“There is a difference between one and another hour of life, in their authority and subsequent effect. Our faith comes in moments, our vice is habitual. Yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today was a good day. I felt that it would be good from the outset. I sat in the sun reading for a while, as is my habit of late, but for the first time in a while I felt something, sitting there in the warmth of the winter sun, something vital and freeing. I felt located in myself. I felt I was being led into reality, out of a cloud of thoughts, by the soft breeze, by the smells of grass and damp bark, by the cluster of glowing midges flitting about. The light- the true colour and texture of the world was seeping in. I felt that sense of presence that I am now so skilled at avoiding. And so I decided that I would try to prolong this feeling. Continue reading “Seeing”

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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Emergence and Chaos in Games

In my previous article “Systemic Information in Games”, I put forward the idea that the key feature of games is that they are systems and that they therefore provide opportunities for systemic learning. Systemic learning refers to the acquisition of information about a system, and the use of this information in creating mental models with predictive power, upon which we can base decisions. Our decisions within a game are simply predictions about which actions are most likely to lead to victory. This is true regardless of our level of certainty and the method we have used to arrive at that decision. All non-random systems are perfectly predictable in theory, but the properties of a given system will affect how predictable it is in practice and which kinds of methods are best suited to predicting it.

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Random Thoughts on Games

Our goal as players is to understand a game so well that it ceases to be fun or surprising. The goal of the game is to resist our thoughts in such a way that this does not happen, while also not being completely incomprehensible.

Surprise comes from that which we did not predict, the perfect player has no such lapses in predictive power. The player seeks ever more predictive power, he builds ever more nuanced models of the game in his mind and refines them through his experience.

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