(Personal) Identity in Eclipse Phase

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Reshy Reshy's picture
(Personal) Identity in Eclipse Phase

Alright, so this has been bugging me a lot about Eclipse Phase so far. How does someone in Eclipse Phase develop their self of self and identity in the setting of Eclipse Phase? This kind of goes back to my earlier questions about growing up in Eclipse Phase but I guess it's a bit wider reaching than that.

So the question is, how do you develop who you are in Eclipse Phase when so much is subject to change at more or less a drop of the hat? Growing up in Eclipse Phase is hardly touched on at all, and without a good answer you don't really have a good starting point for developing a character's identity. You cannot base their identity off of their body, as bodies are interchangeable and you can never be sure you will get even the same type of body as the one you were born with (or accustomed to, if that's even possible in Eclipse Phase) or that you even have a genetic code even if you are a transhuman. You cannot even really base identity on the information on the Ego itself, as that is too subject to change (though to a lesser extent than bodies). So the question is, with all of this in mind, how do you develop your self of self in this setting? How do you give your character a "face" when they quite possibly will never actually have the same face twice? How do you give your character the spark of life, when you cannot use your own baseline understanding of life and identity development for the purposes of an Eclipse Phase character?

NotActuallyTim NotActuallyTim's picture
That's actually

One of the big themes of setting. The ability to, essentially, destroy Identity is available to most characters. They might do it to themselves, or to others.

I think most people in EP are very touchy about Identity, and possibly go out of their way to develop as many identifying details as possible, or even seek to guarantee that no such changes occur to them as best they can. Development of identity becomes a sort of ongoing escape from the question of whether or not they are actually the people they think they are.

Reshy Reshy's picture
Eh, that's less what I am

Eh, that's less what I am asking. I'm not going into the "Teleporter Paradox" side of things, that's less what I'm talking about. I'm more talking about how would someone be brought up to even understand what the concept of personal identity is, in a setting where there's little to nothing to really base it off of. This is doubly important as a firewall agent, since you're expected to be changing bodies a lot, and you can never be sure you'll even get the same type of morph, much less one that actually resembles you in any respect.

Let me put it this way, most of my friends find it difficult to get invested into Eclipse Phase due to these kinds of issues. As my friend brought up when we were discussing Eclipse Phase:

Quote:
"If one's identity can so easily be discarded, what exactly incentivizes players to bother engaging in anything but pure utilitarianism? At which point, why bother role-playing at all? And if they can't provide a better answer than the hand wavium of "It's a deep philosophical question" or any other appeal to arbitrary reasoning, why should I even bother with this? Every single character exists in this state defacto in the universe of Eclipse Phase. If the answer to a direct question can only be "Find your own answer" then it's just as useless as not saying anything at all.

It's the Ego manipulation and "Psychosurgery" that really seals it for me. If my persona, will, individuality, etc can be changed externally and deliberately, then who I am is utterly meaningless. There's no reason to develop relationships beyond utilitarian means. The struggle at that point is to retain the production facilities for Egos and morphs. Which while great for Phillip K. Dick stories, makes for unbelievably boring role play.

Utilitarianism. A purely utilitarian character has no use for personality or interaction beyond the purely mechanical. It's like a Vulcan, but 1000 times more bland. It's like role playing an Excel Spreadsheet."

Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
I'd argue in such a world

I'd argue in such a world where you can change bodies so often and external forms of identity like nationality and body type are so easily altered, your own internal sense of self is all the more important. No matter what morph you're in, you're still you.

Reasons to roleplay and form relationships are the same as they are in any other game. It's fun, it develops your character. Yes, psychosurgery exists, and if you're drastically altered against your will to something completely different it's probably fair to say that "you" died. The chance of death doesn't make players avoid roleplay in other games.

As an example, my usual character identifies strongly with the scurrier morph. He gives in to its instincts, adopts an almost cartoonish personality, and generally takes pride in his appearance and perks. The few times he's been forced to sleeve in a different body, his existing identity played a big role in how I played him: Everything seemed too small, he was constantly on edge due to not liking the feel of his smooth skin or the loss of two of his limbs. Done right, this type of dysphoria can add an interesting element to a character.

