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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Saturday, September 24, 2005

"it's eugenics, plain and simple"

another rather interesting OSC article (thanks to Matt, as usual), this time on the relationship between abortion and decreased crime rates. lots of interesting stuff, a few (in my opinion) unfounded implications, a little bit of focusing on certain aspects while ignoring others, and (as always) a couple really brilliant points.

I'm surprised he didn't mention anything about the law of unintended consequences, especially with the foray into "Freakonomics," but I guess since it's more of a theory of unintended consequences, it doesn't need to be brought up.

from my perspective, this stuff has some really interesting implications on multiagent systems and emergence. from one perspective, you could have predicted that abortion would cause a drop in crime. but since no one is going to argue that we should kill unborn criminals, no one even thought along those lines. however, even if anyone had thought along those lines, would they have been able to predict the results? lots of predictions could have been made about what would happen and why. the "real" causality is only seen afterward, imposed by our minds' desire for rationality. we see causality when it really might be just correlation. once a system gets complex enough, the causal links become more and more difficult to follow. you can argue certain points, as OSC does here, and quite convincingly, but that doesn't mean you're right. he even says there's no way to prove it. it's a problem when you want to design a system for emergent properties. but I have to mull that one over before I give it a more thorough treatment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

AI on board

a couple of months ago, I had a post about the video game industry's focus on graphics over things like a physics engine or AI. one of the possible reasons I cited (other than the fact that graphics show an immediate, visible improvement) is that the performance block in graphics generally comes in the form of pushing matrix operations and a few other specific floating point calculations. these are (relatively) easy to create specialized hardware to perform. it may not be as easy to create the same specialized hardware for a PPU (physics processor unit), but it seems plausible if not possible. however, could you do the same for AI, create an AI accelerator chip/board?

that is exactly what company AISeek is proposing. they haven't made any technical details available yet (beyond an architecture diagram), but it looks like they will focus on four specific tasks: path finding, crowd and multiagent movement, terrain analysis, and sensory simulation. I can see these as problems that could be abstracted and hardware created to perform these tasks. furthermore, they are general enough to apply to a AI in a large variety of games. I wonder if you could also incorporate decision-tree algorithms like mini-max or a* into such hardware.

I don't know if this is going to happen, but I think it's rather exciting and a step in (more or less) the right direction for video games. now we just need someone to write some more innovative games.

in the hardware vein, I think hannibal has an interesting view, that these add-on functionalities will end up all on the same die as the CPU. just had to give the ars shout out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

ethical work ethic

I was recently attending a presentation of some research done by undergraduates in the IM-SURE (Integrated Micro/Nano Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) program, an NSF REU here at UCI (how's that for acronyms and abbreviations?). at one point, Said Shokair, the director of the program, was expounding on his admiration for the drive of these undergrads. I didn't write it down at the time, so this is a paraphrase, but he said something like "Some of these students were in the lab at 9:00 on Saturday. Now that's a good work ethic."

I don't understand. why is having no social life synonymous with a good work ethic? why is having a one-track mind that does nothing but research a good work ethic? why is not having the desire to broaden one's horizons with other pursuits a good work ethic?

now, I'm not saying I haven't had my share of late Friday and Saturday nights plugging away at the code, but I try not to make a habit of it. I also recognize that these kids were in a summer program in a town where they knew only the other kids in the program, probably didn't have a car, and had nothing to do other than work. however, the problem remains that most people see an excess of hours and a sacrifice of other interests as a good work ethic.

it's pretty common knowledge that in other countries like Australia and France, they think Americans work way too much. in Australia, a good employee is one who clocks his 8 hours, goes home to spend the evening with his family, and goes to the beach to surf on the weekends. in France, the standard work day is 7 hours, with a 2-hour break for lunch, making an absolutely full week 35 hours of work. they think Americans work way too much. then again, on the other side, in Japan the work week is 6 days, 10 hours a day. so, a large part of that is cultural, which I guess is what I'm questioning. I'm questioning a culture that encourages the sacrifice of sanity maintaining pasttimes and social relationships for the purpose of work. and how important is this work? why is it being pursued with such fervor? personal gain? betterment of man? Pirsig comes to mind...

"Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle."

this is a little extreme for me, and maybe it's not related but is just on my mind since I came across the quote last night. however, in a round-about way it gets at what I'm saying. why the hardcore, burnout, work-til-you-drop mentality? I'm all for going all out, but I'm also for not losing one's sanity in the process.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

gw, kayne, and the african

I just saw this somewhat disturbing clip. pretty sure it aired on national TV. it's rather short, but you have to watch it all the way through.