found one from Tori, in her typical blunt style she wrote. "Jake, meet me in the university square at 1:00 tomorrow - Tori."

When he finally went to bed, Edward was quietly absorbed in the game.

Chapter 16.

Jake found Tori sitting at a table under a large shady oak tree in the center of the university square. Dispensing with their traditional greeting, Tori asked, "How did you do?"

Jake sat across from Tori, noted how beautiful she was and said, "I managed five years on my first attempt but I have not done that well again."

"That's pathetic. What strategy did you use?"

"I tried balancing the needs of the different groups, but the government responds too slowly to prevent the economy from collapsing."

"It sounds like you're still playing politics," observed Tori.

"It's a political game."

"Only if you play politics, but you won't get far that way, as your score proves."

"My first game was better than yours," said Jake defensively.

"Did you make your selections based on the popular opinion?" she asked.

"Yes, mostly."

"Anybody can just follow the popular vote, and it will keep you going just a little bit longer than my first approach."

"What did you do?"

"I advocated a free market, but I upset so many interest groups with my radical ways that the game was over before it got started."

"Tori, what do you mean about playing politics? The questions are all political."

"Only if you answer all the political questions." she said, "Have you tried ignoring political questions and answering the others?"

"No," said Jake, "I have been trying to answer everything."

"The simulation is adaptive and responds to your answers. Every political answer begs more political questions and you stay on the same track," coached Tori.

"So if you don't play politics, what else is there?"

"Lots," replied Tori, "the simulations get really interesting when you stop reacting at a political level. I'm not going to tell you how to play, but remember this; if you encourage people at a deeper level, then the politics will take care of itself."

"Ok," said Jake, "I'll try that."

"And one more hint," she continued, "You have to think for yourself. Don't count on your population to know what's best. They need to learn that from you."

Jake was grateful for the advice, having exhausted his political strategies.

"How's your game going," he asked?

"It's not a 'game' it's a simulation," she insisted. "I spent all weekend working to develop a homogeneous population when I noticed a correlation between my simulations and historical events. I started to experiment with eras, comparing simulations with historical facts. The results were amazing. I examined Germany in the period before World War II and the conditions surrounding the Nazi rise to power."

"Why Nazis?"

"It's an interesting period of history. I have often argued with my teacher on this subject. She insists the key factors were economic and political, coupled with the charisma of Adolph Hitler. She suggests that if Hitler had been in America during the 1930's we would have committed the same atrocities as the Nazis. In contrast I argued that cultural values enabled the Nazis. Hitler just exploited what was already there. I say Americans would never accept the Nazi ideas. My constant disagreement on this subject has made me unpopular with the history department."

"What did your simulations show?" asked Jake.

"I started by evaluating both German and American cultures in the period before the war. Both had a strong work ethic and an affinity for technology. Both were in the midst of an economic depression. However the Americans are fiercely independent and committed to pursuing their personal lives; they viewed the government as simply a tool to protect their interests. Germans, on the other hand, believed that personal interests should be sacrificed for the greater good of the state. In my German simulations, it takes little encouragement for the population to make sacrifices and just a nudge more to convince them that Jews were responsible for the economic problems and needed to be eliminated for the benefit of the country. By contrast, I cannot get the American population to sacrifice their own interests for the good of the country."

"Why do you think that is?" asked Jake.

"I'm not sure. It may be because they were a more homogeneous population, or possibly because they were more willing to make sacrifices for their country. The Germans easily deferred their judgment to the state - the father land. When I supported actions that were not normally condoned, the population did not object as long as they believed it was for the common good. This attitude allowed me to lead the majority. In one simulation I led them into war, but in another I led them away. It was all very fascinating to a historian like me."

"But this is just a computer game, or simulation, or whatever; what relevance does it have to real history?" asked Jake.

"That was my first thought, but the correlations are remarkable. In fact, I'm considering using the simulator for my history thesis. I want to run several simulations against known historical periods to establish the correlation. Then I can run alternate simulations to consider how history might have been different. What cultural changes would have kept Germany out of the war? Conversely what cultural changes would be needed for America to act like the Nazis? According to my theory much more than a persuasive orator is required."

"You've given this a lot of thought," observed Jake, "It would be a fascinating thesis even to a non-history major like me."

"I'm not sure. I am already on thin ice in the history department for my constant disagreements. I will flunk if I show up with a thesis titled 'A Comparative Impact of German and American Cultural Values Pertaining to involvement in World War II,' subtitled 'How I Spent the Semester Playing Computer Games.'"

"I see the problem," confirmed Jake. "Have you asked your history professor about it?"

"I tried to bring up the idea in a conversation, but got nowhere. Given my reputation, I think she would say no just to spite me. I need a lot more information about the simulation and maker before she would consider it."

"Have you found who developed it?"

"No," she said, "I have searched the web, and I can't find anything. Apparently I'm not the only one searching. Several independent web sites have popped up dedicated to finding 'The Maker,' as they call him."

"You should just write your paper regardless of what your professors think," encouraged Jake.

"Jake, you're talking like an engineer. The humanities are different and academic snobbery is prevalent. Certain ideas are considered unworthy of academic pursuit because they are 'too simplistic' or 'too naïve.' If I pursue this thesis against the advice of my professors and peers, it could be disastrous for my GPA and chances for graduate school."

