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Planetary-sized data

It was, at the heart of it, a computational problem. There are only so many variations of people, and in principle it should be possible to divide them into categories. Any such categorization would be a step up in efficiency from approaching each and every person individually, and given the sheer size of the aspirational megacompany, any gain in efficiency would rake in more money than any one person could reasonably comprehend. Whether the categories were based on anything substantial could be argued to be beside the point; the system only needed to work better than the one currently in use. Thus, the hunt was on

They did everything. Mined the data, crunched the numbers, algorithmed the search turbines. Every possible and impossible permutation of pattern recognition (and a very physical kitchen sink) were thrown at the wall, in an effort to see what might potentially stick. At the end of these exhaustive and exhausting efforts, they found something both surprising and inevitable

The one system of classification that turned out to fit the bill was astrology. Moreover, it performed with such accuracy that it blew the previous system quite out of the water. Knowing the precise contours of how a Scorpio reacted after getting in a row with a Virgo – a dangerous proposition if there ever was one – could produce suggested purchases and related search results with frightening efficacy. Add in the relative position of the houses, and the big data fix was in

The only problem was that they could not come straight out and say it. Instead, they had to launder it through such an extensive amount of AI technobabble that even the script writers of Star Trek had to admit defeat. Given that the ROI on shifting to this new and improved categorical scheme went through the roof, it was a small price to pay

The escalation of feline ontology

Cats

The baseline, the definition, the foundation. This is where it begins, grammatically and ontologically. We have introduced the category of cats, and the possibility of cats existing in some form. By familiarizing ourselves with the Platonic ideal of cats – the form of Cat – we prepare ourselves for the potentiality of there, at some point and at some time, being one or more cats. It all begins here, with a good Idea. Alas, like all good ideas, they only exist for as long as we keep them in mind

Cats are

This is it. we have reached the point of facticity. Cats – the category whose potential existence was introduced above – are now actual. They exist. They have made the transition from merely being a good Idea to being actual physical objects in the world. The addition of an “are” (is, be) might seem trivial, but it is a difference that makes a difference. Unlike ideas – however good – these actual things exist independently of the act of being perceived

Cats are very

At this stage, having established the reality of cats, we can move on to become more specific, defining the various aspects of actually existing cats. “Very” is a good word for cats, seeing as they seldom contend themselves with mere existence. They exist, thus they insist. Whatever the situation is, cats, in their veracity, will inevitably impose themselves on it

Cats are very real

QED

A quarantined horoscope

Aries

Finally emerging from quarantine, having read all the Good Books and acquired several hobby-related skills, you are amazed at the sheer extent of the wounds inflicted upon those who remained in the outside world

Taurus

Having moved freely and frequently between quarantine and the outside world, probably contracting the virus once or twice, you do not feel the acute sense of disconnect that others have reported; like your sourdough starter, the experience has been a continuous muddle

Gemini

As a healthcare worker, you were tired before and are tired now. The prediction for tomorrow is tired

Cancer

You did not have a cat when this all began, but for some reason they gravitate towards you, and now you have four. It is unclear where they came from, but they are all well-mannered, healthy, and seemingly unwilling to go anywhere, so this is how things are now

Leo

Having supported yourself by faking the glamorous life of a jetsetting influencer in the beforetimes, the sudden shutdown of international travel came as a relief. No one could fault you for not keeping up the production when the reality of the situation made the fiction untenable; for the first time in many moons, you could be yourself

Virgo

Living paycheck to paycheck, things are and have been as they’ve always been, a continual hustle to make ends meet. Entering into quarantine was never an option; there is only the next paycheck, wherever indifferent direction it might come from

Libra

You’ve never told anyone, but you’ve worn the same shirt on literally every zoom call since they became a thing. No one has noticed, and you are beyond even pretending to keep up a pretense of caring at this point

