All posts made the week commencing Sunday 13 Jan., 2002:

Some thoughts about games | We've had in the past single player games, multi-player games where you can effect your environment (MUDs), multi-player limited-interaction games (like Quake), and all kinds of game. What would be better if these could be linked together, a fractal game, so the opengame could be played on all the different levels.

There could be a shared map, that's no problem, which means we could have a common universe on a single scale. But to share scales..

If we had a common taxonomy of objects in the universe. Maybe this wouldn't be too hard, since internally we do seem to have limits of complexity between abstraction layers, and so humanity as a whole will have imposed layers on society rather than having a continuum of levels to play on (I talk about abstraction layers my concept-easy language notes). So we have an object hierarchy of playable units in the universe, or maybe several hierarchies designed by different people, different opengames.

As a quick example, a unit could be a city, and many cities could compose a country. A city is composed of units too, people and houses and businesses and all the rest.

For each unit an archetype has to be declared which would have: a number of properties, or attributes (like, wealth; happiness). It would have logical outlets, which is how it affects the layer above; and inlets where it can draw on levels below for its behaviour. And it has defaults. So you hook together all your archetypes.

A game slots in at any unit level and exports properties to the levels around it.

Now you can play your game at any level. Imagine playing Civilisation 2, and you snap down to a level like The Sims where you hunt around until you find a person who could potentially be a genius. You help them out, make sure they're on the correct career track, at which point your SimCity level game, if it has the right levels of industry to foster this intelligence, makes use of a chaos-theory outlet (small changes, big effects), or an emergent-property outlet, and suddenly your Civilisation 2 city invents pyramids, or weapons, and you win the game.

Or perhaps instead you have a distributed artificial life program running on your computer feeding off the spare processor cycles. The food supply and demand are exported by the game as market properties, and on another level your computer would exist as a planet in an interstellar trading game like Elite.

And it gets better. Imagine having an archetype for individual people. People, citizens, could play their game if they wanted to through digital tele say. The win state for this game would be the same as real life -- happiness, money, reproduction. There are various properties exported to the next level up, and so on, and so on, until we get to national government where the win state for the game is declared to be to maximise the number of wins at the citizen level. We might find that banning handguns, say, would achieve win state at government level even though nobody at the individual level would demand it.

[Alarmingly, I was also thinking about games, one year ago today. Loops within loops.]

This is a really clever idea: Link Feedback tracks people linking to you and delivers a list of those people back to you, using only a invisible gif and a little javascript. The two portions -- one, collecting info on a central server where the application runs; two, delivering information to each visitor with javascript -- have been around for a while, but this is the first time I've seen them in use together, and in such a good way too. I wonder what else could be gathering and provided on a per-visitor basis? And since the server is central, is there an application which utilises this as an advantage, to distribute information too? Hm.

2002 Symposium: Mars on Earth: Life on Mars is on in Milton Keynes tomorrow. I'm going along.

How to use Samba and Mac OS X. Handy.

The music of Wild Palms. Great series, great music. If only they'd release it on dvd.

How about this: Small cars that run on tracks around a city, automatically routing themselves direct to your destination. It's happening with ULTra, and it's being built in Cardiff. That's very cool.

I wrote at Upsideclown about this kind of thing a while back: Gifts, contracts, and whispers. And a post in my weblog too, about packet-switching transportation, based on the fact that we know loads about routing from the internet so why not apply that knowledge elsewhere?

"Most viable theories of memory require some form of synaptic modification dependent on the correlation of pre-and postsynaptic neuronal firing (which we will denote as the Hebb Hypothesis)".

Or to put it another way, storing a memory has a physical effect in your brain. Or, as I saw this morning on the tube when I read about the Hebb Hypothesis (however briefly), anything that I experience, mentally, anything I think is represented by, is caused by, is immediately preceded by, is actually a physical occurrence in my head. The structure of my brain, the synapses. Connections, holistic structure, all there, a self-organising machine. And then I realised [cogs turning, the machine reconfiguring itself], as I stared at the sign stickered to the window: What I see I'm absorbing into my life. It isn't just the photons hitting my eyes, my very act of me considering the object, of recognising those photos, of having this thought, of of seeing the sign (although I don't even remember what it said) -- that in itself is physical activity in my brain! This thought made flesh!