"If you demonstrate a good methodology, they can't fail you, even if they don't like your conclusions," coached Jake. "You just have to be diligent in your methods."

"I'm not sure I want to risk my future career to prove I am right."

"Are you right?" asked Jake.

"Yes, but it would be foolish to try and prove it."

"You have never backed away from an argument before."

"I know, but it has given me a bad reputation and I can't risk my future," lamented Tori.

"Will you regret backing away?"

Tori was silent, quietly turning over the question. She wanted to say she would not, but deep down suspected she would regret it. The topic was increasingly an obsession.

"I'll think about it, Jake," she said

Just then Jake noticed Vinod crossing the square, head down and lost in thought. He was bundled in a warm jacket despite the relatively mild temperatures.

"Hey, Vinod" he yelled out.

Vinod spotted Jake with an attractive girl and approached.

Jake said quietly to Tori, "I want you to meet a friend of mine from India. He is very smart and interesting."

Vinod approached with a wide grin. "Hello Jake and how are you doing and all of that."

"Vinod, this is my friend Tori. She's a History Major, and the one who invited me to play the game I told you about."

Tori smiled and said, "It's nice to meet you." She extended her hand to Vinod, who shook it awkwardly.

Jake noticed Vinod's uncomfortable look and broke the ice. "Vinod is a very good programmer. He knows many complex algorithms off the top of his head. He is also an expert on philosophy I am learning."

Tori's eyebrows furrowed, "Computers and philosophy, that's an odd combination of the useful and the useless."

Vinod bobbed his head in enthusiastic acknowledgment and said, "Oh yes, I am knowing what you mean; computer technology changes so fast I think all I have learned will be useless by the time I graduate."

Tori let Vinod's misunderstanding pass, not wanting a stupid philosophy discussion. She feigned a glance at her watch and said, "Well, I have to run to class now. It was very nice to meet you Vinod."

Jake scrambled for an excuse to see Tori again. "Let me know if you need help with your thesis, I am sure I could write a program to help capture data for your analysis."

"Thanks," said Tori, "but I doubt I'll do it." She turned and walked across the square while Jake and Vinod watched with pleasure.

When she was out of sight Vinod said, "Your friend is very pleasant, have you known her long?"

"I met her several months ago, but I would like to know her better, if you know what I mean."

Vinod's eyes widened, "Ah yes, women, yes, yes." He said, his voice trailing off letting the conversation die.

Changing the subject Jake said, "I want to send you an invitation to the game I talked about. I think that you'll like it. It is a thinking game and I'm sure your father won't mind if you have a little recreation."

Vinod smiled politely and bobbed his head from side to side, a polite Indian mannerism that Jake discovered meant neither 'yes' or 'no,' but rather something like 'I have heard you.'

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I'm greedy for more!

It’s great to know a few are tracking the story. I'll post the entire storey, so you won’t be left hanging.

Things are just starting to warm up! More on Friday, but here is a sneak preview:

“That’s incredible,” whispered Edward.

“Too incredible!” lamented Milford. “I presented my findings to the church, but they swept it aside, and locked the entire body of research into the Vatican library, and I have not been welcome since. The real travesty is that they cut me off before I could divulge my most important discoveries.”

“What could be more incredible than disproving the entire accepted history of the crusades?” Ask Edward, now fully enthralled.

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I'm greedy for more!

It’s great to know a few are tracking the story. I'll post the entire storey, so you won’t be left hanging.

Things are just starting to warm up! More on Friday, but here is a sneak preview:

“That’s incredible,” whispered Edward.

“Too incredible!” lamented Milford. “I presented my findings to the church, but they swept it aside, and locked the entire body of research into the Vatican library, and I have not been welcome since. The real travesty is that they cut me off before I could divulge my most important discoveries.”

“What could be more incredible than disproving the entire accepted history of the crusades?” Ask Edward, now fully enthralled.

I'm tracking this Global Warming! :)

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The Aristotle Reaction Chronicles, Episode 7.

For this Episode I owe thanks to Burgess Laughlin's book, "The Aristotle Adventure." I have not seen any recent postings from Mr. Laughlin, but If he is still lurking, I hope he will enjoy ...

Chapter 17.

Milford's quiet concentration was broken by a knock at the door of his stark university office. "Come in," He called out.

Edward's tired face and bloodshot eyes appeared through the cracked door.

"Ah, Edward, come in and have a seat," said Milford warmly. "Tell me, how is my favorite activist today? You know I really do admire the work you're doing with your Green Students."

"Students for a Green Tomorrow," corrected Edward politely.

"Ah yes, Students for a Green Tomorrow, what a noble idea. I am sure I have told you how important your progressive work is for advancing our mutual causes. It is so important that we don't let the capitalist destroy our environment with their global warming that will leaving nothing for our children."

"Yes," said Edward flatly.

Milford continued, "I hope everything is going ok. Have you been keeping up with your classes and your growing reputation on campus?"

"I'm fine. But I have a question. Just a small issue, a question of Greek history really."

"Go ahead," encouraged Milford.

"I know you think little of Aristotle, but I have a question I hope you can answer."

"Actually I've given him a fair study," said Milford.

"I never had that much patience, but I was wondering if you knew anything about an 'Aristotle Curse.'"