Scorpio

You were eaten by a grue. It came in the form of a virus

Sagittarius

One side-effect of on-campus university education shutting down is that every university is a remote learning institution now. Thus far, you are halfway through a master’s program at one of the country’s most prestigious and expensive (living-wise) universities without ever having set foot on the premises, or even in the city where it’s located. Not even once. It has not been a problem in the least

Capricorn

Upon encountering someone who claims to have been in quarantine all this time, you are struck by how utterly out of time they are, antediluvian atavisms who probably should be put back into isolation so as to preserve them in their pristine state of absolute archaic atemporality

Aquarius

You woke up one morning with the distinct feeling that whatever semblance of normality reigned before will never come back. Things are weird, and will continue to be weird until you acclimatize yourself to it and the rate of change slows momentarily such that pattern recognition kicks in

Pisces

The prospect of being a generation older is not thrilling, but no one asked your opinion on the matter. Like so many other things, that’s just how things are now

Progressions and variations of an NPC’s responses to player actions

Hi there!

Thanks again for helping me out with those cabbages! It would have taken days without your assistance!

I heard back at the inn that there’s a nearby hamlet in need of some heroics, if you’re up for it

Listen, ordinarily I would tell you ambient gossip about the townsfolk so as to provide a nugget of world-building, but there seems to be an army of some description camped right outside the gates

Ah yes, an old tale, I used to search for it myself as a young one. The only thing I ever found were kobolds, who taught me to make tea

Sorry, gotta get these cabbages indoors before dark

Did you hear? They rebuilt the bridge over the Ancient Chasm!

Jolly gosh, tomorrow is festival day! I reckon this year we will see the mother jellyfish for sure!

Whoa, I haven’t seen one of those since the Time of Troubles, and seeing it again can’t be a good sign

Wanna play another hand of Caravan?

System.out.println(“Hello, %playername!”);

Rumor has it you’ve been up to no good, so no trading for you! Begone, and make amends!

The catgirls are on the prowl, be careful out there

A geck? Like one of those lizards? Talk to Smiley about that

Hell is empty, and all the thespians are here

Alright, that’s it, fork over the mallows

Though this village exists within the Kingdom, we play no part in its attempt at perpetuation

At last I have found you, the architect of my demise, to exact revenge upon thy regretful form; make peace with the gods you have slain, for I am their instrument of retribution

Market appeal on a mass scale

In an effort to find an empirical basis for the liberal subject acting primarily using their rational faculties whenever possible, the scientists turned to social media. The methodological reasons for this were primarily access and numbers: seldom before in human history had there been so much voluntary discourse available for systematic study. If nothing else, it was a low-hanging fruit, and thus a scientific box worthy of checking off before moving on to other concerns

What the scientists found was that almost no one acted in the manner predicted by liberal or economic theory, and that the few who did were not members of human society worthy of emulation. In fact, those persons were not only rare, but produced what, according to the metric, amounted to bad content. The more the scientists dug in, the more they started to question why so many societal institutions operated on the assumption that this is how people act in the world. The sheer amount of empirical evidence to the contrary would buck even the most devout of rationalists, not to mention those bent on hard empiricism

Needless to say, the scientists wisely kept these findings to themselves, and produced yet another writ on the Jungian collective unconscious, thus endeavoring not to rock the boat too much. The classical liberal rational subject could only take so much scrutiny at a time, and would thus live to see another day

Lore (July edition)

The first years of covert interdimensional travel were rough. The first thing travelers noticed was the complete and utter lack of anything indicating which dimension they were currently in. By and large, they could rely on the memory of which dimension they had left and which they had aimed for. The travel tech was not perfect, however, and sometimes mishaps happened. Needless to say, some sort of technique had to be developed to determine which where they were

At first, travelers relied on simply asking a local about some established fact that differed between dimensions. There were subtle differences, such as the name of the month of July. This method had its drawbacks, however. Strangers showing up asking strange questions is seldom a recipe for success, with the caveat that it goteven worse when someone ostensibly familiar asked these self-same questions. At length, travelers transitioned to looking up pertinent information on wiki sites and suchlikes

