Experience and digital space

Short answer; No. Long answer; It’s a bit more complicated than that. With digital media, the ontology is often concentrated on viewing the relationship between the consumer, the media and the culture of the media. The digital part is significant. While there are now few generations that have grown up in a world that never lacked the digital component, it is still relatively new introduction in historical scale. Nevertheless, it is present everywhere nowadays and digital elements in out life most likely will keep growing as the time goes by.

Timothy Druckery, a theorist of contemporary media, even went so far to argue that it would not be possible to describe or experience the world without technologically digital devices. He argues further that the evolution from mechanical to technological computer  culture has been more than just a series of new techniques and technological advances, that it is more about the evolution between dynamics of culture, interpretation and experience. Much like Druckery’s collegues, he argues that representative works are based on experience, and it would be hard to argue against that.

Video and computer games are based on experiences people have. First computer RPGs had their roots in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns people had, and this applies to origins of Ultima as well.  Miyamoto has stated that The Legend of Zelda his goal with the game was to have the game feel the same way as if you were exploring a city you have never been in before. You can almost see the overworld map as a city layout in this sense, where certain paths are alleys, larger open areas are parks and numerous dead-ends permiate the game. Or maybe that’s just me. Satoshi Tajiri, the name behind the Pokémon franchise, based the game on his own experience with bug catching. Japan has a history with kids having bug catching as a hobby, and the latest big craze was during the 1990’s. When you consider how a kid has to cover creeks, run over rivers and search the forests for new bugs to catch, you begin to see the adventure and the excitement that Tajiri wanted to convey in Pokémon. You also begin to see where modern Pokémon has started to veer off, emphasizing plot over adventure. There was a good article how Yu Suzuki put Virtua Fighter’s developer through martial arts training each morning in order for his men to animate a punch or a kick right.

That is not to say a game can be created without any experience in subject itself. Hideo Kojima has never been a spy or a soldier on a battlefield, but he nevertheless put his experience from Western movies into use in Metal Gear. You can see the change in certain visual in Metal Gear Solid 2  when they got an actual military advisor on the team. For example, Snake no longer pointed his gun upwards and overall how characters began to handle weapons changed. Small, but rather significant change when you consider how much Metal Gear games depend on the whole experienced soldier schtick.

Nevertheless, all the above mentioned games are representative of some sort of experience and allow the player to experience a sort of simulation of it. With any new sort of media there has been the fear of losing something important to humanity, if you will. With digital media the question of the consumer’s identity has become a question through the fears of how any new media might (or rather will) change our way of thinking and the way we live.

Without a doubt we have both real and virtual spaces as well as the identities that go with them. We have a wear a different persona when we are with our parents or friends, and the same applies to the virtual space. Since the 1990’s virtual space has become more and more daily thing to the point of Facebook and other social media becoming almost essential. However, even in these spaces we have a persona on us that is different from others. Much like how when writing this blog I have a persona on you don’t see in other virtual spaces, though it is overlapping harshly with everything nowadays. While there is no physical aspect to virtual spaces (they are digital and non-physical by definition) they nevertheless are real and can carry to the “real” world. However, we can always the space we choose to interact with, though this has led to the birth of extreme comfort zones where one must feel safe all the time rather than challenging oneself and broaden horizons. After all, nobody wants to get stuck in place for all eternity. Unless they get hit by a car and fall into three years of coma.

Whether or not digital media and virtual identities change our selves in physical form is a topic for a different post (it does, but the extent in which way is expansive), but I can’t but mention that experiences the consumers gain from digital media affects us just as any other similar source. After all, electronic games are an active medium instead of passive like movies or music and require the consumer to learn in order to advance. This has led some to argue that games promote violence through teaching violent methods.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are the two names responsible of the Columbine Shooting in 1999, and two years later Linda Sanders, whom lost his husband in the shooting, sued 25 different companies, like Id Software, Apogee Software and Interplay Productions, claiming that the event would not have happened if games with extreme violence like this wouldn’t exist. It was argued that certain games allowed the two assailants to train their shooting skills with precision and affected the two in a negative way. However, as we’ve seen multiple times over, games do not cause kids to go violent, and it would seem to be far more about the individual and their mental health than the media they consume.

However, it must be said that even when games are escapism from real world, they still are a product of real experiences. Playing may be just a game much like any other, but the more real world expands into virtual spaces thematically and ideologically, the less there is separation between the two. Ultimately, playing a game will affect the real world persona of the player, thought he question how much is very much up to the individual consumer. Games have been discussing censorship, violence and current topics for more than thirty years now, and for a medium that is about escapism to a large extent, that does not bode well. How much value we can put on a digital world that does not make use of its non-real capabilities and ties itself to the real?

Perhaps the digital personae we use has become less important as the melding of two worlds continues, and the identity we assume is an amalgamation.

Review of the Month; Nikon D3300

This review kinda shows how disjointed I am in my line of thought. I was thinking that I could make a decent, non-professional review about a camera now that I have a new camera. You see the problem right there. I can’t take pictures of the object I take pictures of, unless I have mirrors, and I have exactly one I can use.

And my God that mirror is old and scratched, lost a of its polish and sheen. No amount of scrubbing could save it outside polishing
And my God that mirror is old and scratched, lost a of its polish and sheen. No amount of scrubbing could save it outside polishing

I’ll just have to use some stock photos from Nikon.

Anyway, these entry-level DSLR aren’t the cheapest, but they’re not from the high-end price either. At best, they’re middle ground between your pocket camera and those high-end complex ones. And truth to be told, no camera is really complex, using a camera at its most basic level requires use of three elements; shutter speed, aperture and ISO. That neither here or there, the idea of this review is not the go into large paragraphs of how to use a camera or technical jargon.