"Hmmm, I am not familiar with an Aristotle curse," replied Milford, "Aside from his misguided philosophy; that is. What makes you think there is a curse."

"Not me personally, but several members of Students for a Green Tomorrow seem to believe they were cursed. I have looked everywhere including the internet and the library and…" Edward suddenly interrupted himself, "Did you know that every book on philosophy has been checked out of the library?"

"No, I have not heard," replied Milford with a puzzled expression.

"Well anyway," continued Edward. "I've looked everywhere and you are my last hope."

"I don't know where your friends would have got such a notion," said Milford.

"Ever since we marched across the bridge some in the group have been acting very strange. Two have dropped out and the others do little more than sleep and drink."

"Did you say they were on the bridge during the march?" asked Milford coyly.

"Yes, their mission was to block traffic and create civil disobedience, which they did very well. But rather than celebrate their part to save the world; they act like it's coming to an end. They sit around claiming they were doomed by some Aristotle curse. Personally, I think they heard something on the bridge, so I am asking for their sake, as this really does not concern me in any way at all."

Milford suddenly flashed back to the call he received on the night of the protest. Although he had set it out of his mind the details now flooded back. "Did they mention having problems with the police?" he asked passively.

"No, they just say they are cursed."

"Are you certain they did not hear anything more, anything at all?"

"Well…there is one strange thing, but I don't want to burden you with rumor or speculation."

"What was it?" asked Milford eagerly.

"As you know, I did not see any of this, but I was told that a mad man on the bridge shouted, 'The Aristotle reaction will not die with me. You are cursed, but your progeny may be spared.'"

Milford's eyes sparked with recognition, then bewilderment.

"Are you sure he said 'Aristotle reaction?'"

"Yes, and something about 'a map,' but I can find no references to a curse or a reaction. Have you ever heard of it?"

"Well, not exactly." Milford said this slowly and cautiously, unsure how much to expose to Edward. He knew Edward to be a loyal disciple, but one with a tendency to show off to friends, particularly those in Green Tomorrow.

Milford made a snap decision. The rapid advancement of his plans necessitated giving Edward a bigger role. He would someday need a lieutenant to carry on his work and Edward was a top candidate. He explained what he knew, "I am aware of something known as the 'Stagerite Efficio,' and that would roughly translate into the "Aristotle Reaction," as Aristotle was known as the Stagerite."

"Really?" said Edward, now listening intently.

"Edward, perhaps there are some things you are ready to know, things that are not meant for the general public, if you follow me."

"I do follow you Professor," said Edward, delighted to be the confidant of his mentor.

Milford eyed him suspiciously then continued. "You see Edward; much of the world's flaws today have their roots in Aristotle's ideas; they make men arrogant. When I was younger, certain things compelled me to know how his ideas were able to survive so long. In particular, I wanted to know how certain of his ideas managed to be merged with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I wanted to know how his writing had survived over 1600 years from when they were written in 350 B.C. until they began seeping into church theology in 1250 A.D. It seemed far too unlikely that the scribbling of one man could survive so long. These were not sacred scrolls or artifacts; there was no church or institution to protect them, yet somehow, they had survived rot, decay, fire, and even the ransacking of the ancient world's great libraries. I found the idea of their survival so improbable that I began to suspect another explanation. Research for my hypothesis led me to, of all places, the Vatican Library in Rome."

Edward's eyes twinkled with admiration. "How did you get access to the Vatican library, it is near impossible I'm told."

Through gritted teeth Milford explained, "If you are studying the right things, for the right reasons, the library is a wealth of information, otherwise it's a closed vault."

Milford paused and considered again what he was about to say. "Edward, before going on, I must know that I can count on your discretion. My research may sound like ancient history, but it is more relevant than ever."

"Yes, professor, I swear not to breathe a word."

"Very well then, I need not remind you that your bright academic future is in my hands, and I would hate to see it snuffed by thoughtless idle chatter. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, professor, you can count on me," assured Edward yet again.

"My Vatican findings confirmed suspicions of an invisible hand guiding Aristotle's writing. In the chronicles of the Inquisition at the time of Pope Urban II, I came across a reference to a secret order.

"The inquisitors learned of an order of heretics who swore a blasphemous oath of allegiance to Aristotle's ideas. They claimed to have a map that would lead a follower to conclusive proof that God did not and could not exist. Those who followed the map were said to have instantly renounced God and the church's morality of brotherly love, to pursue a corrupt code of extreme selfishness. The High Inquisitor became obsessed with finding the map and following it to the supposed proof before it became known. Knowledge of this Order, and their "proof" was closely guarded. It was known simply as the "Anti Grail," Because it was the antithesis of what the Holy Grail represented - definitive proof of God.

"According to the chronicles, the Inquisitors infiltrated the heretics association known as "The Stewards." The growing movement used the mark of a triangle to identify themselves and recruit new members into their subversive cult. Eventually these stewards were tracked down, and given the opportunity to repent. They all refused, and they all died. The last to be captured was their leader, a man name Alexander Alvertius. That was the year 1233 during the Inquisition of Pope George the IX. The inquisitor urged Alvertius to renounce his evil and reveal the location of the anti-grail. Alvertius resisted and finally he died. On his warm deathbed he cursed the Inquisitor and declared the evidence of the map could not be stopped. He claimed that the "Stagerite Efficio" would be unleashed and would destroy the church.

