Speeds not naturally found very often this side of celestial interaction

30 September 2010

I don’t think we’ll ever notice the age of cyborgs, because we do these things one at a time. We roll them out in small ways, and increment them across society. We quietly piece together a know-everything machine, make its connections invisible, then put it in a small box we built as a talk-to-anyone-machine, and carry it around with us. (The first and ultimate prosthetic of the species being community, and so our most powerful magics will always be incantations to one another.) We hand out drugs to everyone that make them more ready for capitalism as a warm, tasty beverage. While we talk about powersuits and armies of robots, we get into metal boxes next to explosion chambers and extend our proprioception to their edges. We do this so that we can then hurtle down ribbons of death we’ve built all around the landscape at speeds not naturally found very often this side of celestial interaction. We call this commuting and consider it one of the most boring things humans do.

Matt is right. Quinn’s contribution to 50cyborgs is wonderful; thoughtful and provocative and brimful of good stuff. You should go read it right away.

  • "Both within the academy and within tech startups, we’ve been hearing some similar questions lately: Where can I find a good data scientist? What do I need to learn to become a data scientist? Or more succinctly: What is data science?" Great starting point; looking forward to more from the blog.
  • "When someone with a bad case fails to finish a book, they don’t start a new one; they go into a holding pattern, crippled by guilt over their failure and unable to let go and start over. All reading stops. People have confessed to me that it’s been months since they last picked up a book, because they still haven’t finished the last one." Yup. We really don't have to finish this book, sometimes.
  • "By enabling the brain to manipulate with virtual systems, to engage with simulation, it creates systems than span the mental and the virtual, the biological and the electrical. Also, even more significantly to my point, our imagination is not a description as a book is a textual description, or a film is a visual description. It is, instead, a model." This is good, and the links are great, too.
  • "Reach, on the other hand, without its player, is an epic waiting to happen, a set of ludics waiting to be given enactment. More than any other comparison I could make, I think this one points out the value of thinking about games like Reach in the light of epics like the Iliad: these two kinds of practomime share the enormously important characteristic of living through re-performance, of gaining their meaning through iteration according to the rules laid down by the practomime." This is good: game as structure, the core loop as enacted by the player being what brings it to life, structures it according to its audience.

Something on my mind grapes

26 September 2010

Silly 30-minute weekend project: this led to this. It usually raises a smile, but every now and then (as above) it’s solid gold.

(Also, I found a neat pattern for decoupling all the OAuth keys so that it’s much easier to distribute/opensource the sourecode, which I’ll probably do at some point).

  • "Far Cry 2 invites fatalism, pessimism, and near-suicidal tactics because optimism and strategy went on holiday to Leboa-Sako and got murdered just like everything else. Hoping for the best doesn’t work. Being clever doesn’t work. Nothing good will ever happen to you in Far Cry 2′s Africa, and none of your carefully-designed plans will ever bear fruit."
  • "The optical future of architectural ornament: light with content. <br />
    <br />
    That is, you get home with your digital camera and you click back through to see what you've photographed—and there are words, shapes, and objects hovering there in the street, or inside the buildings you once stood within, visual data only revealed through long-exposures." Brilliant.
  • "After seeing there is a turing complete language in game, I felt like I should do something interesting with redstone in Minecraft. People already have done clocks and adders so I wanted to do something a little different while also be potentially useful. As a result, I designed out a ticker display." At least as crazy as those LittleBigPlanet calculators.
  • "Nelson, as described by IDEO in the video above, does so much work for you. It throws multiple perspectives into the equation, killing the unreliable narrator with the gifts of foresight and hindsight. It does away with the unexplainable appeal of a surprising hit novel giving you a league table of books to pick from according to their “impact on popular opinion and debate.” You’ll struggle to form your own opinion as you jump through the layers that Nelson offers you, given a perspective like a student browbeaten by an overbearing A-Level tutor." I similarly disliked their attempts to not only redesign the book, but to try to redesign narrative, in "Alice" – as if people hadn't tried, and as if what narrative _really_ needed was just a good design firm to take a crack at it.
  • "More important: the game, Sand-dancer, is a good game. It is not the sort of example that exists to have one of everything in the manual. It is the sort of game that exists to make IF better. Aaron puts it together on your workbench. You can see the parts going in, and I don't mean rules and action constructs now; I mean character, background, voice, theme, and narrative drive. He explains what he's doing, and what each game element is for. He talks about story structure and shape of interactivity. He discusses what you have to do to get the player involved and what you have to do to put the player in control." This sounds great. Add-to-cart.
  • "I want all the young present-tense storytellers (the old ones have won prizes and are incorrigible) to allow themselves to stand back and show me a wider temporal perspective. I want them to feel able to say what happened, what usually happened, what sometimes happened, what had happened before something else happened, what might happen later, what actually did happen later, and so on: to use the full range of English tenses." There's lots in here. I think it might be good; it is definitely interesting, and worth returning to.
  • "In this programme we hear from colleagues, friends and former students as well as the great man himself about the beauty of nature and the importance of science to our understanding of the world." A lovely Archive Hour on Radio 4, on Richard Feynman; only available for a few more days, so grab it whilst you can. Delightful, and nicely structured.

Links & notes for this month