Complexity and Noise in Games

Puzzles have solutions, games have strategies. A solution is a complete sequence of moves or actions that leads to victory. A strategy is a general plan, in which the exact actions or moves may vary. This shows a property of games – they are not predictable in practice, or at least, they should not be. They may or may not be predictable in principle – rolling a dice or drawing a card from a shuffled deck produces outcomes that are, both in principle and in practice, unpredictable. Other players are also, in principle, unpredictable. Many digital games make use of random number generators that are really no different from dice rolls, and these too, are in principle unpredictable.

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Homo Economicus

It is currently trendy to blame the ills of the modern world on capitalism, as if that neatly explains everything. Capitalism does, of course, steer the behaviour of people to some extent, but it seems odd to me to only examine the incentive structure while ignoring the characteristics of the creature that is driven by those incentives.

Homo economicus is a term that has been used to denote a perfectly rational, self-interested economic actor. It is typically used in criticism of economic reasoning that is thought to be overly simplistic. I, however, use the term to describe that part of humanity, ascendant in our current age, that is driven by economic concerns. Here I will give some thoughts on this creature.

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The Kaehi Keyboard Layout

For a few months now I have been working on a new keyboard layout, and it’s finally complete! I got sucked into the layout wormhole after I started learning Colemak and just wasn’t finding it comfortable. To find this layout I created a scoring system that favoured movements I found to be comfortable, and used randomisation and a simple genetic algorithm to find high scoring layouts. There was also a long period of trialing and tweaking to get it just right.

The qualities I considered important are – low single finger bigrams (of course), a high inwards roll : outwards roll ratio (I don’t like outwards rolls that much), avoiding particularly bad rolls like pinky -> middle finger while keeping particularly good rolls such as adjacent finger rolls and pinky -> index finger rolls. Low travel distance was favoured, but not too highly – it’s trivial to beat qwerty by almost 50% on this metric, but it’s not worth a lot of attention due to diminishing returns.

Here is the layout, inventively named Kaehi –


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Games and Drama

In my article “Emergence and Chaos in Games”, I suggested that emergence is not recognised by the universe, only by humans. I stand by that assertion, but I would like to add an interesting footnote. As stated, that assertion implies that there is nothing which is irreducible, aside from the fundamental laws that govern the universe. Again, from the perspective of the universe itself, this is true. From the perspective of a human, however, there may be things which are irreducible. Take a concept like beauty, for example. We can break it down and look at its constituents, but it only functions in its entirety, because of its level of complexity and our own level of complexity. No single part of a beautiful object possesses the beauty of the whole, and we recognise and appreciate the wholeness of things.

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Some Notes on the Experience of Pain

Some months back I had a stomach upset of some description, accompanied by an uncommon amount of pain. I wrote a little about it then, but was not sure if I should post it here. I have decided that I should, if only to try to overcome some niggling insecurities about revealing my own thoughts and personal experiences.

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Symbols, Art and Reality

Symbols are vessels of meaning. Nature produces some few intentional symbols – like flowers that attract bees with certain colours or shapes, or the vivid cautionary hues of poisonous frogs. But only humans can learn and create symbols arbitrarily, and in fact need to do so. Mankind produces and utilises a volume of symbols that vastly exceeds that of nature.

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The Moral Dimension of Art

A little while¬†ago I read Tolstoy’s essay “What is Art?”, and found it quite compelling. I had read a few reviews beforehand, which were critical of the religious element, and this lowered my expectations somewhat. However, upon reading it, I found that Tolstoy’s conception of religion is very different to most, and is compatible with a materialist and determinist worldview. It seems to me that perhaps the real reason some people did not respond positively to this essay was its uncompromising moral consistency, which could perhaps be mistaken for religious zealotry.

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