"That part of the story I assembled from various items found in the Vatican. Tracing this extensive body of evidence led me to a radical reinterpretation of Christian history."

Milford looked up and ensured his office door was closed. "What I am about to tell you must never leave this room," he said in a hushed voice.

Edward simply nodded.

"The Stewards were rumored to be hiding in the Middle East, and it was thought this map and the Anti-Grail could be found there. It's my conclusion that the supposed crusades to find the Holy Grail were in fact a hunt to locate and destroy the Anti-Grail before it could undermine the authority of the church."

"That's incredible," whispered Edward.

"Too incredible!" lamented Milford. "I presented my findings to the church, but they swept it aside, and locked the entire body of research into the Vatican library, and I have not been welcome since. The real travesty is that they cut me off before I could divulge my most important discoveries."

"What could be more incredible than disproving the entire accepted history of the crusades?" Ask Edward, now fully enthralled.

"It is much more fantastic," said Milford in a hush. "Just a few years after the death of Alvertius, around 1243 there came into prominence a Dominican Friar by the name of Aquinas. You may know him as St. Thomas Aquinas.

"We studied him in second year philosophy," confirmed Edward, "but I focused on the modern philosophers rather than the religious sort."

"Ah, but was he really a religious philosopher? Hmm." asked Milford rhetorically

"Aquinas came from a wealthy, well connected family and yet for some unknown reason he chose the life of a supposed humble friar. Stranger still is the explanation for why he took it upon himself to merge Aristotle's logic and reason with Christian theology. How did he come to acquire this knowledge that had been lost to the western world for centuries?"

Milford looked at Edward with a raised eyebrow while Edward sat nodding his head. He continued, "Prior to Aquinas, reason and logic played no role in theology, which was the sole realm of faith. Men believed that everything they needed to know came from God through the church; there was simply no reason to study nature or science, because they believed that aside from revelations there was nothing else to know. But Aquinas changed all of that. In his work, 'Summu Theologica' he wrote what he claimed was a 'teaching guide' for students to better understand Christian theology. But in reality, his work was a completely new interpretation of Christian philosophy that introduced a radical new idea."

"What?" asked Edward.

"Aquinas, mesmerized by Aristotle's idea of logic, reworked theology to make a place for reason. He claimed the study of nature via reason would only reveal greater insight into the truth and nature of God. He made reason the 'handmaiden of faith.' Soon a new generation of students intoxicated with this idea of reason began to study science and mathematics, all in the name of understanding God. It was just the beginning; soon it ushered in the age of the renaissance, which had disastrous consequences for the church. The more men understood the power of nature, the more it undermined the belief in God and subverted the authority of the church. Within several hundred years, men became so arrogant in their ability to reason and know 'reality' that they began to put their own personal judgment before that of the church and their fellow man. History calls this period the 'age of enlightenment,' but it should more rightfully be called the 'age of materialism,' because it started modern man's endless quest to satisfy his own self interests through material property."

"Yes, professor, I studied the renaissance, but what does it have to do with the Anti-Grail?"

"Edward, it is right in front of your face. Can't you see it? The renaissance was the "Stagerite Efficio." It was exactly as Alvertius predicted. Once Aristotle's ideas of reason took hold they were followed by the arrogant egoism that is the inevitable result. Men began to claim that what God really wanted was for men to freely pursue their own selfish happiness. This country is a perfect example. America institutionalized these ideas with the 'pursuit of happiness' as an inalienable right. Look at the disastrous results: the imperialism, gross inequality, the obsession with materialism, and the destruction of the environment."

"I still don't get it," Said Edward shaking his head.

"Damn it all!" swore Milford to no one in particular. "If only they would let me back into the Vatican library, I know I could prove it."

"Prove what?" asked Edward.

"Prove that Alvertius was not the last of these so called "Stewards." Clearly some of these Aristotle lovers escaped and continued to plot against the church. Aquinas was not just some hapless friar who accidentally changed the course of history; he was a spy, deliberately planted by these Stewards to supplant a radical set of ideas into a new generation of Christian students. He hoodwinked the entire church into believing that reason would be compatible with faith. It is too amazing to be a coincidence."

"Professor, why haven't you published your amazing findings? This would immortalize you. It is the greatest fraud in history."

"Don't be foolish, Edward. Haven't you heard a word I've said? I can't publish my theory, because I can't prove it. All of my early research is locked in the Apostolic Penitentiary, accessible only to the pope. All I have are pages and pages of conjecture and circumstantial evidence. I would be a laughing stock, and my reputation destroyed if I went public without the proof. That is why you must never breathe a word to anyone."

"You can trust me, professor, I will never tell a soul!" pleaded Edward.

"Thank you for your reassurance, and please forgive my short temper in this matter. You cannot imagine the infuriation of being on the verge of a monumental discovery, and yet lack the proof to be certain."

"I will help in any way I can," offered Edward.

"I appreciate that, but you have done quite enough for now. However, if anything should ever happen to me, I want a capable philosopher such as you to know this secret and carry on."

"Thank you Professor. But do you really think that these Stewards are responsible for cursing us on the bridge?"

"It seems unlikely," assured Milford. "I have searched for evidence of the Stewards, but in the last 100 years I can find no indication they still exist."

