"All right action flows from the breath"
- Hajakujo

Recent comments

Friday, July 10, 2009

Haha, eternal life! (but no cake)

Now, apparently we can quite safely say that caloric restriction will extend health benefits to the point of extending life expectancy (note all this does not guarantee a longer life, since age-agnostic diseases can still get ya).

All you have to do is eat less cake! A 20 year study on rhesus monkeys should be quite reliably predictive for hominids, although the effects seem to decrease the larger the mammal (rodents saw up to 80% lifespan increases).

It raises quite a question though - what do we prioritise? Most people quite enjoy food, and most people would quite like to live longer. So what a great joke that our own appetites are our greatest threat. Of course, certain ascetic god-fearing outlooks have made a virtue of denying the flesh in order to preserve the quality of the soul. And if one has a 'greater purpose' than having a good time, then it would be only logical to preserve the capacity to act by denying certain base pleasures and thereby deny debilitating ill health.

But these are all compromises of the basic question, and do not touch it fundamentally. So what do we want to do? Live longer, or live fuller?

Monday, July 06, 2009


Hehehe, that's me (with a varying rate of timelag, anywhere from 3 to 20 years is my backlog time for games, but new releases? never).

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Hey blog still cool! you read later, LATER!"

In the spirit of open and inclusive discussion, I'm going to post some links and some quick thoughts and just try to open up a subject area for random contributions and waffling.

Anti-aging research has come a long way, but in direct contravention of science fiction, we're still not handing out 'juvenat treatments' like sweetmeats. Are we coming close to the elixir of life? Or are we chasing a receding goal like some fever dream?
Aubrey de Grey seems to think that the solution lies in reorienting the approach to the middle ground between geriatrics and gerontology...
The approaches that are available are promising: resveratrol can dramatically increase the lifespan of nematode worms, caloric restriction can't be very much fun but it is proven to increase lifespan for larger animals (rats and mice by 40%). Genetics and proteomics are trickier for me to unravel, but I am assured that the answers there are coming...
If that's not enough to prompt some commotion, what about the fact that we seem to be built for immortality, but have natural selected against it? What are we to take from the fact that sex-cells are functionally immortal, but we are not? Is this a direct confirmation of the selfish gene theory?

And then there's the ethics of anti-ageing research. Personally, I feel like arguing that longevity may actually be the answer to our problems, especially if we are of the optimistic viewpoint that ordinary people are still in control of their own destiny, and the goodness of man should prevail.

For instance, despite the accelerating increase in the speed of effective action, policy planning lifespans for everything from fishery to war is outstripping the political lifetimes of those who make the highest level decisions, and thus carry the can. If we assume a consequent/correlative 'drawing out' of the length of time we spend doing things, including our careers, then our lives may also begin to catch up on the timescales that politicians need to be responsible for. That's not to say that all the other problems with global capitalism will go away. But then again, why not? If the people who refuse to account for the full cost of their decisions suddenly realise that they're going to have to face consequences inherent in the raped system that they currently think they're 'leaving to the next generation', might they not think twice?

So lets get back to the waffles...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Notes on Noah Falstein's talk

Some indeterminable time ago, Noah Falstein spoke on serious games at a silicon valley IGDA chapter event, and I stumbled across the posting the other day. Given that in all likelihood I will soon be designing my own serious game, for a pretty serious purpose, I watched the whole 80 minutes and even took notes.

  • All carrot no stick. Never 'force' player to do something.
  • Allow player to get thru game without learning anything, but make it so they do better the better they learn.
  • Gold with jewel - perfect score, gold still available for non-perfect score.
  • Voice over is cheap and informative!
  • Can't fail - prevents you from moving forward until you complete...but random answers can get you through. Still, they aren't much fun - no bonuses, lower score, etc.
  • 'Serious game': it Can be just a curriculum with quiz-show type interface. No need to make the next Mario...
  • Mini-games give variety, look to traditional formats : crossword puzzle.
  • Make abstract things concrete - see speech icons in mata hari; treat physical and non-phys actions the same but add info to distinguish. Today I die = concrete out of abstract poetry.
  • Start designing in middle of game, not start - not that shud start at level 10, but shud save the work of the intro for halfway thru dev time, when more practice = better work. First thing people see shud have benefit of some experience.
  • More money = less innovation.
  • Ron Gilbert - puzzle dependency diagram: think in terms of players tasks, start at end and work back.
  • multi-player in Cisco: in classes makes sense, outside not. Same here: only multi in pilot?

It's a curious thing. I'm not a game designer, never studied for it, never had designs (pun intended) on doing it, and when I undertake this task I feel I'll just be doodling in the margins of the theses of great men. On the other hand, that serious purpose I mentioned above includes the pressure of succesful completion of a whole EU project...kind of indicates that I do whatever I have to do to get it right.
All the time, in my head I'm singing the immortal words of Joe Strummer: "shoud I stay or should I go?"

Thursday, June 11, 2009


In the spirit of my new job, & new project to save the world, I'm playing new games. Research. It's all about the hard slog :)
Eco-games, so far, are all basically managers along the lines of SimCity, some at higher levels of detail, some lower. There's a fundamental failure of imagination when serious game devs keep approaching the eco-game with a concept for Manager-types, when management of the large-scale environment is impossible for almost everyone likely to play such games. Maybe a political advocacy game, or an FPS where the enemy is methane belching cows.

Anyway, the last two I played where old-school, but nicely done and a good laugh for my managerial tendencies.

