Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Natural Language and Causality

Does it strike anyone else as strange that all natural languages (that I have met so far) are built around cause, effect, and intentionality?  The whole separation of subjects, verbs, and objects necessarily injects causal inference into every statement - verb happened to object as a consequence of subject's nature.

Contrast this with the nature of raw experience, where causal relations are never explicit in any single action, and can only be extracted from prolonged observation.  The causal information density of language is much higher than that of sensory experience, but at the expense of accuracy and nuance.

Contract this also with the mathematical formalism of the function, where we relate a 'cause' and an 'effect' through enumeration of all causes and all effects which follow from a certain 'law', and none of which are really actions.  Here there is no inference - only truth, of a sort.

What does this have to do with RPGs?  Not sure.  Am tired.  Maybe relevant to players forming causal inferences about sandbox settings, and the value of providing NPC adventureres and rumors to inform them of some of the details of the universe's operation (like "Wait, you killed a bunch of wyverns out in the wilderness?  I bet they had a lair and it's full of unguarded treasure...").  Causal information density there is evidently much higher than traipsing around in the woods for a couple of months...  and the mathematical formalism corresponds to letting them read the encounter tables.

Maybe also relevant to learning new games, which is a topic I have been considering lately (coworkers desire one-shot).

I suspect that this will not be the last philosophical, maybe-but-probably-not-relevant-to-gaming post in the queue.

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