What most people care about if it takes good photos, and despite the camera being few years old at this point, its 24 megapixel camera does its job just fine with its CMOS sensor. The kit lens is decent, not the best out there, but does its job as a freebie nonetheless. It can take 1080 HD video at 60fps, which is pretty damn good, but the filesize will be rather large. That goes for everything with cameras like this; the larger and more detailed things get, the larger the filesize. Dropping few bucks for a 64gb card would be recommended for DSLRs anyway. You can read a more comprehensive and technical review at DPreviews, I’ll be concentrating more on the general use and design.

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Harder they are, the better they shatter

Dick jokes aside, popular culture loves things being hard. This is the hardest sword around, this shield is so hard that it can stand any damage and so on. This is largely bullshit, to be honest. Popular culture just has the habit of buying the idea of diamonds being the hardest generally known substance to man and going with it, because it seems it is too hard to teach that hardness alone doesn’t add to anything worthwhile. You need toughness to go along.

Hardness in Mohs is how well a material can resist penetration of other material, i.e. scratched. In all fairness, this is rather weak scale and is mostly useful with minerals Mohs scale is intended for. For geologists and craftsmen, the Mohs scale is still relevant. The higher the item is on Mohs scale, the better polish it can attain, with some exceptions.

The hardest naturally occurring material known to man is lonsdaleite, or hexagonal diamond. It was first identified in the late 1960’s from a Canyon Diablo meteorite, where specimens were found in microscopic size. If you checked the provided link there, you may notice that when actual stuff is talked, the Mohs scale was kicked to the curb. Mohs scale is essentially useless for industrial use.

In a more industrial meaning, hardness relates how much material resits compression and changing its shape. When we go up to superhard materials like diamond, their modulus of rigidity are very high as is their bulk modulus, the resistance to uniform compression. They do not deform plastically either.

Think it like this; when you strike wood with a hammer, it just dents. It deforms to form a spot where hammer was struck while leaving the rest of the wood intact. Strike glass and it’ll shatter without deformation,  sending shards flying about.

There are numerous tests in which material hardness is tested with. Vickers, Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests are the most often used, followed by Mohs. Oustide the Mohs one, all the aforementioned use different methods to attain the scale of hardness and the results can be converted between each other. If you’re interested in reading further into this topic, I recommend giving this site a go.

But as said, hardness alone is of no real use when it comes to how popular culture wants to showcase it. Toughness is needed. As a general rule of thumb; The harder something is, the more fragile it is. For example,. despite diamonds being the hardest general substance, you can pick up your hammer and smash them to bits. They’re also common as hell, and nobody should be willing to pay the insane prices jewellery shops are selling them. You can put that on DeBeers.

Toughness is the ability of any said material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing. This is the opposite of hard materials that have low toughness, as they do not absorb energy or deform. They fracture, sometimes in an explosive ways. Toughness is after all a combination of both material strength and ductility.

Just like how hardness has its tests, the Charpy V-notch test and Izod impact strength tests are the most commonly used measured. While Charpy  is more about the fracturing the tested material, Izod tests impact power.

Ultimate tensile strength needs to be mentioned in this context, as it is effectively how much a material or structure can withstand elongation as opposed of compressive strength. Materials like diamond would have a very sharp breakage, called brittle failure. Other that are more ductile in nature would malform in plastic deformation before point of fracture. Something like glass has Mega Pascal of 33, depending on the glass variety and so on, while something like diamond having 2800 MPa, which still loses to multiple other materials, like graphene at 130 000 MPa.

How does all this come together with our topic? Let’s take the Destroyer-Class BETA as an example. It has a shield on top of it that is said to be Mohs 15 in hardness. That is to say, it is harder than diamond.  To follow the rule of thumb, this material then should be relatively easy to shatter, especially with the large surface area it has. However, as the BETA are biological mining machines, and the fact that their shield’s can withstand considerable stress before penetration, saying that it is Mohs 15 does not actually mean anything. It’s the same with any other fantasy sword or the like that gets called harder than anything else. It it to give an idea of a tough, unbreakable object, which is rather far from reality, all things considered. But Mohs scale is simple and easy and doesn’t require studying. Saying that something is harder than diamond is enough to give a certain mental image.

What the Destroyer-Class BETA has, and all those other fantasy things, is high toughness and resilience to deformation. A sword good sword should be able to bend itself and conform to stress without breaking, something that Japanese sword don’t actually do that well because they were made hard. They were probably the hardest sword made, and thus far more brittle than swords that conformed and bent. The hardness contributes to the sharpness without a doubt, but sharpness alone can’t win a fight. Skill aside, sword’s shape, material, balance and toughness are all factors. Katana being so hard, materials like bone could dull them fast. The idea of a sword being samurai’s soul is gross exaggeration, as the katana was the least used weapon during wars over spears and bows, and were discarded if a better sword was in vicinity. Later on you got guns that made close combat weapons largely obsolete. Japanese swords are most likely the most romanticized swords  there are, mostly thanks to movies and comics, but there are sources that put things right.

With shields or general tools, you do not want it to be hardest. You do not want a hammer shattering into your eyes or shield breaking down when an enemy hits it. With shields, you want it to malform and take the impact’s force instead of breaking it and allowing the opponent to advance. The worst idea you can have is shattering armouring or shield.

In giant robot series, it’s not uncommon to see armouring shattering like it was made of bricks or glass. It’s much easier to understand and is more dramatic, but a good armour doesn’t shatter. At best, it’s ripped apart into shreds under massive power. After all, most metals can be chipped like wood with proper tools, unlike something like diamond.

