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Not-Here, Not Here-And-Now Plus Demons, and NaN.

Started by jburneko, February 28, 2003, 12:52:48 PM

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First Ron talks about some funky place called Not-Here which is pretty much defined as The Place You Can't Define.  And now down in the Character Ideas thread he's talking about how Sorcerer's default setting isn't Here-And-Now-Plus Demons.

This is really subtle shit.

Before I said, it was like contemplating real Nothingness but that isn't quite right.  I've found a better analogy and I just had to share.

It's like contemplating NaN.  NaN is a concept I first ran into when learning the Java programming language.  NaN stands for Not a Number.  It was primarily Java's clean trick for getting around divide by zero errors.  If you devide something by zero the result is NaN, Not a Number.  Simple.

This is the weird part.  Like, all mathematical concepts NaN has a formal definition.  NaN is defined as: A value that is equal to nothing, not even itself.  Okay, this is cool too.  So we know the question "Does X equal NaN" is ALWAYS "No" even if X is NaN.  Great, nothing too weird yet.

The weirdness comes in because Java includes a function called IsNaN.  IsNaN returns TRUE if its input parameter is NaN.  But we've just said that you can't test for equality on NaN... So how the HELL does IsNaN function?

That's what I feel like Ron is trying to say.  Demons don't exist and you've just bound one.  Blink.

Demons are NaN.  They are Not-an-Entity who come from Not-a-Place.

Okay, just had to share.



I think that's an excellent analogy, Jesse.

I think the key point Ron is stating is that the game isn't about "here and now plus demons" in the archetypical Whitewolf fashion, in which the demons are considered to be a part of the setting.  Think more like the way M. Night treats superheroes, aliens, and ghosts.  So far all of his movies are typical "fan boy" subjects except that they happen to literally "invade" here and now.  

In other words, there isn't a predefined place where demons come from, because that would give them some sort of logical sense, make them understandable, and perhaps give them a place in this world.  



In the above post I stopped my analogy short because I thought the analogy would break if I carried it further but thought it through and suddenly realized that it didn't.

The function IsNaN is only really bizarre when you think about it litterally.  How can I determine if X is equal to NaN when by defiition if X is NaN I still get false as the output.  But there IS a way we can determine if X is NaN.  X is NaN if X is, well, Not a Number.  We can determine if X is a Number if X IS equal to itself because all numbers are equal to themselves.

So IsNaN looks like this.

if(X == X) then FALSE, otherwise TRUE

What this means, is that I can't consider NaN in isolation.  NaN is DEFINED only by the existance of numbers.  We can't look at NaN all by itself, we have to consider real numbers in a sideways effort to see NaN.

Going back to the Sorcerer analogy.  We can NOT examine demons by themselves.  We can't perform social tests and opperators on them because they are, Not-a-Human.  Alone there is no standard of conceptulization for demons.  The ONLY way we can conceptually understand Demons is by understanding Human Beings.  We can understand NaN ONLY by understanding the equality property of real NUMBERS.  We can only understand demons by understanding the Humanity property of real HUMAN BEINGS.

How do you recognize a demon?  It's Not-A-Human.  What's a Human?  That which has Humanity?  What's Humanity?  That's why we're playing the game.

Does any of this make sense?  Or have I just gone off the abstraction deep-end again?


Drew Stevens


Cool, I can run Sorcerer now.  Hooray analogy and ability to explain stuff to others! :)



I like that analogy, particularly when taken quite literally.  If we have a set of all things that exist, then demons are not part of that set.  And yet, they exist.  Thus the paradox is that demons are not part of the "does/does not exist" division, because Not Here is not part of the "real world/imaginary world division."

Chris Lehrich

Ron Edwards

Hi Jesse,

See, I knew you'd get there eventually if I just kept refusing to answer.

Most of the time, when "the Guy" says this kind of thing, he's full of shit, but it does happen to fit this time.


Uncle Dark

Well, it beats the hell out of the Master smacking you upside the head with a stick.

God damn, I love the discussions here!

Reality is what you can get away with.


I agree with everyone else here -- that's a great analogy. Congratulations on snatching the stone from the hand of the master.

That said -- if I could be permitted to be pedantic -- the notion of "isNaN" isn't conceptually broken or flawed. Remember, NaN is not equal to any number, including itself; the notion of equality ("X equals Y") is not the same as the notion of identity ("X is Y").

I really like your IsNaN definition, though -- NaN is the only number that isn't equal to itself. Very nice.

Just my $0.02.