This is like the LHC took a spreadsheet and fired it at a bitmap.

This is like Duplo blocks (Lego for under 5's). You'd almost be fooled into thinking you can actually build something.

A National Geographic game, but with no humping animals

Sunday, June 07, 2009

iWeb 2.0

++Transmission begins++

For a while now it has seemed to me that the web has reached a plateau, that something more significant is possible and needed, than the endless parade of social networks and disassociated widgets and utilities. What I’m talking about is a purpose, a reason to be there, something that means that 55 profiles and accounts on different services and websites all jointly represent you. Not because it is necessary to link it all, but simply because the opportunity presents itself to achieve something by doing so.

Integration is coming, of course. Open ID sees almost all the major internet content providers getting into bed to supply a single way to log on to their respective services. A small step qualitatively, but significant with those backers.

Yet this is not the true nature of what I’m getting at, which is that the online presence must in some way come to represent who you really are – an avatar of yourself in the digital empyrean. It starts with the same motivation as Open ID – one can only remember so much personal info before a bootstrap optimisation is necessary. Then beyond that there comes a point when you can’t really remember every way in which you have represented yourself online over the years, and control over both access to, and knowledge of, your online presence is desired. Remember, aside from organisational entropy, nothing on the internet ever goes away.

Finally, (perhaps only finally in my limited vision), there is control of where you want to go, and what you want to know. The internet is a big place, and it would be nice to be able to link your online representation to the spotlight of your directed attention every time you log on, the better to swim in waters that are relevant and/or hospitable.

Perhaps it is my feeling of disenfranchisement as a citizen that prompts these thoughts, for the power of voting seems to be to have been annulled by the hydra of capitalistic democracy and consequent lack real choice between candidates. That is a whole other topic, but certainly I feel far more likely to have my voice heard by somebody online, than I do on a ballot.

So the representation I speak of is both a new and age-old concept. The phrase ‘citizen of the net’ has been bandied about for years, but it’s far from a reality and the infrastructure would be need to be evolved dramatically. To start with, and to return to where I started, is the melding of all those piecemeal representations that we call our profiles – and then comes real self-knowledge, and real control, as all the pieces of our online selves cohere in our own vision.

At the logical conclusion of this way of thinking, lies the representation of the impact your life has on the finite world in which you live. If we are no longer able to count the economic cost of environmental impact or natural resource consumption as zero, then any true representation of ourselves in any media must carry that caveat: ‘What I am as a social being, is accompanied by this tally of my impact on the world’.

And the value of that, is that with self-knowledge comes self-control. But this again, is another topic.

++Transmission ends++

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

My Brain on Games

My BrainHex Class is Socialiser-Mastermind!

Survey taken under beta for the good folks at iHobo, see their website for details.


Your BrainHex Class is Socialiser-Mastermind.

You like hanging around with people you trust and helping people as well as solving puzzles and devising strategies.

According to your results, there are few play experiences that you strongly dislike.

Learn more about your classes and exceptions at BrainHex.com.

Your scores for each of the classes in this test were as follows:

Go to BrainHex.com to learn more about this player model, and the neurobiological research behind it.

Feel free to take a copy of your BrainHex icon and display it anywhere
you wish! Simply right click and choose "save as". All we ask is you
provide a link to BrainHex.com anywhere you use our images.

Thanks for taking part in the BrainHex survey!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Das Dual Boot

Ubuntu is so sweet :)
The idea that a thousand nerds at a thousands Sun workstations could produce an OS that plays nice in a dual boot with a shared data partition, with Windows friggin XP...beggars belief. Yet they have. And it only continues to get better.
As long as nothing ever goes wrong...ugh, terminal :(

Back in the saddle

So having given the old site a facelift, and blown a tiny fanfare, I find myself in the embarrassing position of having even less time to write than before. I've put up nothing but unintended publishings of old draft material and that has to change - but I'm a bit blocked. Thus, I'm going to give a bulletin update of news and hope to get my regular posting back on track within the month.
  • There is one PhD thesis in the bag, and one viva defence still to come. That was a long haul, but never got out of hand, I think. It becomes more like a job of work than a Bachelor or Masters degree, since its sooo long and sooo precise that you can't really just throw manic energy at it and expect to get anywhere. Then, there's still the viva, and I haven't even thought about what that entails. More research required!
  • Job secured. Uh oh, I'm going back to the World of Work! A mystical place where work disappears into a gaping void of 'what exactly have we achieved?', and money appears out of the great blue yonder of 'whyyyy?' I'm going to be working on a couple of EU projects as a post-doc researcher, with the Centre for Knowledge and Innovation Research, Helsinki School of Economics, Suomi. All very grand sounding, although I admit I'm not yet quite sure what I'll be doing there. Being wonderful as usual, I suppose :S
  • Moving time! Moving house is a logistics fetishists dream, and moving house between countries, especially one with a (very) different language, is just value-added complexity. So great fun for me...
  • Finland, Finland, Finland. The place where I want to be. Will be. Officially bi-lingual, practically tri-lingual, the most and least Scandinavian country, depending on perspective. Problems with Russia. I wonder if Finland is a good place to weather the coming storm. I know Ireland and the UK are not good places, more like epi-centres, but I'm unsure of Finland's exposure. They have masses of potable water, but in Helsinki they have water charges. They have a huge land-to-population ratio, but most of it is under snow. They have a great economy, but its heavily service-biased. They have a great standard of living, but I expect it costs a fair bit to keep it through those winters.
Watch this space!