Utopia or not?

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Utopia or not?

Postby Cradarc » Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:47 am UTC

Yes, it is another one of my (in)famous dilemmas that everyone loves so much!
This time it's a magic genie that offers you a choice. The details are as follows:

1. Humanity is made permanently immune to all forms of deadly/painful diseases, including ones that could develop in the future. Everyone currently afflicted with diseases are cured instantly.
2. People with mental illnesses are instantly cured.
3. Everyone will permanently lose all desire to hate or inflict calamity on themselves or others. Emotions like grief, anger, etc. can still be felt, but they don't spur such desires.
4. Everyone will be instilled with a greater sense of harmony. People will be more willing to cooperate and help each other than to conflict.
5. Humanity is permanently infertile. All human sperm and all human eggs are no longer capable of producing viable offspring. No amount of scientific advancement can undo this.
6. Everyone will permanently lose their sense of smell, taste, and hearing. No amount of scientific advancement can undo this.
7. Humanity will experience a significant reduction in artistic creativity. In general, people will have a hard time imagining new things, creating art, writing elaborate stories, etc. Note that such things will not be impossible, just much more difficult. Some people will still be better at it than others.

All changes take effect immediately when you accept. You cannot communicate with any person before making the decision. What do you do?
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:00 am UTC

If you only want to reduce suffering over time without any regard for any other factors, all you really need to do is kill everyone.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Chen » Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:55 pm UTC

Uh rendering everyone infertile and then rendering them mute, deaf and unable to taste seem like pretty big deal breakers here. You're trading a bunch of current problem for a bunch of impossible to cure future problems and the extinction of the human race in 1 generation. That seems like a terribly bad plan.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:07 pm UTC

If we take the first item literally, then this last generation of humankind is also immortal. So that's something.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:35 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:If you only want to reduce suffering over time without any regard for any other factors, all you really need to do is kill everyone.


This.

The above deal is laughably terrible. If it's immortality, well...I'd trade a good deal for that, but lack of creativity and sense seems pretty awful. The point in immortality is for *me* to continue, not for some machine that looks sort of like me to keep functioning indefinitely.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Chen » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:02 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:If we take the first item literally, then this last generation of humankind is also immortal. So that's something.


I mean would it make us invincible? I think it's kind of a stretch to say a missing arm is a disease. If it didn't make us invincible, eventually there'd be enough trauma to render everyone pretty incapable of doing anything. I'll grant that's a significantly longer time than the previous statement of 1 generation (though technically I guess still accurate since this last generation would be the only one left).

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Cradarc » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:23 pm UTC

So you guys won't even consider the fact that the deal offers permanent world peace, end of cancer, AIDs, malaria, etc?
Note that while your sense of smell, taste, and hearing is gone, you can still very well see things and feel things. You are also not mute (although communicating verbally with another human is pointless). Note also that creativity and art is not completely wiped out. People won't lose interest in those things, they will just struggle to come up with something original. There will certainly be those that will, but it won't be as prolific.
Immunity to disease != immortality. Even if no external trauma damages your body, it will still fail eventually due to cellular senescence.

People won't become zombies. There can still be technological progress. People can create things to help them adapt to their new limitations. Novel ideas may experience a decline due to the creativity suppression, but people still have a vast amount of past knowledge to tap into, and general problem-solving skills are still intact.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:25 pm UTC

I think you should read this short story. I think you've described a dystopia, and incidentally, ::mindsplode::
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:43 pm UTC

What's the point?

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:00 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:What's the point?

Uh... of... the story? The comparison between utopia and dystopia? Life?
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Whizbang » Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:00 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
morriswalters wrote:What's the point?

Uh... of... the story? The comparison between utopia and dystopia? Life?


I read that as questioning the point of the thought experiment proposed in the OP.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:31 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
morriswalters wrote:What's the point?

Uh... of... the story? The comparison between utopia and dystopia? Life?
Sorry, of this thread not your post.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Chen » Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:44 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:So you guys won't even consider the fact that the deal offers permanent world peace, end of cancer, AIDs, malaria, etc?
Note that while your sense of smell, taste, and hearing is gone, you can still very well see things and feel things. You are also not mute (although communicating verbally with another human is pointless). Note also that creativity and art is not completely wiped out. People won't lose interest in those things, they will just struggle to come up with something original. There will certainly be those that will, but it won't be as prolific.
Immunity to disease != immortality. Even if no external trauma damages your body, it will still fail eventually due to cellular senescence.

People won't become zombies. There can still be technological progress. People can create things to help them adapt to their new limitations. Novel ideas may experience a decline due to the creativity suppression, but people still have a vast amount of past knowledge to tap into, and general problem-solving skills are still intact.