"But look at all the materialism that is still present, they must be responsible." conjectured Edward.

"I doubt it," said Milford with confidence. "Today you see the dwindling momentum of a past era. Ideas are slow to change as men cling to the past. But the old generation is dying out. Look at the progress that we have made in the last decade. Corporations are seen as the greedy purveyors of materialism, human need is at the forefront of our collective conscious, and a global commitment to the environment has taken precedence over individual comforts."

"But how can we be sure they won't come back?"

"Think of your training, Edward. Modern philosophy has found the cure for Aristotle's narrow minded view that there is only constrained reality. We have seen there is more to man's consciousness than extracting facts from the physical world. We have shown beyond doubt that reality is simply a construct of the human consciousness to conceptualize the flux that permeates from the higher realms of our collective awareness. The academic establishment is not so naïve and anyone promoting the virtues of Aristotle would be discredited. Aristotle's ideas are as dead as he."

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The whole dialog is a gem! I can visualize the cunning professor and his disciple; and even though, there's a serious discussion going on, I giggled thruoughout. The reason for it is your masterful discriptions-- not the subject

Love it!

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I've not finished reading the whole thing, but it's awesome.

And my programming fingers are tingling all over to implement such a simulation. :rolleyes: It sounds like quite a challenge.

The description of the game is superb!

I'm highly curious what part of this you were able to implement. I'll check for answers in this thread once I'm done reading it.

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Alright, I finished reading the whole thing. Very well written. Too bad, there isn't more for now.


But back to the software part of this. Incidentally, I had somewhat similar thoughts of a same project but dismissed it in not knowing a good way to make it exciting to play. I used to play in the past a bit, so I'm familiar with a very distant idea to your project. Have you seen that game? It is somewhat similar on some small aspects.

But your idea is much more fun.

Adaptive questions, real-time decision making, statistics per group. This is great stuff, though, it's a hell to implement. In the story, it looks like the game has millions of questions and smart branching out and detection. Additional, only able to influence some ideas means that you would need several layers of abstractions to simulate the whole thing: influence choices -> people's ideas -> actions -> results in the game world -> statistics. Not an easy task for sure, especially, since it's real-time.

I'm interested to hear more of the actual implementation behind the game that you said you have achieved if you don't mind sharing it with me. Feel free to send PMs if you prefer.

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Alright, I finished reading the whole thing. Very well written. Too bad, there isn't more for now.

I'll reply back on your original game thread. (I don't want any spoilers here.)

If You Could Create a Video Game

I took a quick look at nation sates, it sounds very similar in concept, but likely not in fundamentals. I will have to play. I am pleased to hear it has found a following. I have heard of the novel Jennifer Government, but I did not read it.

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The Aristotle Reaction Chronicles, Episode 8.

From our last episode it would appear that Professor Milford has read one too many Dan Brown novels. Certainly there was no invisible hand guiding the course of Aristotle's work through history; was there? There are likely many reasonable explanations for why his work kept popping up through history, again and again, and again. The professor probably just has an overactive imagination that is reading conspiracy out of coincidence; right?

Moving forward, this episode considers why Jake might be having such a hard time with the game and, after a brief stop to learn why the Professor is no longer a priest, we go on to consider if the moral code Jake is attempting to play by might have some fundamental flaw. I hope you will enjoy…

Chapter 18.

Jake found Vinod in the computer lab absorbed in the game.

"Hi Jake, I have thanks to give for inviting me to your game. It is fantastic! I have already sent invitations to my father and cousins in India. I think my whole family wants to play."

"Good. Have you played much?"

"Oh yes, I was up all the night playing my first game, what a challenge."

"How did you play for so long," asked Jake? "I can't play for an hour, much less all night."

"I started with India and you could not believe how every group was bickering. I tried to change the laws, but Hindus and Muslims clashed giving me a great difficult time. Eventually I got the hang of it, and played one game until morning. "

"What was the secret?" pressed Jake, "I can't figure it out."

"I am finding that deeper values need to be promoted, consistently."

"I have tried promoting my values. It does not work."

"Perhaps your values are not consistent." offered Vinod sincerely.

"What are you talking about?" ask Jake.

"Maybe you don't have a harmonious integration between the values you live by, and the values you believe to be right," said Vinod matter-of-factly.

"What?" asked Jake, holding back his resentment, "I went to the best Jesuit High School in the state, and I took four years of classes in ethics and morality. You don't get that kind of education in public schools."

"Are you a spiritual man?" asked Vinod.

"No, but I don't need God to know the difference between right and wrong."

"Well then, what is the difference?" questioned Vinod.

"Right is…," Jake started, paused, then started again, "well, wrong is when you do what you know you're not supposed to do, and right is when you do what you should do."

"Yes," said Vinod, 'and what should you do?"

Agitated by Vinod's questions, Jake struggled to articulate his answer, "You should do… you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"And what would that be," insisted Vinod, unwilling to let the question go.

"Well, you should be kind to people, for starters," said Jake, in a not-so-kind tone.

"And what next," persisted Vinod.

Jake had enough, "look, these questions are annoying, where are you going with this?"

"I don't mean to be rude, Jake; I was just trying to help you figure your game strategy. I apologize if I have been offensive."

"That's ok Vinod; go ahead, I want to hear what you have to say."