(Also, for what it's worth, just about every game I've played has allowed the players to keep their morph, whether due to a lack of ego-casting or just generous resleeving options)

ubik2 ubik2's picture
I imagine it's like a car,

I imagine it's like a car, where you have a car that looks a certain way, and you tend to like that type of car. If you end up with a different car, you're still you, just in a different car. People who meet you don't think you're a Ferrari (high end morph), they think you're the driver of a Ferrari.

You're you because of the way you view the world, and the skills and talents you have dealing with the world.

As for psychosurgery, I think people generally view that in two categories. The first is a highly effective therapy, where you can get rid of traits you don't like, develop new positive traits, or deal with trauma. None of these fundamentally change the person's identity. If I take anger management classes, I'm still me. The second category is the one that takes away or replaces memories, or significant behavior modifications. In this case, you may struggle with your identity after the fact, and it may be appropriate to consider the character dead in the extreme cases. Note that minor behavior modification is probably used for things like helping you quit smoking, which is fine.

NotActuallyTim NotActuallyTim's picture
Oh

But what is Utilitarianism? :p
Without all that arbitrary reasoning.

Just ask them to try playing it that way, and see how long it lasts. If they interact with NPCs with relatively consistent behaviors, they'll start acting like they've got all these personal reasons, even though they insist those personal reasons have no relation to who their character is. Even if it turns out they're just copying Spock.

Also, Insanity Points. Psychosurgery drives you crazy!

Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
It's a problem for each

It's a problem for each person to solve, and it might just not have a solution. I suspect for most people in EP it's something along the lines of "don't think about it too much". EP is a nightmare scenario for personal identity.

That said, a lot of firewall veterans can probably be pretty well described as utilitarian robots wearing human masks - not much left but a task-hedonist tasked with keeping transhumanity going. I made an interesting character like that once, where they changed their face, personality, and skills to match the mission. They were pretty interesting because fundamentally there's still a person in there.

They still have a favorite food, even if that's mostly suppressed because pattern recognition software could trace you down that way, and so on.

Xestaro Xestaro's picture
I think this has kind of

I think this has kind of turned a few of my roleplaying friends from the setting as well. It IS a difficult question but I think it can be solved anyways.

Personally I have to admit I don't have much experience playing EP yet (for lack of chances to do so) but I'd think personality in a setting like EP would be defined by a much narrower set of parameters than it is for people today for example.

Like, today we (to a degree) include stuff that is physical characteristics of our body, personality traits that aren't really part of the "core" of who we are but things we change over years or even months or weeks. People in EP might have a sense of personality that is much more focused on that "core" of their Ego.

And that doesn't even go for everyone. I think a lot of people won't have migrated to a different morph yet in their whole life or will never have had any psychosurgery at all (or they might have 1 or 2 times and view that as "a new phase of my life") and some of them might have an understanding of "self" that is much closer to what we have in real life.
Others will have done such things a lot or will have had OTHERS do those kinda things to them and I imagine their understanding of "self" would be much narrower (as might be true for a lot of seasoned Firewall Operatives for example) while some would indeed probably have lost their sense of "self" mostly after countless resleeves, behaviour adjustments and whatnot.

CordialUltimate2 CordialUltimate2's picture
You have to find

You have to find characteristics other than physical. I often find people who are defining their PC as "strong and handsome barbarian". Asked a about their personality they are like "umm... He likes to drink? ...and fight?..." . In EP characters are all personality. For example PC can be described as: paranoid, inquisitive and prone to simplistic solutions. Even if the session was played with voice anonymisers, randomised codenames, random morphs and equipment my fellow players would be able to identify the character. Because of the choice of actions. I guess your friends are unable to enjoy premise of Eclipse Phase, because they grasp at images in their mind: sexy suave socialite in a sylph morph moves through the party, bald headed murder machine in heavy armour sprays full auto fire into the exurgent horde, and then think "but wait what happens when I change morphs?" The image dissipates. Usually in RPGs PC's personalities emerge over time. In EP ego is only the personality.
So you have to roleplay the ego, not the "class concept".

There could be utilitarian characters that sacrifice even their personality, but they are not the majority.

As for the upbringing after the Fall, I guess you either grow up with only 1-2 morphs, even in simulspace and after achieving maturity 18, 21, whatever subjective time, they can do everything as other people. That would give them enough sense of stability to develop.