All in all, this was a very long and convoluted way to that hardness is almost a fetish in popular culture and is far too often depicted in a very uneducated manner, especially when Mohs scale is mentioned. But hey, all of that is fiction. Let’s just say this sword is Mohs 25 and has intrinsic tensile strength 500 Giga Pascals and tell it’s made of bullshittium and all would be well.

The thing is, in the end, that you can’t have a material that’s soft and hard at the same time, in general sense. A diamond like material can’t elongate itself and will experience fracturing instead. As such, in a case of Destroyer-Class BETA example, without any further information we can assume that the Mohs 15 hardness of indicative of other material strengths, making its shield very brittle. You don’t want your shuffle to be shatter the first time you hit a stone, you want it to be able to take the force from the impact. Of course, in-fiction it’s hard to penetrate with any weapon, where the whole deal with bullshittium steps in again.

Hard fiction often tends to step around these issues most of the time, as there are things like flexural strength and multiple others when it comes to material sciences, and simply relies on general terms and points of comparisons. General fiction on the other hand will simply play it safe and pull a diamond from its pocket and tell that this shit is hard, and that’s all you need to know.

Now let’s end this post with some great machining in slow motions.

“Almost sexual, isn’t it Smithers?”

The future is here, we can feel through bionics

I have a tag ”future” but it only has so many posts. Actually, I thing it only has or three. The reason why I essentially stopped writing them was because they became largely irrelevant to the blog, and that they took very large amount of work compared to the length or content. The time could be spent better on more relevant topics.

However, for whatever reason the (still) upcoming Muv-Luv Kickstarter made me read about bionics. I looked up if there was any recent news on latest developments in artificial limbs and other body parts, and it turns out that a man can now feel through his prosthetic hand thanks to technology developed by none other than DARPA.

While we have always had artificial limbs in science fiction to some extent, most of them have been relatively same in idea. Generally speaking, if an arm has been amputated below the elbow all it really needs is a vessel where to house the mechanics. This housing is of course fastened to the arm in a way or another. With modern composite materials, the prosthetics can be relatively light, or comparatively extremely light in comparison full metal housing. Depending how much arm there is left, the housing can be fasted just over the stump and have the rest go up to the elbow.

The bebionic hand is a forerunner in the overall organic design of prosthetic hands. Its overall design is highly impressive. The bebionic hand is controlled by two muscles of the arm it’s installed in, and you are able to change between preset utility settings ranging from grabbing a key or having a trigger finger. Between some settings there is a need to manually change or active some of the settings, but that’s simply due to lack of direct motor control with the bebionic hand. That’s an inherent problem with artificial limbs overall, the lack of direct input we have naturally in our nervous system.

However, back in February doctors performed the world’s first bionic hand reconstruction, where they took what looks like a variation of the bebionic hand and crafted it’s receivers directly to the artificial hand. Essentially, the signals coming from the patient translates directly into mechantronic hand function.

A harder thing is to replace a whole arm. However, even that has been made. Essentially, a man without an arm would wear a harness that would read the muscle signals from the electronics on the subject’s upper body and translate those in to the functions of the limb. Controlling an artificial hand at first must be hell to learn at first, but to re-learn how to use a whole arm must be a special kind of challenge that may break the weak.

Ultimately, an artificial limb really needs a harness to which it is attached to and some sort of casting to make it look nice. You can even 3D print your own if you feel like it.

Depending the kind of fiction you’re interested in, artificial limbs may remind you of the real deal. On the other hand, you’ve most likely seen the idea of crafting some sort of metallic socket to the subject and then have him change between arms, or have one, massively bulky arm in there. Cyberpunk most often uses artificial limbs like candy, where you can just shop from the shelf and have them fit to you almost however you want, especially in games.

Fictional design also emphasizes the completely absurd and unnecessary lines on the skin, markings, and attachments simply are thrown there without much thinking how they actually work with the anatomy. This is understandable, seeing how they emphasize on the visual side rather than functionality. Concentrating on visuals is completely acceptable as long as realism isn’t a concern to some extent, or at least as long as it follows common logic within the work itself. In a cartoon world with cartoon logic it’s acceptable to have whatever kind of big and bulky arms or legs you want. Outside cartoon logic, with each step with technology there’s very little reason to stick with old designs.

Here’s the problem with that previous statement; long running franchises have a well defined style in how they portray the visuals of their technology, and suddenly just changing these pre-established visuals would be very jarring and cause a clash. On the other hand, the change in visual tone can also be explained with the evolution of in-universe technology.

Each product is of course a reflection of its time. With the Internet in our hands, we’re not slaves just to guessing how things look or have to use outdated books in the library.

How would a modern artificial arm look in modern science fiction then? Well, the answer is that it would look much like how bebionic hand would look, just with slightly smoother action and would use direct input from the user. Even when low level technology would be present in sci-fi they would look and function much like the bebionic hand, because it’s one of the forerunners at this moment with its competitors like the Azzurra Hand may be cutting edge technology at this moment, but whenever the bionics become more common place and cheaper to produce, the cutting edge technology of future will be much more what we have now in the present day and age.

Of course, the idea of bolting an artificial limb to a human body isn’t dead. While it is technically possible in theory, there are difficulties that need to be overcome. For one, the weight of the prosthetics needs to be around as much or lighter than what the actual limb was. If it’s too heavy, it would simply plop off from its socket. The redesigned Bionic Commando prosthetic is an example of a design that in the real world is just far too overdone in every way, but that’s the least of the game’s problems. I remember Masamune Shirow showcasing this in some of his comic, I can’t recall if its was in Ghost in the Shell or Appleseed. The attachment itself is an issue too. It would need to be attached to the bone structure and supported by the musculature if possible. This opens a point how much a bionics should resemble the limbs they’re replacing.