So without the immortality aspect it is dooming humanity to extinction in one generation. That's an absolutely absurd deal to take regardless of the conditions. Choosing it for yourself, ok I could see some people going for it. But for everyone? No chance.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:03 am UTC

Cradarc, did you have some kind of point in mind with this?
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby krogoth » Thu Nov 19, 2015 2:41 pm UTC

3-4 seem a bit too similar to me as well.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 4:25 pm UTC

I mean, absent senescence, I guess the deal might appeal to singularians. They might suddenly be dumb, but they'd sure be motivated.

Hmm. Neither of those is a problem singularians generally need solved, is it?
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Draconaes » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:39 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Yes, it is another one of my (in)famous dilemmas that everyone loves so much!
This time it's a magic genie that offers you a choice. The details are as follows:

1. Humanity is made permanently immune to all forms of deadly/painful diseases, including ones that could develop in the future. Everyone currently afflicted with diseases are cured instantly.
2. People with mental illnesses are instantly cured.
3. Everyone will permanently lose all desire to hate or inflict calamity on themselves or others. Emotions like grief, anger, etc. can still be felt, but they don't spur such desires.
4. Everyone will be instilled with a greater sense of harmony. People will be more willing to cooperate and help each other than to conflict.
5. Humanity is permanently infertile. All human sperm and all human eggs are no longer capable of producing viable offspring. No amount of scientific advancement can undo this.
6. Everyone will permanently lose their sense of smell, taste, and hearing. No amount of scientific advancement can undo this.
7. Humanity will experience a significant reduction in artistic creativity. In general, people will have a hard time imagining new things, creating art, writing elaborate stories, etc. Note that such things will not be impossible, just much more difficult. Some people will still be better at it than others.

All changes take effect immediately when you accept. You cannot communicate with any person before making the decision. What do you do?


Are items 2 and 7 directly related? :)

Item 2 seems a bit vague. What counts as a mental illness, and what counts as being cured? Presumably not terribly relevant to the final decision, but something I noted.

I assume item 1 does not lead to immortality, otherwise item 3 seems rather unimportant, at least to me. Combined with item 5 this leads to swift extinction for the species.

Item's 3 and 4 seem a bit vague. What counts as hate or calamity? What counts as conflict? Is it some objective standard, or what the individual perceives that counts? For example, is cutting someone open to implant a fancy gadget for them violence? Does it depend on how the would-be surgeon feels about it? Would differing opinions on these kind of situations count as mental illness to be cured per item 2?

Items 6 and 7 seem relatively minor to me. Assuming we do not immediately go extinct, as listed above, we will adapt to the new status quo fairly quickly, I imagine. (eta: I mean relatively, here. After a few hundred years the new situation will be completely normal, if not sooner.)

Assuming immortality, it becomes more palatable. Such a resulting race could become very powerful, and over time could create something that looks like utopia to us today. It is questionable whether they themselves would still see it that way after a given length of time.

I would probably say no, despite my personal strong desire for immortality. Perhaps my pride is too high. We've been playing the game as humanity for so long and have come so far already. Swapping to a new race and cheat coding away some of our current problems seems... cheap, to me. I would have no pride in my new civilization.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Cradarc » Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:18 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Cradarc, did you have some kind of point in mind with this?

Nope. I create thought experiments like this in my spare time because I'm weird. As usual, I am interested in seeing how people reason about it. Also as usual, xkcd people come to a decision surprisingly very quickly.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:21 pm UTC

If it lacked the mental changes, immortality at the price of no more children would be a much harder scenario to decide.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:36 pm UTC

I'm curious - Cradarc, are you young (Say, <20?)? Because a fair amount of dystopic literature deals with the idea of severely limiting if not outright stopping reproduction. I think it's a little presumptuous to presume that our creativity is DUE to the turning over of minds, but I find it just as presumptuous to presume that without such a turn over we'd be alright.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:53 pm UTC

I question if this is serious business.
Cradarc wrote:Nope. I create thought experiments like this in my spare time because I'm weird.
I mean, I'm happy to tickle your weirdness, but there really isn't anything to think about here. About all you done is to describe some hellish version of Heaven where you can't taste a steak and all Restaurateurs would go broke. Take away 5 and 7 and you could be a Jehovah's Witness. Only they think they get to live forever. 7 is moot given nothing to compare against, it's all a matter of taste. You'd starve to death since eating would be worse than chewing cardboard. On the upside you wouldn't have to listen to your significant other bitch. And you would make haptic device makers rich since you can't here the phone ring. And kill rock and roll.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Chen » Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:55 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:If it lacked the mental changes, immortality at the price of no more children would be a much harder scenario to decide.


