Thursday, July 28, 2005


There is an old Asian proverb which, when shortened, goes: "A scorpion was trying to convince a frog to carry him across a river. The frog worried about being stung, but the scorpion pointed out that if he did that, they would both die. Reassured, the frog carried him... but halfway across, the scorpion stung the frog. As they were drowning, the scorpion explained to the astonished frog, 'I am what I am.'"

I recently found a far more amusing final statement: "Because you are a game theorist, but I am not."

A lot of people should be looking at the reams of theories I'm spitting out and thinking, "He takes games way too seriously. Even if he did all that stuff perfectly, it's not like anyone would notice."

The mechanical universe has been facing that kind of commentary for millinea. "Yes, it's nice you figured out what 'PI' is, but who cares?" There's zillions of these tiny, useless, inapplicable laws.

But without the laws of relativity, we would not have a GPS system. Without a clear understanding of the laws of electromagnetics, we would still be using vaccuum tubes. And even those result from a well-understood law. These physical laws allow for the production of a technology which can change the world.

The people of the world have been making psychological and sociological theories since the beginning of time. The problem with those is that they have, without fail, been almost entirely wrong. We look at these theories, and it's like looking at the theory of relativity. Then someone goes and - using just the theory of relativity - calculates how long it will take a satellite to hit the earth. The answer, if he manages to wrest one out of the highly restricted formula, is wholly incorrect.

We can't do people very well. A person can't be seperated from their other conditions. If a scientist wants to see what air pressure does, he stabalizes everything else and introduces variations into air pressure. People can't be treated that way even if we could figure out HOW, because we live in an enlightened society where lives have infinite value so long as a politician is watching.

Back into the depths of time, people have made guesses and done tests. But their resources were very limited. They only had a few people to perform tests on, their equipment was inadequate, and they didn't understand the scientific process.

Now, we have several billion people hooked into the internet, whether directly or indirectly. Every year, our data gets both clearer and wider. We can mine on a scale none had ever imagined before.

Can you imagine trying to discover the earth orbited the sun when your data points consist of the earth, the sun, and a comet that comes around once every 144 years? Well, now our solar system contains a billion planets.

Sure, things are overcomplicated. With a billion planets, it will take a while to figure out all the things acting on these celestial bodies.

But there is, for the first time in human history, enough data points, enough apparati, and the power of scientific approaches to them.

Two hundred years, they'll look back and say, "We would never have figured out the Type B Harmonium without this formula. We would still be scrabbling around in a Type M Capitalist Society. What a waste that would have been!"

Or, I guess, in my case, "We would never have figured out how to addict our population to a Type B Shooter Game without this formula. We'd still be playing such backwards games as Quake."

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