In reality, it doesn’t have any reason why it should. It can just be few pipes with joints and electronics inside. It is more a psychological issues, where more natural looking replacement helps the user to get accustomed to it, plus it would attract less attention. Using musculature as the basis how the bionics would look like has been very popular for the last few decades now. Complicating a functioning design with unnecessarily complex elements, even in fiction, is redundant. Sure it would look neat and emulate human biology, but without a heavy reason this should be avoided. On the other hand, it’s pretty damn popular simply because it looks cool. They’ve actually developed one, but as you can see the tubing does extent over the chest of the unit. It’s a novel approach, but in the a questionable one.

Power supply is a question that full arm prosthetics can’t solve all too well. For the bionic hand the power battery can be relatively small, but a whole arm would need more juice. That said, the harness to which the arm would be attached to should have enough places to have a hanging battery pack. Batteries haven’t had a major breakthrough for some time, and as such the most complex replacements have been tested in laboratory environment only.

The last thing is that I want to shine light on is the contact point between the skin and the craft. Recently the Australian doctors made a 3D printed titanium sternum and rib cage for a patient. The surface was sandblasted in order to secure the replacement that will allow human biology to latch and attach itself to the surface and grow on it, much like on real bone. Similarly, we can see that if the craft would be attached to a human body for bionics socket, it would need to be attached to the bone structure in similar manner. The socket then could be moved with muscles, thou that is rather needless unless we were to aim to emulate human biology. Nevertheless, the problem that would still arise is at the contact point. The skin and the metal may rub against each other, irritating the skin and causing problems with it. That’s why you always see a layer of another material used in real life prosthetics to prevent chafing.

While we are living in the high tech future, we’re still missing hover cars and widespread artificial limbs. Who knows what will happen in ten or fifteen years, but it’ll be one helluva time to get there.

Music of the Month; Hero Story

When you put you think about it for a moment, we don’t have anyone who is like Jackie Chan at this time. He has made physical comedy and action into his own. Every strike, be on himself or on the opponent, has a smile with it.

We don’t need another Jackie Chan. Much like some regard Jackie Chan to be sort of continuation of Bruce Lee’s more serious fights, the cinema will be in need of somebody who would carry similar rough and real style in fights on the silver screen. He wants no trouble, but the audience sure enjoys when gets some.

I’m going to let myself loose with this one. I don’t give a damn how this post forms, I’ve drank a bit too much whisky after my work computer decided to screw with me.

As usual during the upcoming Christmas season, all and every day becomes a bit more hectic and there may be weeks where there may be lack of posts here and there. This also means that many parents will be purchasing their kids games as presents. I would recommend any parent or person buying a game as a gift to a younger one to pay attention to the recommended ages on the boxes. Much like with movies, games do have adult content you shouldn’t direct towards child minded people.

Thus, I find it absolutely idiotic that Target Down Under removes Grand Theft Auto V from their shelves. Why? The V2 .pdf doesn’t say, but it’s because it portrays violence towards women. Whoopdy fucking doo I say. Here’s the thing; GTA has always portrayed violence and it has never changed in that regard. Be it a woman or a man in the game, the player has all the freedom to blow their heads off if they feel like doing so. If modern feminism was concerned about equality, they would have raised other issues, but no. It has to be this damn politically correct comfy zone bullshit we have nowadays everywhere. Going to the petition that Target seemed to deem valid enough misses the point that everything they describe the player can do in-game applies to everything. What about all the men who have survived the violence in their lives? It’s incredible double think just to note the other side while disregarding the other completely.

In addition, the petition makes a point that games like GTA V, in all essence, encourage certain kind of thinking and causes violence via grooming. This is absolute horseshit. There are numerous studies that show the exact opposite. People with inclinations to violence will always be more violent despite what form of media they are exposed to. It takes mentally ill person to think the thing he sees in fictional setting is right. Only a stupid and ignorant person would assume people take everything at face value. It takes a special kind of idiot just to listen and believe rather think for themselves and search further information while challenging his views. Everything affects everything, and if we are to say electronic games affect people, we also have to take notice that all forms of media and interaction does the exact same thing.

In a sense, a lot of psychologists are wasting their time and effort on proving points everybody and their mothers can say through life experiences. There are better things to research on, like development of psyche.

However, there’s two more pressing matters in this one; this is censorship through pressure and obstruction of free market. Target continues to sell other games and DVD with similar content for whatever reason. I would have thought we already got over this ‘games-are-evil’ thing a decade ago, but it seems this generation that first time grew up with digital entertainment have no real fights anymore to fight, so they need to grasp every little bit they can challenge for whatever reasons they can think of. There are other battles to be fought and won, including making the macro economical situation better and teaching people to fish rather than give them the fish outright.

It baffles me why people would go their way out and take away something they enjoy, something that doesn’t harm anyone? Rather than concerning what media does to people, be it men or women, we should pay more attention to the people themselves, in the education they are given and in what sort of raising they are given. It’s not every day you hear news about a mug victim saying he had it coming for being a privileged person. This thing baffles me to no end. If a person comes up to you and holds you at gunpoint, taking your money, you have every right to call them a criminal and a bad person. Not to mention the mugged person has horribly mangled view of what middle-class is. Sometimes I wish we could take everybody, including myself, into somewhere else where the social norms we are so used to do not apply. Having only one point of view and sticking with affects anyone negatively.