"Your game success is based on your ethical views of right and wrong. You are trying to construct an ethical view built on the foundation of religion, but you are uncertain if you believe in God. So how can your view stand if you deny its foundation? What kind of an engineer would live in a house with no foundation?"

"Well, I'm not sure I believe in God," said Jake, "but the morality still applies. The Golden Rule is universal and applies to everyone: Treat others like you want to be treated."

"Oh really?" said Vinod sounding unconvinced, "If you were stranded on a desert island how would this golden rule help you to survive, how would it help make the choices you needed to live?"

"Morality would not apply if you were all alone on a desert island," said Jake assuredly.

"So what is the point of ethics if not to help you make the right choices to survive and prosper, wherever you may be?"

Jake tried to think of an answer that would satisfy Vinod, but could not.

After letting Jake puzzle for a few moments, Vinod suggested, "You are a good engineer Jake. If you approach this problem like an engineer, you will be finding the answer. Take a simple case; don't start with, 'Does God exist?' Rather start with what you are knowing, as you would any problem. Ask yourself if you need a code of morality at all; and only when you're convinced should you consider what the code should be."

Jake expected answers, not an engineering assignment, but he trusted Vinod and took his advice. "Ok, If you think it will help my game, I'll give that a try."

"Good," said Vinod, "I think it will help you improve."

Chapter 19.

Milford locked the door to his study and sat down with his journal. Mother put to bed; his true work was ready to begin. Before him lay Journal Volume One open to the 20 blank pages he had saved when he started it 35 years ago.

The meeting with Edward inspired him to complete the introduction. His future disciples needed to know the reason he left the priesthood to pursue secular philosophy. Historians might mistakenly conclude it was a reversal of beliefs rather than a revelation. He was going to set the record straight. His mother's bitter response to his life's calling had caused him to put off the task for too long. He thought back.

Milford excelled in school, graduating as the valedictorian of his high school, and president of the student body. He earned scholarships to Harvard on the east coast, and Stanford on the west. Classmates expected Archie would enter law school, then politics and eventually the White House.

When Milford declined the scholarships to join the seminary, only his mother was unfazed. She had an unwavering conviction that her son was special and destined to do important things. She nurtured his ability, and groomed his convictions; steering him away from politics and towards religion.

His mother's constant reinforcement convinced Milford his gift must serve a greater purpose, and he entered the seminary prepared for his duty to return the world to morality. He knew firsthand the greed infecting the world. When he and mother had need, there was no one. His life would end such injustice. The day he entered was the proudest in her life, as she constantly reminded him.

In the seminary Milford was renowned for turning congregation guilt into collection basket dollars. He praised a person for his accomplishments then turned that pride into guilt, and the guilt into sacrifice. No matter how great the sacrifices, it was never enough; there was always more, and more meant money.

When ordained, the young Father Milford requested a university teaching assignment where he could make the greatest impact. Young minds, like wet cement, were easily shaped to harden into the form he had chosen. He wanted to reach as many young minds as possible so they could propagate his influence.

Most students were readily shaped by his skilled hand. Sunday school, parents and popular culture had done most of the work. Religion taught the moral duty of sacrifice, where popular culture taught selfish indulgence. The resulting conflict was guilt. Milford simply added the finishing touches, helping students uncover their inner guilt to be harnessed for his higher purpose.

He recorded this part in his journal many years ago and only the events of the final revelation remained, why he chose to leave the church. He began to write.

I recall like yesterday a cool November morning, golden leaves fluttering to the ground, and the smell of pine wafting through crisp air. Under a clear blue sky, I sat, dressed in black, with my students in the shade of the old oak at the center of campus; a trip out of the classroom and into nature - a chance to bond.

My course was ethics, the topic the virtue of unconditional love. I was explaining how Jesus displayed his unconditional love when he died for the sins of all mankind.

We sat in a circle, going around in turn, each explaining how they demonstrated unconditional love to be worthy of the sacrifice Jesus had made for them. I saw the discomfort in their eyes, each dreading their turn, for in their souls they knew they were unworthy of Jesus' sacrifice. Each chose a college education to pursue a selfish dream. One by one they tried to convince me of the nobility of their choice, how their career was for the betterment of mankind, how their skills would be for the service of others. After each pathetic attempt the student admitted the choice was really a selfish one. Prodding each, I let them stew in their guilt.

One pre-med student, a handsome black man proudly proclaimed his choice to be a doctor was to help others. But I knew there was little truth in the statement. "Are you certain your study of medicine is solely for the benefit of others?" I asked. "Will you denounce the exorbitant salary of a Doctor? Will you declare before this class that you will give away your services to the poor that need them most?" The student's reaction was everything I hoped for. He looked away and mumbled some feeble excuse about needing to pay back student loans. He would not commit to the sacrifices needed to uphold the ideals of his faith.

Of course, it was not my intent for him to give up his salary. In fact I wanted him to make money, as much as possible. Each dollar he made would be a link in the chain of guilt that would bind him to me. Our church needed his guilt and money to enable our continued work.

I was planting seeds. Someday these seeds would grow to be harvested. As adults they would be eager to relieve themselves of this guilt which eased with the proper financial sacrifices.