Agreed. Or even if there was no immortality but the sterility part was also removed it could be an interesting discussion.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:23 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:If we take the first item literally, then this last generation of humankind is also immortal. So that's something.
Think it through. A clear liquid is a clear liquid. Contrary to what you may think smell and taste and hearing serve an evolutionary purpose. Freedom from disease isn't freedom from overdosing on a material that looks like water if you can neither smell or taste it. And aging isn't a disease, in point of fact we don't really understand aging very well at all. Without wanting to pick on you, can you see the trap Christians fall into? The trap of plausibility, of sounding good, however strange?

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:49 am UTC

what

If you got from that post to there, I shudder to think what you'd have got out of my singularian jab.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 20, 2015 11:25 am UTC

It was late. Excuse the last two lines.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Nov 20, 2015 3:19 pm UTC

Fair enough.

Cradarc wrote:Nope. I create thought experiments like this in my spare time because I'm weird. As usual, I am interested in seeing how people reason about it. Also as usual, xkcd people come to a decision surprisingly very quickly.


Okay, so you may be misunderstanding the difference between "presenting" and "spitballing." But there are as folks are saying some potential ways of salvaging this, and maybe even getting you closer to seeing how people work over a question like this as opposed to how they filter potential spam. If anyone still wants to play with this, I'm going to give it a shot and a bowl of rice.

Cradarc wrote:1. Humanity is made permanently immune to all forms of deadly/painful diseases, including ones that could develop in the future. Everyone currently afflicted with diseases are cured instantly.
2. People with mental illnesses are instantly cured.
3. Everyone will permanently lose all desire to hate or inflict calamity on themselves or others. Emotions like grief, anger, etc. can still be felt, but they don't spur such desires.
4. Everyone will be instilled with a greater sense of harmony. People will be more willing to cooperate and help each other than to conflict.
5. Humanity is permanently infertile. All human sperm and all human eggs are no longer capable of producing viable offspring. No amount of scientific advancement can undo this.
6. Everyone will permanently lose their sense of smell, taste, and hearing. No amount of scientific advancement can undo this.
7. Humanity will experience a significant reduction in artistic creativity. In general, people will have a hard time imagining new things, creating art, writing elaborate stories, etc. Note that such things will not be impossible, just much more difficult. Some people will still be better at it than others.


To simplify things, as folks have pointed out, there are a couple of closely related sets in there. May as well group those up; you're adding an illusion of complexity to something that's already too complex to live. I'm also taking out the qualifiers about how science can't fix any of these things because that's kinda built into all of them and doesn't need to be stressed for each one individually. We can just say that's a given in the first place.

A. People are immune to all disease, including mental illness, but not aging or traumatic injury.

B. People want to cooperate harmoniously and aren't motivated to hurt others despite having the same capacity for negative emotions we do.

C. People are infertile.

D. People have no sense of smell, taste, or hearing.

E. People are less capable of creativity, especially artistically.


What would be ideal is to present this as some kind of trade - would you give up X for Y. That's a true dilemma, as opposed to a ... heptalemma, which is just really messy. Obviously, you're asking whether A and B are worth the cost of C, D, and E, but that's not a very interesting question. There's no reason to deeply consider the effects of any one element, especially when some of these have much more dominant effects, and simultaneously barely compare in the same space. And there's yet another axis where they don't match up in that some are qualitative changes and some are vague quantitative ones. How much harmoniousness do you need to make up for the sense of smell? It's not clear how much we're getting, but we know exactly how much smell we're losing.

Are red, yellow, and pencil more valuable than coffee, first-person shooter, and frog? Uh....

Within the list, D doesn't actually ask anyone to consider anything deeply. It's just bad, everyone acknowledges its badness, and it's not even an interesting kind of badness - it's just there to add an additional cost (and after you're already euthanizing the species, which makes this all feel just a little bloody-minded). Item A has a little of that, too - it's just good. Like, it won't actually change anything about the way people actually live their lives or the decisions they make, it just changes the scale of things within one kind of life hardship. People no longer get cancer, but can still die of radiation burns. Combine D and A together and you have the beginnings of a robot character class for a tabletop RPG, but they don't really belong in a question about moral reasoning.

C seems to be its own question, and Izawwlgood has already addressed it. I don't think it could readily be comparable with any of these things.

That leaves B and E. They compare well, because they're both qualitative: would humans be better off trading some of their creative ability for greater a greater prosocial drive and ability to interact harmoniously?

It's still hard to say what counts as a fair trade here, because neither of these things is easy to measure and we're depending on "some quantity of" each. But in one form or another, it's a real question sometimes asked in the idea of competition or in thinking of collective vs. individualist cultural impulses.