IMO. ;-)

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GenehackedGynoid GenehackedGynoid's picture
Social and historical dimension of identity

I would offer that some of the aspects of the concept of identity that remain relevant are primarily tied to a person's history and their social sphere.

History can be things like formative experiences, personal influences, training, skill development, memories associated with sensations, etc. It seems like the setting is set up such that, although history can be reshaped, there are some parts of its influence on the ego that are very hard to expunge entirely. The core book's chapter on psychosurgery mentions (on page 232) that memories are often intertwined together, and it's difficult to perform targeted edits. Generalizing a bit, that likely means that the more of one's history one wants to edit, the more everything else goes with it a bit - making it more costly to edit.

Not to mention that, above all else, one's personal history happened, so there is conceivably a physical trail leading from that person's origin to where they are now, if one cared to follow it in depth and had the resources to pick up on the faintest details.

Meanwhile, one's social sphere overlaps with history a bit, but: even if one can craft and shed identities like clothes, it's really difficult to build up a deep, meaningful relationship and history with someone overnight, let alone fake one unilaterally without the cooperation of the other involved parties.

Everyone else in this thread has hit the nail on the head about one particular thing, though: core personality is probably the single most persistent thing about one's identity. The book mentions:

Quote:
[...] traits such as openness, conscientiousness, altruism, extroversion / introversion, impulsiveness, curiosity, creativity, confidence, sexual orientation, and self-control [...]

I'd say this is a solid list, especially since it seems culled from personality tests that are reportedly fairly stable across repeated testing over time. Only thing I'd think to add is gender identity, at least among people who have a relatively firm one to begin with. (Though, I'm beginning to think that more people are flexible in that regard than is widely assumed - but I digress.)
Xestaro Xestaro's picture
I think that difference

I think that difference between playing an "ego" and a "class concept" is probably the core problem from the out of character perspective. Whenever I hear someone talk about their roleplaying characters for whatever game (including myself), usually the "class" (of course different systems have different variations and takes on "classes". even "classless" systems) is mentioned as a short description of the character.
You know like "what kind of character would you like to play?" "a Brujah Punk warrior" "yea but... WHAT KIND OF CHARACTER would you like to play?" Thats difficult to answer for a lot of people I think. I noticed myself that quite a few of my characters (regardless of game) are, or at least begin as, "class" archetypes before they begin to develop real character. The characters where everything falls into place and I have a detailed picture of their "Ego" right from the beginning of a game are much fewer.

Xestaro Xestaro's picture
Thanks for putting it into

Thanks for putting it into clear words by the way! I'll try to be more conscious of this with future characters :)

GenehackedGynoid GenehackedGynoid's picture
Archetypes / Roles ("Classes") in EP

Broadly speaking, though, there are archetypes, if you want to look at it that way. Look at some of the sample characters' skill spreads - in the core book, in Transhuman, in Panopticon, and in Sunward and Rimward. Skills are usually pretty much dependent on their ego and not on their gear, so it tells you what kind of persistent abilities and types of lived experience they have.

If someone were to ask for a list of highly specific character archetypes (so to speak) in Eclipse Phase 1E, I'd offer this as a set of narrow competencies a complete party would probably want on hand:


  • Hacker / Programmer: COG Aptitude, Infosec, Programming, Interfacing, Research, Hardware: Electronics, Hardware: Robotics, Academics: [Field]

  • Face / Smooth Talker / Social Analyst: SAV Aptitude, Persuasion, Deception, Networking: [Fields] (more than one recommended), Kinesics, Intimidation, Protocol, Impersonation, Language: [Fields], Academics: Psychology, Disguise

  • Thief / Traceur: REF Aptitude, Freerunning, Infiltration, [Climbing|Free Fall|Flight|Swimming] (more than one, depends on environment), Palming, Navigation, Disguise and/or Impersonation (maybe)

  • Async: WIL Aptitude, Psi trait (obligatory), Sense, Control, Psi Assault, Psychosurgery and/or Academics: Psychology and/or Profession: Psychotherapy (to help deal with the stress), probably a few supplemental social skills

  • Melee Combatant: SOM Aptitude, [Blades|Clubs|Unarmed|Throwing Weapons|Exotic Melee], Fray (more than usual), Kinesics, Hardware: Armorer, Medicine: Field Medicine, a relevant weapon or two (obligatory)