At last, I came to a self assured looking young man with blond hair and arrogant blue eyes. He had been sitting and listening to the confessions, but rather than look away with shame like the others, he stared at me with an air of moral superiority. With each student his glare became more intense as if radiating condemnation on me. But I did not divert my eyes from his. I was eager to accept his unspoken challenge and make a grand final example of this impudent boy.

"And what is your major?" I asked the boy politely.

"Biology," he said in a tone that challenged me to go further, which I did.

"And why have you chosen biology"

"Because I will clone animals, and someday man."

"Why would you want to do that," I asked in shock?

"Because it can be done, because I can do it, because many will benefit, and many will pay for it. I will proudly accomplish it and will earn great wealth."

He said it with such unwavering conviction that even I had little doubt he could do it. It was wrong in so many ways. He aspired to the sins of greed and pride, and wanted to achieve it by playing God; all of which he flaunted. A normal student would have felt guilt and shame but he showed neither. In an instant I recovered my composure.

"Young Man, you are playing God, no one has the right to tamper with Gods precious creations."

"There is no God," he responded to the shock of his classmates.

He did not say, "I don't believe in God," rather he said, "There is NO God," again with the same conviction.

I had been taught to deal with students who questioned the existence of God; you needed to let them question. They needed time to come to their own conclusion and believe it was their decision, not something forced on them. It was like reeling in a fish on a hook; they needed slack to run without breaking the line. You had to let them run; keeping constant tension until they exhausted their questions and could be slowly reeled back. So now I put my training to practice.

"Well, I understand you may be questioning your belief in God, and that is perfectly normal," I said calmly.

"I am not questioning, I know there is no God."

"No one can know for certain if God exists, that is part of the mystery of God, and why we have faith."

"Those who believe in God have mystery and faith; those who know reality have facts and certainty."

"Preposterous young man, how can you be so certain that there is no God?"

"Certainty comes from knowing that contradictions don't exist. God is a contradiction. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all one and each separate is a contradiction. An all-powerful, all-knowing God is a contradiction. A God that can violate natural laws at will is a contradiction. Because I know contradictions cannot exist, I know God cannot exist."

I did not know how to address the boy's statements. It was OK to question God's existence, but not OK to have answers. His answers were philosophical and beyond my seminary training. I knew he was wrong but I could not say why. Rather than debate the boy, I decided to stop the conversation.

"What a wicked selfish thing to say, how could you be so thoughtless of the beliefs of the others in this class?"

But the boy did not back down. He simply grew more emboldened, fueled by the serious consideration he was receiving from the others.

"I have spoken the truth, nothing more. These students are free to reject what I say and accept the unearned guilt that you have heaped on them. But they are also free to see the logic of what I say and recognize the virtue of their own self-interests. They can learn to be rightfully proud of pursuing a career that makes the most of their passions and abilities and rewards them in equal proportion to the value they create for others."

"How dare you speak to me in that disrespectful tone?" I said, desperate to stop the boy.

"I was not speaking to you," said the boy as he looked over the students.

I too looked around my circle of students and I saw in their eyes the damage he had done. Like poison sprayed on my new seedlings, his words eradicated the guilt I carefully nurtured.

Our time ended, and the class dispersed with the words of the biology student still ringing in their ears.

I could repair the damage, but I had a greater concern. This boy was outside my control. My talk of Jesus and his sacrifice had no impact. I realized that he was just the tip of an iceberg. There were thousands more like him and millions more of other faiths who were also outside my control.

At that moment I knew that the Church was not the means to complete my mission. I had to find a new way to reach people. A way that would give me power over people of any faith, of any religion, of any system of beliefs, regardless of whether or not it included God. Only then could I achieve what I set out to do. To create a world where the powerful would not grow rich at the expense of the poor; a world were people cared more for their neighbor than for themselves; a world where an arrogant biologist would not grow rich cloning humans.

I quit the priesthood, broke my vow of obedience, and reclaimed my life; for I had already taken a greater vow, and no institution of God or man would stand in my way.

I would arm myself with the intellectual tools to conquer anyone whose ideas stood in my way. I shed my priestly robes, donned a student's garb, and dedicated myself to philosophy.

The revelation, sparked by one man's arrogance, brought about my transformation from priest to philosopher. These journals are the documented results of my life's work from that moment forward.

Milford stopped his writing and reviewed his work. He wondered again how different the conversation would be today and how his new skills would quickly turn the boy's arrogant certainty into doubt and humility. He set down his pen, and silently regretted not having saved the boy, but contented himself in the thousands he'd rescued since. His failing with the one boy had benefited so many others, and someday the entire country. This warm thought consoled him, soothing the bitter fact that no matter how much he'd achieved for his Mother, she would never understand.

Chapter 20.

Jake settled in his spot in the library and began Vinod's assignment. On a piece of green tinted graph paper he drew an island, a tree, and a stick man; above this he wrote, "Case 1: Survival Advice for Stick Man."

He wrote "Known" on the paper, and then listed everything he knew about the problem. 1. Man needs: food and shelter. 2. The Island contains: a tree, sand, rocks, vegetation, fish, etc.

Jake was sure that if stranded on an island he could survive, but his assignment was to find the general rules to guide anyone. He had to find the code of conduct or morality that would ensure survival of any man.

He started with two assumptions, first that the stick man wanted to survive and second that it was possible. Without these assumptions the exercise would be pointless, he thought.