Accepting certain universal truths is a good thing to do, like that the tree makes a sound in the forest when falling even if somebody is not listening to it and that a person who mugs you is a criminal and should be judged according to local laws, but we always need to remember that the view one holds can be completely contradicted by someone other’s and it is always good to understand why is that. We do not need to agree with each other in any point, but neither should we be forcing our views or actions on others that disagree. Informing and encouraging further information search should be something we do rather than becoming heralds of some agenda. Hell, go read the researches I linked earlier. There’s few things there that do not completely match the sentence they are linked in, and I fully encourage you to read research documents that argue otherwise. Information is power, and the more objective and valid information you have, the more powerful you are.

When you become a preacher of some word, you’re essentially inside a religion and enact the exact the same things certain religions have been criticised for doing. I can understand a religious person coming to be and asking if I have found God, because that is their faith and that is how their religion reads them to do. When somebody comes with a political agenda in their hands to convert me into their political movement, I often ask them to screw off. Except Greenpeace, with Greenpeace I usually have good chat what’s going on and what sort of crazy stuff these people have been doing as of late.

Ah, screw it. One more for the road.


The academic good

In school we’re taught how to write proper prose. The structure of the story, how the story should be told and so on. We’re taught by our peers and information sources what it means to have a good story, what it means to be well written and what interesting characters’ properties. Academically speaking, when you’ve got a product that ticks all the boxes correctly, it should be considered a perfect product. Things like three-act structure is an example of how to tell a story properly, but you’ve got all these things that break the act structure, sometimes completely ignoring the notion of having structured acts, only to be considered well done or even great.

We’re taught what it means to make a good product. We’re taught to criticise products based on similar notions of what is, academically speaking, good. You could have a list of matters that a story needs to tick off to be good. It’s sort of standardised version what is considered the ideal form.

This doesn’t really work in real life.

If products would always follow the same guidelines, we’d have no advancement in anything. Breaking the mould and finding the best ways to hit on with the customers seem have always given new and modified rules to the pre-existing academic sets.

Movies have academically set rules of tick boxes that a lot of reviewers tick in order to rate a movie. It’s a very clean and sterile way to see things, and often if something is not personally preferred is called as a inferior product because it does not fill the academic demands. The same can also be said of the crowd who argue for the break downs of the academics, and ultimately the decision is made by the consumer by their wallet voting.

Does that mean that the consumers have an awful taste, or that the academics do not apply or are wrong?

In design schools it’s often taught that finding a want and need of the customers is important, the academically correct thing to do, as the customer will always seek to fulfil their wants and fix their needs. I am an advocate of this to a very large extent. If we take the notion that the academics do not apply here, what does that mean for design?

What does design become when you break down the academics? Perhaps we need to turn the matter other way around and there would be a need to manufacture the demand and want. This is done in marketing based on existing customer needs, but at the same time it’s a very gray zone, and while taught to some extent, can be regarded as academically incorrect.

Yet, you have Apple manufacturing a product that we can argue customers do not have a need for or even want. Yet the notion of making something that customer would want by hitting the rights buttons create a need. Apple watch is an essentially a stripped down version of iPhones and iPads. How many of us have a need for a watch with computing capabilities? Vast majority of us have a some sort of smartphone in our pockets with all the things the Apple watch could do, and even more. Then you have the pads, which have become another common thing to carry around everywhere. There is no need for such a device that is, in all seriousness, inferior to the existing products. And yet, Apple has managed to manufacture a need for its loyal customers, and those who follow their example.

Apple watch has to have the worst battery life and the screen needs to be relatively large to include all the stuff they’re shoving into it.

In the same breath, is there a need for a new iPhone? Some would say yes, and some would say no. The iPhone line has been very much the same. The only thing that makes the previous version obsolete is that Apple will drop the support on relatively soon to move their efforts on supporting the shiny new one, which you should buy in order to keep yourself on the trend boat and get the best support out there.

But right here I am using the academics to criticize Apple’s products and how they are pushing them out, much like a person would voice their distaste on anything else.

A question if academics are absolute is moot. Of course they aren’t, but they are often regarded as such because they are very much rooted to our current society. They’ve been there in many forms for ages. The academic good is a way to standardise what is well made or what should be considered good and a way to make a successful product. Yet the notion is thrown right out of the window when you have a game breaking product that changes how things are made, writing a new text book example of good. Citizen Kane is an example alongside King Kong, where certain academics are simply shattered because they have not only become popular, but made money and made a cultural landmark.

In the two aforementioned case, does that mean that the customer has an awful taste? Does that mean that the academics need to be thrown out because they do not stand against the products that go against them due to their popularity? It’s not binary, no matter how you want to see it.

In linguistics, when a word has gained a new meaning among the population while having a different meaning the dictionary, it is the dictionary that needs to be changed as the meaning of the word has changed. Whilst computer’s first meaning was a person who computes, now the word is mainly, and often solely, used to describe the machine that accepts data and does computing and shows it.

Linguistics is academics, and we can all see that academics change with time as well. It is extremely easy to base our distaste on any product based on the academics, because often we don’t distinguish the two. We saw ourselves as being the ones correct over the other because we have the academics speaking behind us. Gene Siskel used academics to pan Friday the 13th and rightfully so, but was completely wrong as the movie became a massive success and didn’t fit into his view what a good movie is.

As said before, real life doesn’t really work like that.

We have the model what is perfect, and academically speaking, we should be able to make perfect things. Science is about perfection, the ability to replicate same results every time. Reality does not play all the same rules because humans are creatures of preference and disorder. We enjoy the things we do because there’s something we personally care for. We constantly elevate things over our heads despite them being academically bad and trample on things that should be considered good. Of course, it goes the other way around as well, but it’s never universal. There will always be people who dislike Plan 9 From Outer Space for its awful writing, acting and sets, and there will always be people who genuinely love the movie perhaps even for the very same reasons. We can only argue about that subjectively and academics are there to support the side that values it.

