October 2019


Over on my board, we’ve been amusing ourselves with this toy. You enter a short text, and an AI will then attempt to continue it.

You may remember my Markov generator. This is similar, but uses a neural network. The really impressive thing is the ability to keep on topic! I assume it’s using parts of a corpus, but it’s able to continue using words you suggested.

Here are some of my attempts; my starter text is in bold.

When the aliens came, no one was quite prepared to see what came out of their gleaming blue spacecraft: ersatz humanoids, but in real human form. With no sense of the Earth, they had no reason to attack New York City.

The aliens returned six weeks later with the first prototype: a new, streamlined model for the ship that still looked rather human, but now glowed blue. A group of young scientists in a nearby laboratory, now working in harmony with the machines, began work on a “computer” that could communicate with the craft’s computer.

The most important element of this “computer” was the ability to speak alien languages. The ship quickly became a popular meeting point among alien visitors. In fact, a number of countries soon decided to take over the job of managing this new alien visitor.

2

Although the existence of God cannot be proven, scientists now believe that there is evidence for the existence of godlings. Although scientists agree that there is life on other planets, they do not believe there is life on planet Earth.

As Godling, Adam is seen in biblical accounts as being a being that had great knowledge, wisdom, skill, and courage.

Adam was known to have given his brother the serpent a rod, which was so powerful the earth trembled under it. And God was also given a man whose name was Seth, whom Adam called his brother, and he became father of all the living creatures on earth. (Genesis 3:1-2)

3

I have a killer idea for a video game. You can play as anyone you like from history, and replay their life in their own culture. Let’s call it “Nostalgia: It’s the way we feel when we were kids, or our parents were.”

You’ll be the first to hear about my new game if you help me raise $1,000 to pay for all the artists, people, marketing, and travel to Montreal. I want to get it out there so that we can show how we can make a game with real people, from people who didn’t expect it to take off like this. This game is going to make a lot of people’s families cry. As you might have read in the last post, “All the art I use is original. All the art is original.” All the art is for sale – it doesn’t exist anywhere else. But a lot of people seem to be confused about where to look for it.

4

In the year 2510, the remains of human civilization are run by three corporations: Facebook, Google, and Walmart.

Walmart is a corporation founded by a former United States Marine named Sam Walton. In the year 2510, after the government’s attempt to shut down Walmart has fallen flat, Walmart decides to shut down Walmart. One of the key differences between Walmart and most other corporations is: The majority of the population can’t survive without Walmart’s products or services. It is also a company that can sell its products or services even in other countries at a lower price than its competitors.

After a number of years, a series of disasters leads to Walmart’s demise. This leads to the “Walmart Effect”: After Walmart’s demise, a whole chain of stores, restaurants, department stores, hardware stores, and grocery stores are created, with the name “Walmart”. A number of other Walmart franchises and subsidiaries become available, often to other companies that are in conflict with Walmart. These corporations provide products or services to the populace that are more in tune with their worldview.

 

From ZBB member alice:

When I told the ZBB about my new theory which combined syntax, pickles, and tea, she tried to give me the run down she had about the ZBB being a place for people to read about my theories. I went to the ZBB as a new visitor a few times and didn’t even leave a note so I think they might have figured that.

I think the main reason why I didn’t go back to the ZBB is because I liked the layout. I didn’t like the idea that the only way I was going to get to read about my theories was to buy a book, a tablet, and send them via airmail. I wanted to learn about the ideas I had come up with, not just go to a bookstore.

I also like going to other coffee shops, but coffee isn’t the only thing I like to drink!

Raphael found this one:

It was twenty years ago today. Sergeant Pepper told the band to play. The band played, until they couldn’t anymore. It was the longest, most embarrassing performance at a music festival in history. They didn’t even start it, they just ended it.

In the twenty-three years since that day, Pepper has had to wear many uniforms, in many different countries. He has had to do a lot of traveling – to Europe, the Middle East, South Africa. He has had to make many compromises, to keep everything intact. For the past twenty-three years he has lived alone – in a large, modern brick apartment at the top of the same building (he could never bring himself to live alone). His apartment was as clean as a church’s. It was the sort of apartment you might take with you in a warzone, if you had to. He had gotten so involved in this band (he has since moved onto another project), that he had become a bit overwhelmed by the idea of not sharing it with a partner. He hated to share it with a partner, especially since he didn’t sleep very well.

And from Pabappa. Note that the AI continues to use the supplied name Repilia, but ‘decides’ that it’s not a country but a woman.

“Our war against Repilia must come to an end. Repilia will rule our homeland; our men will be disarmed. There shall be no future wars within our territory, as our battles were fought in disobedience of Gahanaya.” When the women in the assembly heard this, they began to worry about the soldiers camped out to the north of the temple. “My, that wasn’t bad. I would have thought they’d have been happy to see our leader come back. But what about the soldiers south of the temple? It seems Repilia may need them.” “My lord, the northern forces were not under our commands. They are my soldiers, and I am not going to give them arms. That may be a little harsh, but I hope it’ll appease the women at the assembly. After all, Repilia is not the same woman she looked like just the two of us.” “If that’s the case, then the army must fall. The army that led us to Repilia is all that’s left in northern territory.”

Trump is regularly appalling, dangerous, and petty. There’s the whole impeachment thing going on, which is by turns corrupt and comic. It’s bad enough that Trump is trying to shake down Ukraine in hopes of providing some dirt on a political opponent; it’s sad  how foreign officials have learned to buy access by staying at his hotels; it’s baffling that a huge part of this mess is an asinine conspiracy theory: Trump seems to believe that CrowdStrike, an American security company used by the DNC, is Ukrainian.  (One of its founders was born in Russia… you’d think that’d be a point in his favor for the Putin-loving Trump.)