I froze and stared at the floor, aware as never before that experiences - immediate comprehensive experiences - have to be internalised, have to be made physical if I am to think them. An experience is indistinguishable from the physical structure of my brain. The two are the same! What I am is the structure, there is no other!

And that's why I froze, considering that thought. Aware that that thought was actually a tumult of ripples and switches, writing reality, sat stock still trying not to internalise but to consider the physical apparition of the consideration, like staring into a mirror if I myself was a mirror, reflection of infinite extent, tumbling. Dizzy. I felt nauseous.

Nauseous, and trapped. My brain as a machine, constantly altering its own structure, complicating itself, evolving in real time, but it's not that my thoughts are reflected in physical changes, it's that I am that physical representation, there is no other. I'm not writing out to disk. I'm not running a program on top of this machine. I am the machine. I am the reality of my brain. What is this feeling?

Outside the feeling of claustrophobia hadn't lifted. I looked up at the blue sky and the buildings and understood what I was seeing what the physical alteration in my machine. Suddenly everything reversed, my brain turned inside-out and instead of clouds and windows I saw the patterns of my brain -- an inverted sphere, the whole universe of my perception as solid brain, and a hole inside, a gap in this solid the exact shape of my old brain, vacant, and me, reflected by the universe inside it, a hologram.

The complexity shocks me. Look at evolution, the growth of complexity from the universe, the emergence of life. We understand a little physics, but look at life. And look at how complicated the brain is!

My brain is an ecosystem, it must be. Nature has used every level of complexity in the crafting of the brain. The only way to increase efficiency for the same energy is to increase complexity, and so the structure of the brain is fractal. It's not built on top of reality, like computer chips, operating in some knowable limit, it is reality, it inherits reality, it can use all the complexity of reality for free.

So why shouldn't it use life? And doesn't life occur wherever it can? And doesn't life occurring in a niche alter that niche fundamentally? And doesn't nature, to optimise to the maximum, make use of whatever is in that niche, to increase complexity?

There are other lives in my brain, operating on some emergent level I can't even consider, and they interact and think and comprehend much as I do living in the patterns of my mind. And they're part of me, and ecosystem whose sum total is my behaviour, my thoughts. A cascade of social change; I see your face. A population crash; I die.

Two things. First, on the way to the tube station this morning I saw a lorry, and finger-written in the grime on the back was "I wish my girl was this dirty".

Second, I'm currently listening to All Together Now by The Farm.

God, I can feel my hands, I can feel my face. I can feel the universe reflected inside my, distorted and rendered, and it fills me. I'm full of life. I'm churning, altering, rippling, expanding, folding, twisting, inverting, bursting with life. I am the totality of reality, I cover all. The universe is inside me, bursting with potential.

Take a breath. Hold it. Feel it. And feel that feeling.

Oh my. Oh my, oh my. The Transformers Adult Fanfiction Archive. More than meets the eye, indeed.

Oh, wow, Legobot Headquarters tells you how to make honest-to-goodness transforming robots out of Lego. Including (and this is the bloody good bit): Optimus Prime, who actually changes between a lorry and a 'bot. My favourite bit: "Also, I would have made his feet completely blue just like the original but I didn't have enough blue pieces". I bet the Decepticons nicked 'em.

One of the really strange things about the www is the way I can comment about a product (in this case, Creo's Six Degrees), and a few days later they respond to my comments in their weblog. Maybe we're going through a period where the hierarchy of supplied and consumer is a lot flatter than it has been. Although I'm still not sure what they're saying -- Sherlock (Apple's Mac OS search engine) isn't part of the filesystem, and nor will Six Degrees be. Until there are alternative ways of accessing documents on the folder level we're still stuck in a clunky metaphor.

This is good, governmental transparency or something: Live Webcasting of Parliament (UK) on the www. Shame it's so utterly boring and not very well indexed, but it's good to know I can pop my head in every so often.

There's a brilliant fresh Upsideclown today, from Dan: Civil Engineering. Wonderful stuff.

The 1971 Sears Catalog, from the years before time began when fire-breathing lizards in ugly pastel bell-bottoms still roamed the Earth [via Fark].

New skin! This weblog has been redesigned. Not that you'd notice, because it's not the default skin yet. I'd like it to be, but I wouldn't mind a little feedback before it goes completely live. If you don't mind, could you look at this same page with the camera skin, and let me know if you find any bugs? Thanks.