  • Ranged Combatant: COO Aptitude, [Beam Weapons|Demolitions|Kinetic Weapons|Gunnery|Seeker Weapons|Spray Weapons|Throwing Weapons], Fray (more than usual), Hardware: Armorer, Medicine: Field Medicine, a relevant weapon, mods, and ammo (obligatory)
Support roles (should probably be mixed with another role except for NPCs, and always good to have):
  • Medic / Doctor: COG Aptitude, Medicine: [Field], Academics: Anatomy, Hardware: Implants, Hardware: Robotics

  • Therapist / Psychosurgeon: COG and INT Aptitudes, Psychosurgery, Medicine: Psychiatry, Academics: Psychology, Profession: Psychotherapy

  • Professor / Artist / Art Critic (per general field): COG and INT Aptitudes, Academics: [Fields], Language: [Fields], Art: [Fields], Hardware: [Fields], Networking: Researchers

  • Investigator: INT Aptitude, Investigation, Research, Profession: Info Brokerage, Networking: Criminals, Language: [Fields]

  • Mechanic: COG Aptitude, Hardware: [Fields], Academics: Engineering, Academics: Chemistry, Demolitions

  • Pilot: REF and INT Aptitudes, Pilot: [Fields], Navigation, Gunnery (for anything with mounted weapons), Hardware: [Aerospace|Groundcraft|Nautical] (as appropriate)

On top of this, everyone absolutely needs Fray and Perception, in case you didn't come across the note to that effect in the core book. You are also going to want a Profession or other way of making money if there is a lull between campaign-related jobs - gotta keep the bills coming in somehow - and at least one Networking skill, probably one relevant to your background.

Since it's unlikely you'll have someone covering every spot individually, and you end up with a lot of points left over if you cover these, most characters end up pulling double duty in practice - occasionally triple. Also, only looking into these skills leaves some massive gaps - and zero redundancy can leave the party out of luck if something goes wrong with any one character or their morph, or if the party gets split up or something.

Again, though, characters in Eclipse Phase are "whole people" a lot more than some other games, and (in my experience) almost always end up having some unique twists to them or combinations of facets that combine for a unique feel. After all, how many of us can be reduced to a small handful of words?

On top of their basic competencies, a character should in general have a few interests and generally other things to flesh them out - but often, these only become obvious after you've gotten a feel for who they are, making the specifics occasionally hard to pin down until you've got a "voice" in mind for them.

You could also look to the aptitude templates offered in Transhuman: Brawler, Dilletante, Extrovert, Inquisitive, Researcher, Survivor, Techie, Thrill Seeker - but those are more like one-word reductions of core personalities, matched to aptitudes.

Hopefully this helps.

CordialUltimate2 CordialUltimate2's picture
I believe that OP question

I believe that OP question has been sufficiently answered. So I will only plug in a video tangential to the topic.
Issac Clarke on Consciousness and Identity:
https://youtu.be/DEyiugDVQ6o

I wholeheartedly recommend the channel. It informed many of my actions in EP, on both sides of the screen.

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Noble Pigeon Noble Pigeon's picture
Let me start off by saying

Let me start off by saying that I've had this exact same problem as both the OP and their friend. It's not really a question I"ve been able to definitively answer, but I've addressed it quite a bit in my version of the setting.

Reshy wrote:
Eh, that's less what I am asking. I'm not going into the "Teleporter Paradox" side of things, that's less what I'm talking about. I'm more talking about how would someone be brought up to even understand what the concept of personal identity is, in a setting where there's little to nothing to really base it off of. This is doubly important as a firewall agent, since you're expected to be changing bodies a lot, and you can never be sure you'll even get the same type of morph, much less one that actually resembles you in any respect.

For most of the inner system and for quite a few places in the outer system, I'd imagine that people are still going to look like people, act like people, and be raised with social norms that aren't hugely radical or alien as opposed to what we might understand it. One can argue otherwise but this is the *only* way I've gone about trying to introduce this setting to people new to the game. Its not dumbing things down, its making things more relatable to people from the 21st century.

Quote:
"If one's identity can so easily be discarded, what exactly incentivizes players to bother engaging in anything but pure utilitarianism? At which point, why bother role-playing at all? And if they can't provide a better answer than the hand wavium of "It's a deep philosophical question" or any other appeal to arbitrary reasoning, why should I even bother with this?

