Mass Effect - Bioware. The addition of Tony Abbott's face - Healthy Geek.

How the story of Mass Effect shows us that being a control freak goes against the laws of physics – and that Tony Abbott’s stance of refugees prove he is just a Reaper bent on destroying all intelligent organic life in the galaxy.

If you’ve never played Mass Effect, you’ve totally missed out on the best game/tv series/movie/story ever in the history of the universe. For a short review by those shiney folks at ABC’s Good Game, watch this clip and make sure you catch the performance of the Good Game Double 10 Dancers at the end.

The universe according to Mass Effect

A long time ago a super powerful organic giant-squid-like race of aliens called the Leviathans decided that organic and synthetic life would never get along. So quite strangely, they decided to create a synthetic super intelligent giant-squid-like-robot version of themselves called the Reapers to solve the problem of this perpetual conflict.

This was pretty much just asking for trouble since the Reapers decided that their final “solution” was to end the perpetual conflict by killing all intelligent organic life in the galaxy – including their Leviathan creators. Since organic life across the galaxy had a tendency to evolve periodically into intelligent races with spaceships and other cool things, the Reapers figured they also might as well just kill all intelligent organic life that popped up in the galaxy every 50,000 years or so. 

A few billions years of periodic galactic genocide later, and the Reapers have got pretty good at it. That’s until the events of the Mass Effect start and Commander Shepard (that’s your game character) comes along and generally starts being a pain in the metallic ass of Reapers everywhere. 

As Commander Shepard you spend the whole game travelling the galaxy in your fancy ship, building your own multi-species Scooby Gang to fight bad guys, engage in some diplomacy and political intrigue, help out some random strangers, go shopping for trinkets, get a pet and dance really badly at night clubs. Mass Effect has a lot of choices and interactions you can make so on the way you may, or may not, have a romance with someone who may or may not be of the same species/sex/race/book club, then some of your friends die, then you have a big party (or quiet dinner function) at a kick-arse apartment your boss loans you before running off to have ab epic grand finale battle of space opera proportions only to get the snot kicked out of you right at the end. 

The Reaper’s Choice (like Sophie’s Choice, but with less Meryl Streep and a lot of aliens with big shoot’n laser beam things).

Just when you are about to set off the doomsday device that will save the galaxy, an annoying little Reaper hologram kid that has been bugging you for months pops out and gives you four choices:

Option 1: Control

You can use the doomsday device to merge yourself with the Reapers and thereby take control of them and make them do what you want – presumably including saving everyone if you feel so inclined.

Option 2: Synthesis

You can use the doomsday device to merge all organic and synthetic life into one super species to form a superspecies in which everyone has glowing green eyes. There is no more conflict since everyone is really the same as everyone else.

Option 3: Refusal

You can just shoot at the hologram kid, then bleed to death so no one sets of the doomsday device. As a result, the Reapers kill everyone and the 50,000 year genocide cycle continues.

Option 4: Destroy

You go ahead with the original plan to use the doomsday device to kill all the Reapers, including a few of your robot friends and anything else computer-like for a bit till you get IT support in to fix it. The assumption is then that eventually things get more chaotic as alien species run around fighting each other without the Reapers coming in every 50,000 years or so to reset everything back to year zero.

Assuming Control Meme - The Internets

Assuming Control Meme – The Internets

Sneaky Reapers and the Illusion of Control

The Reapers are at least billion years old by the time Commander Shepard comes along and starts a rumble in the galactic Bronx. This means they have been observing organic species like humanity (and whooping ass) for a REALLY long time. They prove throughout Mass Effect to be rather good at manipulation, deception and can engage in remote brainwashing, which is called Indoctrination

Those Reapers aren’t going to play fair and they know all about human cognitive bias in terms of tricking Commander Shepard into doing what they want. There’s one known cognitive bias called the Illusion of Control in which the human mind has this tendency to overestimate our ability to control events and the environment around us, even without any evidence that we actually have any control over those events in the first place. 

The Reapers off you the option of “Control” because they know your cognitive bias will lead you to think that you actually can control them, and that being in control of them would be a good thing. In reality, pick this option and all you are really doing is agreeing to being indoctrinated by the Reapers, you become their pleb and they go on their merry way trashing the joint. 

The Reapers also give you the choice of “Synthesis” which all sounds nice and cooperative till you realise that all you are really doing is agreeing to help them use the doomsday device to Indoctrinate all intelligent organic species in the galaxy in one go. The end result is the Reapers still win since all you’ve done is turn everyone in the galaxy into a Reaper.

Then there is the “Refusal” option. Inaction is still a choice, though in this case it means you’ve spent the last few years trying to stop the Reapers only to be too half-assed right at the end to be bothered to go through with it. All you end up achieving is more of the same and the Reapers just keep on with their 50,000 year genocide and you’ve wasted everyone’s time.