However, can we trust the academics when a product that goes against them becomes practically universally regarded as the best mode? Before the smartphone boom happened, they were not considered as the best form of mobile phone; they went against the academic model what a mobile phone should be. Then, somebody rebranded this into smartphone and created the demand. The academics changed and the phones that you can only call and text are considered as inferior products.

It smells like opinions, always. There are some things we can’t argue about, like that 2+2=4. We can argue whether or not Anna Karenina is deathly boring book with pages after pages of useless detail that should have been edited out. Tolstoy was one of the writers who are often used as an example of writing good prose. During Anna Karenina’s serialization in 1877, most reviewers praised the episodes, but there were few who criticised it being sour and smelling like narrow-mindness of the nobility with Slavophilism. I have to agree with the latter to some extent, but I would most likely prefer the book more if I had read it in a serial form like it was originally published as rather than a span of one week.

We end up with a core thing again; we can only argue about opinions. We can argue that being popular does not mean that it’s good, and to some extent that is true. The opposite is true as well. However, we always need to remember that nobody is willing to put large amounts of money into stuff they don’t consider to be good in their personal opinion. When majority regard the same thing as good, you usually get a whiplash from the minority.

VHS was a shit format compared to BetaMAX and Laserdisc, and yet it won because it was considered the better option over the two competitors.

The notion that popular does not equal good is a childish one. It implies two extremes which don’t exist. Is Justing Bieber a good singer? I don’t know, I have never heard any of his songs fully, but I recognize his success. Clearly he is doing a lot of things right in order to garner such a fame among people alongside his infamy. Is Patlabor the Movie good because it’s seen as one by the fans? Perhaps, but it’s a very niche movie with rather small userbase, and the movie can be damn boring, much like other Oshii’s movies. Giant Robot Police movies are such a niche genre, that only fans an occasional stranders will make a review mark of it on Rotten Tomatoes. On IMDB the Patlabor movie has votes from 2 860 users, whereas something like Jurassic Park has reviews from 409 551 users. The 1997 Titanic, the movie I personally don’t care for, has reviews from 601 309 users. We would need to do some serious work in order to properly compare the reviews between the three movies based on IMDB ratings. Is Patlabor a better movie than the Titanic because less people have given it a better rating? Is The Shawshank Redemption superior movie to all aforementioned because of its higher rating with 1 227 123 users backing it, or is it worse because it’s more popular?

Academically speaking all the aforementioned movies hit all the right points and should be considered as good movies. Because we’re largely dangling dolls, played by our preferences, we can voice that, for example, Jurassic Park is the best movie from the bunch because of reason X. Or that is has the most interesting writing that challenges the watchers’ notions of cloning, the nature of the relationship with man and nature as well as the God complex humanity has.

On one hand, we can say that academic good is a standard we can measure everything up and deduce whether or not things are good or not. We just need to remember to throw them to the curb when the numbers start making them irrelevant, despite how much we would dislike badly written movie making millions. Perhaps truly objectively good product is something that fills both academic good and the preferences of the market, but also paradoxically breaks the rules of academics.

Academics, especially when it comes to products like books or games or whatever, can be used to dismiss or support. It is an objective system in its core, created by that era’s ideals. Essentially, we have an ever changing objective system that is highly abusable with bias to support wide range of arguments, and it’s almost encouraged to do so.

Seems like I’ve managed to mangle myself with this subject. It warrants a return at a later date. Meanwhile, have an extra piece of music.

Is this a good music video? Is this a good song? Is that answer you ahve there based on your opinion, or on the notion what a good music video should be? What a good music should be?

Christmas is here and parents need some guidance

With the release of the latest Grand Theft Auto we also got slew of news on parents and professional psychologists panning the game universally as a negative influence to children who play it. At this point, most of you will have alarm bells going off in your head, thinking what the hell is wrong with these people. For me, it’s a yearly event.

Let me tell you a story that I might have already told previously, but it’s still just as valid.

Few years back I was browsing some games in our local electronics store. At the time, the shelves had more selection than what we have nowadays, as the profit the stores gain from video games has dropped like a hammer sinking in river. A proper-looking mother, with a pretty spot on three-size, asked yours truly a question about games, as she knew nothing of them. Well, being who I am, I gladly helped her in deciding what she should do. First of all I asked what kind of games her child enjoys and how old is he. Sure enough, the kid had games spanning from Sly Cooper series to Call of Duty. Pretty standard games really, but she was unsure, as games had changed somewhat since she bought anything the last time. Sure enough, PEGI System has gone through a few revisions, and this was around after the latest one. I explained the markings on the game and how the PEGI system works. After some discussion that PEGI is a recommendation system and that it isn’t all encompassing universal law, thou it is sort of illegal to sell R-18 games to under age in certain regions countries. PEGI in itself is a recommendation system.

This led into discussion about the maturity of individuals and how physical age is never a direct indication of psychological maturity. For example, a child aged at ten can be completely OK with watching horribly violent movies and sexual material, while another person of same age might get traumatised by the material. After all, it is up to the parents to supervise their children and assess if they are mature enough to be exposed to a chosen material. This is, of course, practically impossible and hover parenting is generally not a good idea. However, video games and other entertainment is a different thing. I do agree that parents should be aware of what kind of entertainment their children are consuming in front of the screen, be it on PC or a game console.

Anyway, we chatted there for about an hour about these things and what they were to her. Ultimately, she confessed that a lot of this stuff was new to her as she never really thought any of it properly. I was glad I could help her, and after the chat she chose a game based on what her child had been playing previously and what his tastes were. Of course, parental concerns were present, but I later bumped to her and she told me that her son was delighted to get that particular game as a present.