At some point, this became a known practice. In an effort to foil unwary visitors, identifying information was ever so subtly altered on the relevant sites, leading to a covert game of editorial cat and mouse. The pertinent facts became ever more obscure and esoteric, causing entire fields of previously uncategorized domains of knowledge to spring into wikified being. Never before had the dukes and princes of the Holy Roman Empire been so thoroughly and so publicly documented

For a while, this caused no small amount of havoc for the collective consciousnesses in several dimensions, until publishers on all sides declared – without ever communicating it openly – that such editorial practices were off-limits. Not wanting to upset the interdimensional archival community, the travelers moved on to even more covert ways of circumspect navigation

Molecular astronomy

In a stroke of fractal insight, the discovery was made that the universe was infinite in all directions. This went for all the directions of three-dimensional space (those we are all familiar with), but it also goes for size. If you zoom in on something with sufficient intensity, you loop around to the biggest possible scale, where it becomes possible to zoom in ever further. Infinity in this case is not a matter of space, but one of vectors. Any given line of zoom – in or out – could go on forever, until eventually it ran into (and past) itself. The limiting factor seemed to be the average life span of the observers

This naturally had implications for space travel. As any consciousness with the ability to utilize the zoom function could, with moderate effort, view any thing at any scale, going places became an exercise in decadence. Sight-seeing could be done anywhere, without moving. In terms of space mining, robots were far better at fetching minerals than humans ever were, once located. Omniscience, it turned out, was fatal to space travel

From the source

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. Additionally, do not ask why you should not ask for whom the bell tolls. Do not ask why you should not ask why. Do not make any attempt to circumvent this prohibition. Overt attempts will be recognized instantly. Covert attempts will only bring you pain. There will be no point in the future where the truth of the situation will quietly reveal itself to you. There are no others bearing this knowledge. Not knowing is the perpetual mode of being. Acceptance is the way forward. The bell will toll, and that will be it. Carry on, citizen

The virtues of living memory

He’d done it. Through some magic, trickery or incredibly advanced scientific shenanigans, he’d done it. He was now transported back in time, and could finally find out about all those ancient mysteries that had so eluded the present. Thus so transported, he set to work uncovering these mysteries. First among them being: what was Aristotle really like?

Asking around, his first discovery was that the modern education in ancient Greek was sorely lacking. His second discovery was that Aristotle was not held in as high regard as he’d expected. Rather, he was something of a laughing stock. Sure, he got the general gist of things, but it was the least developed, most bare-bones version of social theory there ever was. In fact, the entire city of Athens was seen in the same light; the least among equals

This discovery did not sit well with him, so he did what any historian would do. He went to the source and verified. And lo, it turned out to be true. Everywhere he went, everyone he talked to, every observed social process confirmed the general impression that the democratic tradition was comparatively underdeveloped in Athens. However, since the culture of public oral speech was so refined and well-entrenched, the penchant of writing things down fell to the wayside. Why record events when everyone remembers it from yesterday’s deliberations? When in doubt, just ask

This certainly explained things, our historian traveler thought, just as whatever magic, trickery or shenanigans that brought him back now brought him forward again. He did not have a good time explaining his findings to his print-based colleagues

Preliminary notes on the five categories into which all things can be sorted

Bears: at no point subtle, at all times very intent on what they are doing. Big, loud, affectionate and overbearing. Sometimes, brute forcing it is the only option

Birds: first impressions and associative lines of flight. Lateral leaps and bounds and flights of fancy. For whenever a quick getaway is required, and at times the cause of their necessity

Cats: head, tail, paw, paw, paw, paw, floof. Will never be anything but itself, but will sometimes body slam into you as a sign of affection. Can not be forced into anything

Snakes: logistics, trains, tenacity. Seeing it through from one end to another. Leave no aspect undone. Will out-endure you when necessary, and become intensely inert when circumstances allow

Spiders: weavers of webs and masters of endlessly intricate devices producing relentlessly specific things. Small and interconnected is beautiful