What would he do in stick man's situation he wondered? He might fish, or make fire, but these all seemed very specific. He needed more general advice, so decided to simplify his problem with three changes to his assumptions. 1) Stick man is not very bright. 2) The rules must apply to any situation. 3) Only three rules are permitted.

He was not sure if three rules were enough but it forced him to think broadly and economize. He needed only the best three pieces of advice suitable for any person in any situation, whether stranded in the snow or stuck on a tropical island.

To answer Vinod's question he asked, 'Does stick-man need a code of ethics at all?'

In his thought exercise, he imagined his not-too-bright stick man on the island without any advice, doing things that would not help him get food or shelter. He imagined him with a very nice tan, cold and hungry after a fun day of body surfing. Then he imagined him as an environmentalist, so concerned for the island habitat that he starved rather than spoil the ecosystem. These thoughts confirmed his suspicions that stick man needed some code of priorities to ensure his survival.

Jake next endeavored to find the code. Having endured many lessons in ethics from his parents, church, and devoted Jesuits, he was confident the answers would follow, despite Vinod's claims to the contrary.

He first contemplated the Ten Commandments, but with nothing for stick man to steal, no one to kill, and no neighbors to covet, he was left with the advice to refrain from swearing or carving his palm tree into a tiki god - none of which helped prioritize his actions for survival.

Jake next considered the golden rule; "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," but as there was no one else to do anything for, this was no help to stick man.

He thought of the saying; "The lord helps those who help themselves," which sounded good, but gave stick man no input to what he 'should do;' It merely noted that if resolved, some divine assistance would follow.

Jake then reflected on prayer, but he could imagine only two outcomes. First, God could provide everything stick man needed, in which case, stick man did not need to think or act at all. Second, God could provide the knowledge, but what would it be? Probably the same advice he was trying to figure out. What code of ethics could God give stick man that he had not already given in scriptures?

No practical advice in all his religious training came to mind. He knew many things he should "not do," but nothing that he "Should do." Jake finally gave up and concluded that religious morality simply did not apply to one man alone. Had he included a stick woman the morality would be clear.

Having abandoned religion, Jake determined stick man would just have to rely on his own intelligence and reasoning to find the actions best suited to provide food and shelter. After several revisions, he listed the following three rules.

1. Focus on your resources.

2. Consider long term consequences.

3. Pick the action with the best outcome for you.

He summed his advice to stick man with the following: "Pay attention, don't be short sighted and look out for your best interest."

Confident in his finding, Jake tore off the page from his first case and set it aside, ready to begin on a more complicated one. He wrote 'Case 2" across the top of a new sheet, and again drew an island, this time including stick man and stick woman.

This, he figured, would be much simpler. With two people, the ethics would be clearer, the golden rule would apply. He would do whatever was needed to keep the other person alive. This was the guidance his religion classes provided for making a choice: 'Put the needs of others before your own.'

For a brief moment Jake thought he'd made progress, until he realized stick man no more knew how to keep the other person alive than he did himself. Just making the other person the benefactor of his action did not help define what he "should do."

Jake's thoughts drifted into a vision of himself stranded on a tropical island with Tori. He would gladly do whatever it took to keep them both alive. He envisioned them working together to survive in mutual cooperation and they had a very nice grass hut.

Then, a horrifying thought interrupted his fantasy, what if he was stranded with Edward? What should he do then? Should he use his skills so that Edward could survive at his expense? Jake could just envision Edward sitting around all day waiting for him to bring food and build shelter while cursing him for disrupting the island's eco system.

He considered the difference between helping Tori and helping Edward. Clearly Tori was a value, where as Edward was a burden. Helping Edward was a true sacrifice because he saw no value in Edward. Helping Tori was no sacrifice at all.

The more Jake thought the more he was infuriated. According to his religious training, helping Edward was virtuous, yet this was an injustice. Technically helping Tori was not virtuous because it served his own selfish desire.

After mulling over for a time, he decided to ignore religion and give stick man the same advice as before; "Pay attention, don't be short sighted and look out for your best interest." His only addition was that other people are a resource and could be a benefit or hindrance and his priorities and actions should consider this.

Jake was suddenly exhausted. His religious classes provided no guidance for stick man, but more critically no guidance for him. If the purpose of his life was to serve others then admittedly he was immoral. His life was the pursuit of his own dreams not the needs of others. By religious standards his actions were selfish and sinful. He was proud of his accomplishments, wanted more, and refused to accept that his life should be a source of guilt or shame.

Certainly Jake had questioned the existence of God, but never the benefit of his moral guidance; now he was. His justification for religion was eroding.

Thinking back to Vinod's view of philosophy as a building, he saw his own crumbling with a broken foundation. If he was going to consider a proper ethic, he needed to rethink his entire base. Many old questions presented themselves for which he no longer had answers: Where did the universe come from? What happens when I die?

An old question, 'What is morality without God?' was replaced with a new one, "What is the point of morality with God?"

He took a deep breath and tried to organize his thoughts. He would need to work through the issues one piece at a time. He was imagining a new case study, a giant island with many people. He started drawing a whole population of stick men. Then it struck him, 'this was the game.' The game is a giant model of life. It could help resolve his questions. He could construct his ethical and political theories and test them on the game's population of virtual stick men.

He set down his paper and started to play.

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