Needless to say, the staff of the store, gave me a weird look after this.

What I try to illustrate with this story is that parents don’t know jack shit about the video entertainment in general. Only just recently we’ve seen a generation reaching adulthood and getting kids that understand what video games and films are as an entertainment in their current form. These people have been born in the 70’s and 80’s, and have witnessed the golden age of video games as well as how television, movies and world wide connectivity has changed. However, this is also a generation of stagnation, the one that doesn’t dare to dream. Much like we are taught to read movies, news and ads the right way to get the best out of them and not be fooled, we should be taught to understand and read other video media as well. Newgrounds and Youtube are the prime examples of the Web 2.0, but as much as we see it talked about, we don’t see anyone wanting to educate us on it. Personally, Web 2.0 is kind of bullshit but that is beside the point. The point is that if we’re taught to read behind the traditional media, and I’m covering films and TV with this remark as well, why is it so hard for some people to read through video games? As they are now, video games use vastly similar ways to convey messages and use almost the exact same visual methods as any video based material, be it a TV-series, movie or ad. Which actually begs the question if this is a good thing overall, but the point stands.

Of course, we know the answer. Any new form of entertainment is seen as a threat. Before video games it was the computer nerds, before that it was the radio geeks, before that it was the kids reading books all alone in their rooms, and so on.

It would be awesome to have some sort of leaflet that shortly explains what video games are, where they come from and why there’s no reason to be afraid of them. The problem lies with the individual parents of course, and that’s why one person can’t do it without the help of some larger organization. For example, if a well known game company like Nintendo, or a well known electronics company like SONY, would start a campaign to open this video game thing to those who feel they’re left outside, it just might be the thing to allow the worrying parents to understand that video games are just fictional entertainment like movies, music, television and books.

There was a decade long study on television’s and electronic game’s effect on children’s psychological adjustment. In short, video games have no negative effect on the psychological growth. As usual, we can always say that they do have effect on people with prior abnormalities, just like with any form of entertainment. A normal person won’t go out and start killing people after playing a session of Modern Warfare, whatever the age might be.

It’s a difficult issue, and I hope it’ll be met, just like the issues with other screen entertainment has been.

“No matter in what world, you are you”

When we ask ourselves Who am I? the answer is usually simple. I am your name here. That encompasses most of it, if not all. Then we can ask what is it that makes you you. All your experiences, your memories and feelings. Then, what about your physical being? Does it dictate who you are to the same extent? It’s a good question, a question that we will have to ask more often in future where bionics will be more present.

With a similar bionic, the brains slowly rejected the implant and ultimately stopped working

With bionic eyes and hands, we will come to a point where we can replace complete body parts for functioning bionics. It’s the traditional sci-fi cliché, where a guy gets his arm replaced with a robotic one. There really isn’t anything to detract of who he is, we all can agree with that. This guy is just a guy with a robot arm.

Then what if we have a full body prosthesis? Imagine this; your body is 90% replaced with artificial components. The only things that has left untouched is your brains, and part of digestive system is left in to keep the brains running. When you look at the mirror after waking up, you do not see yourself any more, but your new physical self with robotic face, if even that. Would you regard yourself to be you? You still have your memories, your experiences and all that what made you mentally. Your body isn’t what it was. To an extent, it’s not your body, not the one you grew in. Is it still you, or is it just you in another body? The schema of self is most likely fixated to our physical bodies to a large extent, and with a full body prosthesis this schema is rattled to an extreme.

As your brains have not been altered, it has to adjust being inside a completely different kind of body. The question is if the brains rejects the body, will the mind so as well? We could presume that the brains have input similar to what a human body would give through neural pathways. How would you see and feel at first, and how off they would fee before adjusting them to feel more natural and pleasing? There are more questions than answers, as we can’t truly predict how human psyche and biological parts will act with full body prosthesis. We can make educated guesses, and it has to be enough for now.

Some people feel that they have been born into a wrong body and fix their bodies more to their liking. Perhaps this kind of feeling is what will linger after a full body prosthetic. Let’s assume that you get used to your new body rather fast, and at some point it’s functions become completely natural. Isn’t this somewhat the same way how babies learn to control their bodies as they grow? As you’ve grown with the new body, you have new experiences and memories. It can’t be said that the body becomes part of you as much as you learn to control it.

I assume that legally this person has all the same rights as he was before full body prosthesis, as the only that has changed is the physical body you have. This actually happens now as we are, but in more ‘natural’ way if you will. We grow new cells to replace out old ones all the time, so in X amounts of years vast majority of our body has been replaced with a new one. Full body prosthesis can be seen as accelerated change of the body. Naturally, what the society at large would think of this kind of body change is an open question, and how would this respond affect the mind within this body. An example of full body prosthetic in sci-fi, is Robocop. I’d recommend you to watch the two first movies again and keep on eye on these matters, as the movies touch on the subject quite a lot.

Let’s leave prosthetics out for a while, and ask how would you need to be treated if you were reconstruction of yourself.

Quantum teleportation is true at some level. Much like in Star Trek, quantum teleportation basically breaks down the object, reads the data and reassembles it at the other end. To put it bluntly, your body is practically killed and all the information it had is put together the way they were. Is the person coming out you, or your clone? This is an age old question that the Trek fandom has discussed over and over again.

How would the legal department consider this person the same as the one who was transported? Biologically and mentally it is the same person, so I believe there would be no conflicts. The continuity of self has no stops. However, what if the person begins to feel that he is a copy of himself rather than real him? There might be underlying psychological problems with quantum transportation that we have yet to see.