So that's the question I think I'd be most interested in discussing answers to. Here's my shot at one.

I'd say yes. A less creative society will advance less quickly in art, sure, and also science, technology, even social aspects. But we're giving that society a booster shot of free social advance, one that specifically prevents the massive inequality and exploitation that make people sometimes worry about those scientific and technological advances in the first place - we're getting some fraction of the good and none of the bad. Looking at the society from the outside and what it's able to achieve, that's probably not a fair trade, but I think it'd be almost automatically good for the individuals that actually make it up, and would continue to be at any point in time after this point.

I don't think there's any point in the future at which we in the real world will have solved all disharmony, and will have our advanced creative thinking to thank for it. I mean, maybe we'll invent world peace and cure murder, but I don't think there's any point at which humans or their descendants will all universally decide that it's better to get along, and then successfully do that.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby CelticNot » Wed Nov 25, 2015 6:50 pm UTC

What do I do? I ignore the genie.

I've glanced through the discussion, and while it's been brought up a couple of times, consigning all of humanity to death in one generation seems like a deal breaker for me on just about anything. NOTHING is worth that. So you have world peace - what does it matter when everyone will be dead in 80-150 years? (Assuming some leniency for life extension treatments... but I don't believe old age can be 'cured' that easily.)

Let's ask a different question - presume that all of this happened. What would people do with their last years? Since they can't breed any longer, the only thing left to do is leave a legacy for the species to come after them. Which could as easily be to create them. Either via uplifting, or wholesale creation of a new species (possibly a mechanical/robotic one). As I see it, it's the only way to fulfill humanity's imperative to perpetuate the species. If you can't perpetuate your own because you've been forcibly 'fired', then at least find and/or train your replacement.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:12 pm UTC

CelticNot wrote:Let's ask a different question - presume that all of this happened. What would people do with their last years?


Figure out how to murder a genie.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:56 pm UTC

So let's propose that a genie comes to you with a discussion thread about a moral dilemma....
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:03 pm UTC

CelticNot wrote: what does it matter when everyone will be dead in 80-150 years?
wait... wat? I thought the whole point of the exercise was that humans become effectively immortal?
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby SDK » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:11 pm UTC

The OP specifies "deadly/painful diseases", which probably doesn't include old age (despite my knee hurting these days...).
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:18 pm UTC

Oh, yeah, that's true, Cradarc wasn't clear with that. He did say 'permanent world peace...' etc...


Yeah, if this is a solution until the last human dies of being ~100, then abso-fucking-lutely not.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:50 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:So let's propose that a genie comes to you with a discussion thread about a moral dilemma....


Sticking with "Figure out how to murder a genie".

Just in case.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:51 pm UTC

Fair point. = ]

Izawwlgood wrote:Oh, yeah, that's true, Cradarc wasn't clear with that. He did say 'permanent world peace...' etc...


Yeah, if this is a solution until the last human dies of being ~100, then abso-fucking-lutely not.

Cradarc specifically clarified that, actually.

Cradarc wrote:Immunity to disease != immortality. Even if no external trauma damages your body, it will still fail eventually due to cellular senescence.

But this thread is actually repeating itself at a remarkable rate regardless, really. CelticNot totally didn't reference my reference to encouraging Singularians. Meanie. There's a search function and we're still on page one, folks. = .
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:29 pm UTC

... has no-one pointed out that the genie is clearly Satan?

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:35 pm UTC

Man I wanna get a better deal for my soul than that.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:41 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:... has no-one pointed out that the genie is clearly Satan?


This might change my answer, as there exists significant documentation of precedent for outwitting this particular entity, and avoiding the penalty through some ruse, likely involving fiddles.

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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby krogoth » Fri Nov 27, 2015 3:25 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:... has no-one pointed out that the genie is clearly Satan?


Better the lesser of two evils
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby phillip1882 » Mon Dec 21, 2015 9:58 pm UTC

if it wasn't for losing senses and creativity, i might go for this. humanity had a good run, but i think we should quit before we hit the singularity.
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Re: Utopia or not?

Postby Neil_Boekend » Tue Dec 22, 2015 10:26 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Man I wanna get a better deal for my soul than that.

I sold mine for a crate of beer. I still think the other fellow was the one getting screwed, since souls probably don't exist. How he could let a crate of beer appear out of thin air still bugs me a bit though.
Mikeski wrote:A "What If" update is never late. Nor is it early. It is posted precisely when it should be.

patzer's signature wrote:
flicky1991 wrote:I'm being quoted too much!

he/him/his


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