What BioShock Gets Wrong About Ayn Rand’s Objectivism

The bust of Andrew Ryan at the start of BioShock: "No gods or kings. Only Man."The original BioShock was a game released in 2007 by 2K Games. The main antagonist was Andrew Ryan, a “business magnate” who founded an underwater city, called Rapture. He was supposed to be guided by the same philosophy that Ayn Rand advocated in her novels and non-fiction books. Ayn Rand called this philosophy “Objectivism.”

I have played through the original BioShock and found all the recordings in the game that tell the backstory. I have also studied Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism for over 15 years, so I’m well qualified to comment on how accurately the game represents the philosophy.

The remastered version of the BioShock series was recently released, so I decided to take this moment to comment.

I find that BioShock seriously misrepresents Objectivism. One way it gets Objectivism wrong is in Andrew Ryan’s attitude toward morality. In his introductory speech in the game, Andrew Ryan says,

I chose… Rapture. A city where the artist would not fear the censor; where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality; where the great would not be constrained by the small!

Here Ryan dismisses morality as petty and insignificant. This was most definitely not Ayn Rand’s attitude toward morality. She was very concerned with morality, and morality is a central part of Objectivism as a philosophy. Any person who seriously agrees with her philosophy also takes morality very seriously, because it’s an extremely important guide to life. Objectivism has a whole code of values and virtues that it says people need to follow to achieve a good life and genuine happiness. (You can find out more about Ayn Rand’s ethics starting here and here.)

Continue reading

Wealth is Created by Action Based on Rational Thought

One little bit of high-tech wealth brought to you by a lot of human thought.

One little bit of high-tech wealth brought to you by a lot of human thought.

Wealth consists of the life-promoting goods and services that people have access to. Wealth, (beyond fruit) does not grow on trees. Luxury homes do not spring up from the earth by themselves. Seasoned pork roasts do not fall from the sky. Wealth must be created by human activity.

But what kind of human activity generates wealth? Is it desiring? Does simply wanting a new car make it appear? Despite what most Keynesians will tell you, I’m afraid that it will not. (1) People have to act to create wealth. But what kind of action? If you flail your arms about mindlessly, will that create wealth? Obviously not. What is needed is action based on rational thought: That is, taking stock of one’s surroundings and the actual needs of oneself and/or others, then figuring out how to use one’s surroundings to create what is needed for the promotion of such human life, (i.e. wealth.)

To provide food, people need to think about how to plant and harvest, how to hunt, how to maintain livestock, how to store crop yields without spoilage, how to keep and prepare meat safely, etc. If no one thinks at all, everyone starves. But is all that’s required to reach today’s level of wealth, minimal, routine, low-level thought? Continue reading

Debate on Fossil Fuels and Environment: McKibben vs. Epstein

On November 5th at Duke university, renowned environmentalist and AGW proponent, Bill McKibben will debate Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress, on the effect that fossil fuels have on the human environment.

Here is a YouTube video on the debate:

As governments enact restrictions on fossil fuel use, power plant construction, CO2 emissions, etc. it’s important to be clear on exactly what the effect of fossil fuel use is on the human environment and human life. Do they harm the planet, or do they improve it?

This debate urgently needs funds for livestreaming, recording, distribution and publicity, though. If anyone would like to donate any amount to help with this, they can go here: McKibben vs. Epstein Donations
(McKibben’s website shows he will be there: http://www.billmckibben.com/appearances.html)

Here is a video of Power Hour by Alex Epstein on the indispensable role of coal in improving the standard of living of millions of people: