Part one: I’ve read some reviews of a book called “Addiction by Design” (I’ve not bought it, it seems too academic and even the Kindle is $15) that tells a tale of concise malice where machines are designed to play on one person’s human nature to satisfy the greed of another. OK, you say there is nothing new here but video slot machines take this evil up several notches.

Slot machines used to be a game of chance for pocket change. No longer there are no longer cherries lucky 7s and bars on disks where a pull and a spin were like a toss of dice where the odds were constant and a win was possible.

On the video machine “close-but-no-cigar” results are made more common just to keep the players in the game. The published odds are based on wins, so falsely-enticing near-misses can larded in without limit and close calls don’t payout, but they do increase “time on device” and therefore profits.

Also, instead of a yank and wait, it’s now simply an ergonomic button to tap. Plus there are no more coins; one simply adds “credits,” plays until those credits are gone, adds more credit and so on. It seems that the thought of winning big–or at all–has been designed out of the game. Winning is not the goal any more than winning at cocaine use is.

Two: Then there’s behaviorism, of cultures and economies as well as individuals where antecedent conditions of wealth yield greedy behaviors which yields consequences of more wealth. Given this, the seeming fair meritocracy quickly descends into plutocracy when capital is all that’s valued. “All” is the key word here; increasing one’s wealth is a worthy goal, but shouldn’t there be other ideas of worth besides unfettered pursuit of capital and wealth?

Socialism is the pursuit of ideas of social cooperation, universal welfare, and equality – ideas brought together by a condemnation of the evils and injustices of capitalism. –Anthony Giddens.

Lord Tony has a point. But, these days, it is way more likely that it is capitalists who are brought together by “a condemnation of the evils and injustices of…” socialism because capitalists, of course, see social cooperation, universal welfare, and equality as evil and unjust.

There is not much I can add to our understanding of economic inequality that ain’t already out there. Even politicians–left and right–are preaching their “vote for me!” screeds in “inequality-is-bad” homilies. Not that any of them really want to equalize anything. The system works for us, why change things?

“In the world at large we seldom vote for a principle or a given state of affairs. We vote for a man who pretends to believe in that principle or promises to achieve that state.” –B.F. Skinner

Shown is a simple scene: some folks have more chips than others, and those others are never going to win in spite of the USA myths to the contrary. Not shown: some people don’t have any chips and can’t even get in the game.

“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.”– Epicurus

On to the third game, which was actually the first one conceived. And it almost immediately brought that Epicurus quote to mind. Here there are no buttons or chips. Here you just find a place to sit and pass the time wisely, well and justly. And there are no corporate designers fabricating misleading yet still seductive close calls; there are no cards to play and no chips to lose. If you have credit or chips (hopes?) remaining, you’ll spend them wisely, well and justly elsewhere. Here the game is simple; when your number is up, it’s up.

Epicurus knew this, he advised us, in our limited time here, to direct all our actions toward attaining happiness. He, however, suggests some discretion, “The soul neither rids itself of disturbance nor gains a worthwhile joy through the possession of greatest wealth, nor by the honor and admiration bestowed by the crowd, or through any of the other things sought by unlimited desire.” And “The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.”

The predella, at the bottom of course, was the last panel designed; in it the gambler has left (escaped?) the casino. But before he leaves town, he takes a souvenir snapshot to remind him of his time there. The souls captured therein are caricatures of the ever-instrumental love and work plus the croupier on a break from his wheel. What happens in that resort surely stays there, but pictures of it go home with the tourists.

This panel is not a finale, but an alternate, less depressing coda for the dismal sequence above it. So, with that in mind let’s add one more quip from the original epicurean who valued friendship over the more complex relationships of love and work because friendships while beginning pragmatically can become intrinsically valuable and retain the positive attributes of both attitudes.

Love and work can offer up more and more varied pleasures but they also bring much pain, “No pleasure is intrinsically bad; but that which is necessary to achieve some pleasures brings with it disturbances many times greater than those same pleasures.” (Epicurus, Principle Doctrine VIII)