The only real choice, and the one the Reapers definitely don’t want you to pick is the “destroy”. This is actually what you originally planned to do in the first place – destroy the Reapers. They might give you dire warnings about the chaos and uncertainty that will result from their destruction, but it’s all just a last desperate con job.

Uncertainty is ok. Control is the Unnatural State

Uncertainty is the default state of the universe. If you ask a physicist about the laws of the universe, they will tell you that entropy is the measure of disorder in a system. The second law of thermodynamics states that in general, the total entropy of a system will not decrease other than by increasing the entropy of some other system.

For example, if I introduce small children, pets, and/or red cordial into your house, you will see the amount of disorder increase over time. If I remove the small children, pets and/or red cordial from your house so you can clean up, all I’ve really done is move the horde elsewhere to be someone else’s problem. Since we are constantly created more small children, pets and red cordial, the amount of disorder is always increasing over time.

This means that in the quest for “control” the nature of the universe is working against you so you will always be disappointed. You might be able to reduce disorder in small pockets, but by doing so all you are doing is moving the disorder elsewhere and it will eventually come back to mess up your house again later. To avoid disappointment, you have to accept that the only thing you can control is yourself – the rest of the universe is just going to keep on doing whatever the hell it damn well likes and there is nothing you can do about it.

In any case, a universe without disorder would be like having this on repeat on every TV and YouTube channel for all eternity.

Operation Sovereign Borders

You might be wondering what this has to do with Tony Abbott and the issue of border control and refugees. The simple answer is that Tony Abbott and his kind are Reapers.

The first clue is his choice of Operation Sovereign Borders as his policy proposal name. In Mass Effect, Sovereign is the name of a Reaper – and a particularly sneaky one at that. So if you put a Reaper in charge of your national borders, their “solution” is going to be to kill us all.

Ultimately though, Tony Abbott and all politicians like him across the world are Reapers because they only offer us the same dodgy choices the Reapers do in Mass Effect – they don’t want to actually give us a choice, they just want to manipulate our cognitive bias so they get what they want.

Option 1: Control (“We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”)

This is not really a choice at all since complete control of a national border is impossible. National borders are imaginary lines drawn on a map, as a result, people, plants, animals, insects, air, pollution, water, radiation, thoughts, ideas, culture and Justin Beiber are all things which cross these imaginary lines on a map constantly whether we like it or not. National borders have never been in a state of control, so anyone trying to sell you the idea that you need to get them back in control is just trying to manipulate your cognitive bias into thinking that this is something that anyone actually has control over.

Choose this option, all you are doing is agreeing to be Indoctrinated by a Reaper into voting for it at the next election.

Option 2: Synthesis “One of us. One of us.”

This is not that different from the first option, only with an added layer of Reaper fiction and crazy talk. Not only is there this notion that they can “control” the borders and fight the fundamental nature of the universe by preventing anything from crossing an imaginary line, they also create a story that there is a “queue” of orderly people waiting to cross this imaginary line. We are led to believe that they are more deserving than those who aren’t in the “queue”. If you don’t join this queue, you are a “queue jumper” which is bad. It’s a bit hard to tell what kind of people in the “queue” are like since no one has ever seen this “queue”, nor does anyone know how to join it, nor do we ever see anyone come out of the “queue”, but according to the Reapers, people in this “queue” are people just like us, whereas people who aren’t in the queue are just people. 

Regardless, if you pick this option you still just end up being Indoctrinated into voting for a Reaper.

Option 3: Refuse “I don’t like politics so I just won’t vote” 

If you don’t vote, there are plenty of Indoctrinated people who fell for options 1 and 2 who will vote, the end result is the Reapers still win. Just like in Mass Effect, choosing this option means your whole life up to this point was a waste of time. People who don’t vote are the same people who show up to a party without drinks, eat all the food, make all the mess, are obnoxious to everyone then leave without cleaning up. And they all have warts in unfortunate places.

Option 4: Destroy “Don’t fear the Reaper – Destroy it!” 

In this case, shooting a gun off at a big red laser beam thing like in Mass Effect is not really going to be appropriate. Shooting a gun off in general is not going to be appropriate. The best way to destroy a Reaper-politician is to just vote for someone else. Starved of votes, Reapers just wither and die of loneliness unless they realise they are a bit of a wanker and need to work on being a human being.


So the lesson here is to stop worrying about refugees, border “control”, small children, pets and/or red cordial. People always have and always will move across this planet and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it other than be a bit more accepting of it and be less of a prick. No one likes that guy that hovers over everyone’s shoulder attempting to micromanage everything while also running around kicking old ladies, disabled people and puppies in the name of “saving them”. More importantly, do it for yourself – that guy that kicks puppies might be an ass to the rest of us, but inside he’s also a perpetually frustrated little man child who will be forever disappointed that reality and the universe as we know it does not allow him to have the sense of control he so craves.


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