Bodies have the potential to be discarded, not just one's identity. It should be pointed out that the transhuman "average" in stats doesn't allow for very good odds when they resleeve. So people often don't swap bodies, either because they can't afford to, or simply don't want to and are okay with being in a splicer. For me anyway, I make space travel a bit less costly and more common than egocasting, so people usually prefer that in my setting. Egocasting is still a technology, but its not quite as widespread.

Quote:
Every single character exists in this state defacto in the universe of Eclipse Phase. If the answer to a direct question can only be "Find your own answer" then it's just as useless as not saying anything at all.

Fair enough, but characters are supposed to be at least a cut above the average person, and they're working with a system-wide conspiracy, so they should be expected to fling their egos around the solar system at any given point. Of course, nothing is stopping you from having them be in a Firewall server that only is based in a single area, like Mars, where resleeving might not be as big as it could be.

Quote:
It's the Ego manipulation and "Psychosurgery" that really seals it for me. If my persona, will, individuality, etc can be changed externally and deliberately, then who I am is utterly meaningless. There's no reason to develop relationships beyond utilitarian means. The struggle at that point is to retain the production facilities for Egos and morphs. Which while great for Phillip K. Dick stories, makes for unbelievably boring role play.

Utilitarianism. A purely utilitarian character has no use for personality or interaction beyond the purely mechanical. It's like a Vulcan, but 1000 times more bland. It's like role playing an Excel Spreadsheet."

First off, psychosurgery is most definitely not a widely accepted or accessible practice, at least not to the extent that you're putting it. Minor use of it is fine, or to help with psychotherapy, but radical editing is NOT looked upon favorably at all.

I think I can chalk this up a lot to how most of the fiction in the setting has been depicted. A lot of the viewpoints are from jaded Firewall agents who often have to act strictly utilitarian or Vulcan-like when they have to make constant calls that put countless lives at risk, and are part of a conspiracy that is trying to stop the exintction of the entire transhuman race. So you don't have a lot of room for people that act more like...well, people. Relatable people.

Another thing to add, is that in some of the fiction anyone, people do have their identity tied to a certain appearance, and not just in gender, but also in ethnicity and other factors. If you were, say, born as a woman born in an Indian culture, looked Indian, acted Indian, and was raised with Indian societal norms, then its safe to say that's going to act as a solid foundation for your identity later in life. Of course that's not set in stone, and those things can be as subtle or overt depending on the person, but you get what I mean, I hope. It wouldn't be extremely unreasonable to deduce that this person might prefer morphs that look as close to theirs as possible, IF they ever decide to swap out of their birth bodies. Not everyone's identity is as malleable as Firewall veterans or frequent body-hoppers I should emphasize that this behavior shouldn't JUST be associated with, say, Jovians or Lunars or even just "backwards" types.

The books say that Luna and Earth space is the only places in the solar system left where people still adhere to old Earth norms, but this makes no sense to me because people are regularly described as being "Chinese" or "European" in other parts of the solar system. Whether physically or culturally speaking. There's even mention of a "Canadian" survivalist group out in the fringe.

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ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
I Am What I Am.

I find it really helps to take a step back and look at Character in terms of Choices and Preferences ; instead of a Muscular Barbarian, the character is one who chooses to be a muscular barbarian. Perhaps they value strength or physical capability, or simply find it aesthetically pleasing.
Likewise with skills and blueprints; in a world of infinite possibilities these are the elements the character considers most interesting, useful or simply isn't willing to do without.

Practically speaking, I find it helps if players create their characters as though they were Infomorphs - if they're picturing the Character as a formless ball of light, disembodied spirit or an Emoji, then they're less likely to focus on specific morph types, physical features or gear in general.
Another trick for new players is to give them a random morph or give them all identical synths to help cement the idea that the body they're 'wearing' isn't a part of their identity.

Psychosurgery can be an issue, but it doesn't necessarily have a greater effect on personality than choosing to learn a skill or otherwise deliberately alter your personality the old fashioned way, even if more areas are open to manipulation than are usually expected.

Two useful quotes:

Deus Ex Helios Ending wrote:
JC Denton - "And if I do? What becomes of me?"
HELIOS - You will be who you will be. We are our choices.
Batman Begins wrote:
Batman - "Its not who I am Underneath, but what I do that defines me.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?