But, well, that’s merely completely corrupt, and so it’s no big surprise. What’s absolutely infuriating is Trump’s betrayal of the Syrian Kurds.

If anyone doesn’t know… these are our allies, the people who did most of the fighting against ISIS, losing 10,000 of their own fighters, and safeguarding nearly 100,000 ISIS combattants and family members. Trump abandoned them to a Turkish invasion, which the White House fucking celebrated:

Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area.

Before anything else, this is sick.  Trump’s disgusting comments about the Kurds only twist the knife he pushed into their back. Who on this planet can ever trust Trump again?  Oh wait, there is a way to buy his respect: let him build a goddamn hotel in your country, as Turkey has.

Beyond that, it’s the action of an idiot. The action does nothing for the US, and plenty of things against us:

  • It plays into Russia’s hands, as they’re left to do as they like in Syria.
  • It plays into Assad’s hands, as the Kurds rushed to make a deal with him. With one less enemy, Assad can further reduce the remaining resistance to his rule.
  • It encourages Turkey to use the Syrian crisis to kill Kurds, and of course to enmesh itself more in Syrian affairs.
  • It adds to the number of Syrian refugees that have already stressed out Europe (and Turkey).
  • It has already freed a bunch of ISIS prisoners and may well free more, as the Kurds shift from guarding prisoners to trying to stay alive.
  • It’s shown the world that allying with the US is a quick path to betrayal and death.

Against all this Trump apparently saw one benefit: he could get a few hundred troops out of Syria. Only to immediately send a greater number, 1800 troops, to Saudi Arabia.

That’s what you get when you put a narcissistic toddler in charge of foreign policy.

Republicans try not to remember this, but perhaps this week will give them a reason to learn: they could end this, all on their own, in 24 hours.  And it doesn’t even require asking the Democrats for help or giving them any more power than they have. The Constitution has a way to get rid of an insane idiot as president: the 25th amendment.

 

It looks like Untitled Goose Game is a big hit.  It’s well deserved.  Being a horrible goose in a lovely English town turns out to be a universal aspiration.

goose

I bought it on Epic, because it’s not on Steam, and I can’t wait a year for Goose. Epic’s exclusivity deals are annoying, but the Epic store is pretty painless. You can set preferences so Epic doesn’t load on startup; remember also to exit it once you’re done goosing around.

By now you’ve probably heard what the game involves: pattering around town doing mild mischief.  You get the gardener wet, you honk at the boy who’s scared of geese, you shut the shopkeeper in her own garage, you ring a big bell in one yard to annoy the man next door. You have dedicated keys to honk and to flap your wings.

The controls are a little wonky, but I suspect that’s intentional.  You move by clicking a destination– you can also keep moving the mouse and the goose will follow. Double-click to move fast… I had trouble sometimes getting this to happen when I needed it, but I got better over time.

Some tasks are tedious to complete. One that defeated me was “do the washing”: steal laundry from the woman with the bell, and carry it and a bar of soap to the pond next door. You have to sneak items one at a time past the neighbor man, and the last bit of the trek is quite hard. And if he finds your cache in the pond, he will steal every item back from you. It’s fun for awhile, and then not quite so fun.  Fortunately, you don’t need to complete every area, so if one task is eluding you, you can skip it.

It’s not long: it took me about 7 hours, and that includes some of the extra tasks you can do once you’ve finished the game. I’m not sure how replayable it is, but I can see coming back to it now and then. The best comparison here is with Portal: there’s just enough game that you want more when it’s done, not enough that it ever drags or feels padded.

Most reviews find it charming, and it is.  It looks great, and the animations are inspired. The goose and the villagers are perfect. As you are a force of chaos, the villagers are totally dedicated to order. They will carefully seek out every item you’ve moved and put it back in place; you can use this behavior to your advantage.  Most of them will grab items back if you’re right next to them; a few will defend their little turf aggressively. They have short memories and love to go back to their routines, pretending that the little waddling force of chaos was never there.

The interaction when they’re grabbing something or pushing you away is amusing– the goose will flap its wings but then just stand there, insouciant as a cat.  Once you’re out of their space, they glare at you or shake their heads.

It’s curious to spend a whole game as, more or less, the villain.  But it’s the mildest form of villainy. No one can be hurt; only one item is permanently broken.

Impressively, the developers have implemented everything with physics and the villagers’ routines. So behavior is emergent, and often there are multiple ways to solve a problem. It must have been hell to test. Plus, there are extra behaviors that don’t have anything to do with the stated goals. E.g. your honk sounds different if you’re carrying something. You can have fun with the walkie-talkies though you don’t need  to. You will almost certainly ring the bell way more than you have to.

goose2

Something many people have noticed: the credits include a notice reading

This game was made on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.

This turns out to be an Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners— something the government of Victoria actually encourages. The Wurundjeri lands are the northern part of Melbourne. Their language is Woiwurring, in case you want to find it my numbers list. It’s part of the Kulinic subfamily within Pama-Nyungan.

It’s curious that the Australian government encourages and sometimes even requires such acknowledgements (minus the “never ceded” part). It seems like a nice gesture, though probably that’s all it is– Australia is not noted for its progressive politics toward First Nations, and unlike the US there is no form of Native sovereignty at all, and no treaties were ever signed.  (If I’m not mistaken, this here was Potawatomi land, at least as of 1812.)