In the end, what we are is just information within a body. Whether or not it matters if this information exists inside an artificial body or in a reconstructed one is a personal question to us all at the moment. After all, some part of our physical self always will be there with bionics.

But what if everything physical was replaced with machinery? There is at least one story that dwells a little bit into this kind of scenario; Muv-Luv Alternative.

Kagami Sumika in Muv-Luv Alternative does not have a body any more. Her body was violated and then ripped apart, and only her brains was left alone floating inside a glass tube. To give her a body, the last bit of her physical self, the brains, had to die. Her soul, or to loan a word from Ghost in the Shell, her Ghost was implanted into a physical mechanical body. This body is not a perfect replication of human body, but almost as close as possible.

The question is whether or not she is the same Sumika she was. Her body in and out is completely different, only her mind stays. In this case we have no difficulties with brains rejecting the body, but what about the mind? How does the mind understand what the machine understands and all of its underlying complications? For example, the machine brains most likely offers higher levels of memory recollection. How will her psyche handle this new body it resides in? Does it start from the baby steps and on some level become growing into it, and adjusting itself accordingly? If we’re to believe the story itself, Sumika’s body is a replication, and her mind “grows” as it becomes more and more accustomed to the body. Perhaps it could be said the she becomes herself again.

Let me ask again; what makes you you?

If we are mostly a sum of our experiences and memories, then the body should not have much meaning to who we are, to the self. Fiction usually has one common theme when it comes to body replacements; accepting it. In Robocop Murphey had to accept the facts that had come to, and only then was able to continue on. Similarly Sumika needed to accept everything that had happened to her, and what she was in order to become ‘human’ again.

The time will come when we have to start testing the limits that our physical limitations allow us to reconsider what is an individual and human.

Shell of soul and mortality

I’ve been discussing a lot about video games lately, and there are more to discuss about them each day. For example, I was about to do a post about how the word rehash is been widely misused in general game public, but I decided to dwell into another matter.
This matter is the relationship between human and robotics.

Prosthetic limbs are becoming more that of fiction portrayed. Unlike how fiction portrays them, robotic prosthetics require training to be properly used, just like any limb in human body. Mostly the difference will be in that it doesn’t come naturally with artificial body parts, as they’re not there from the birth. You may know how to operate hand by nature, but you don’t know how to manually operate it.

Closing a hand is a complex motion we all do with out instincts alone. However, even with our real hands we are using a lot of muscles to achieve this without ourselves noticing it. When a person is fitted with an bionic arm there are few things in the way of operation. The first thing would be is how one can overcome psychological barriers he has. When you lose your hand, that’s that. You lose your hand. Even if you are fitted with a bionic hand you must argue with your body that there exists a concept of hand. Then you’d have to start finding your way how to form a fist and move your fingers. The software in the hand will have receptors that will read the same messages that the brain would send to a real hand.
These are merely things to overcome. In the following decade we will have perfectly good bionic hands, but the question of human psyche will never go away. I know there are few reader there that are thinking Oh that’s not a big deal, I can do it! the answer would be that No, you can’t unless you understand both of your body and mind. From person to person it will be either harder, or even more harder. Losing an arm and replacing it will always be very traumatic experience and unseen mental locks are bound to happen.
After all, human body was never meant to be replaced by anything.

Making a fist is one of the basic functions our hand can make, but imagine how much it would take to get used to a new eye. While it’s easy to make people feel through receptors. A person who gains a new eye has to get used to seeing. It’s not that he is receiving visual stimuli, but the question is also what kind of stimuli is present. Neurostimulation is a bit dangerous, as too much voltage will fry the receiving end.

Unlike in case of hand, a person who might see again will most likely adapt to his bionic eye rather quickly. Seeing is a passive thing we all do all the time, even when we focus on something. However, we can’t say what happens when a blind person begins to see thanks to bionics in the future. I have little doubt that in all cases of bionic replacements there has to be people to ensure the mental health of patients.

The artificial parts are emulating the real body parts. Just like in game emulation, the raw basics are easy to put in place and sand them down. When we get to the final 10% we’re faced with nigh-impossible odds of recreating the workings of a simple hand. Most likely we’ll have biological spare parts grown within protein tanks before we achieve that. The people who are lower class will always be able to find affordable spare bionics, but the higher class will be able to purchase expensive biological replacements. Perhaps the waltz of war, peace and revolution will be danced on some nation in the future.

In the end, replacing a physical part of a man isn’t out of question at all. Having artificial parts does not make anyone any less of a human. While we do use our physical bodies as one part of assuring our existence, ultimately what we are lies in our soul, or brain if we want to be biological. As long as our soul is present in whatever replacement human body will receive, be it complete or partial, the human mind can overcome the trouble of controlling a new body part if given enough time and training. This is mostly because the human mind has something similar to what it’s used to.
But what happens when we start to change the workings of human soul? Human mind is not constructed to work within realms of multiple connections to anything else but to the body itself. If we start adding direct feedback directly to our brains from outside sources that are foreign to our every day actions there is no answer what would happen.

To be honest, I do not want to see the day when we can attach our minds to a machine. There are more unseen questions than hypothetical answers. When people start connecting their brains to whatever machine it might be for direct feedback, the mind and brains won’t be able to understand what it is. There is no schema for such control and actions. If newborn babies had cybernetic implants put in them after their birth, then their brains would start to accept these signals that they’d accept as “natural” and part of the shell they’re encased in.

I doubt there is a good representation what will come when humanity finally broadens beyond it’s bodily limitations. In a sense we already have done that with the Internet. Psychology would be the best field to study the possibility and dangers of augmentations and replacements of human body. After all, it’s all about the mind controlling the body.