The Most Altruistic Thing Google Could Do...

“User data has the capability to survive beyond the limits of our biological selves… It becomes possible for emerging users to benefit from the preceding generations behaviors and decisions.” The Selfish Ledger - Leaked Google X Video

We live in a digital prison; every action we take online is logged and scrutinized. Our ephemeral behaviors are the subject of scientific studies we unwittingly consent to through a frivolous tap of the “I Agree” button.

Install an app on your phone and be surveilled by marketeers and big data companies alike. This mobile game turns a profit by selling your location to unscrupulous third parties. That app sends your photos to some faceless, unethical, overseas company…

Ultrasonic audio embedded in television commercials and retail outlets, let marketeers track your attention and manipulate you.

Because that’s what this is all about: manipulation. Social engineering. The wildly self-inflated importance of those who’ve profited their way to owning our data and now, through their arrogance, seek to control us. But there’s a problem with that. Let me explain...

Episode I

The Selfish Meme

This is Richard Dawkins, the perpetrator of the first officially recognized meme. His original theory proposes that, whist devoid of any motive or will, memes could be metaphorically and pedagogically described as if they had such.

By this metaphor, memes are problematic. They have an uncanny ability to literally possess people as a means of self-interested propagation. They don’t care who they harm, or how outrageous they might be; as long as they can survive.

Now, I’m not talking about image macros or Millhouse, per se, though they do serve to illustrate the lengths to which memes will go to preserve themselves.

What I’m talking about are the memes that are proffered by their acolytes as a lens through which to view the world. Identity, bigotry, ideology, and dominance...

Episode 2

Meme as Identity as Behavior

From birth until death we’re surrounded by memes fighting for our attention. Once a meme has your attention, its easy to adopt it; our brains are meme machines after all.

Our minds receive a rush of dopamine as we embrace and repeat the meme, and it becomes a game of chasing the high; much like gambling.

They’re all different faces of the same meme gamble. By their very nature, memes almost universally require you to make it a part of your identity.

Now I’m going to use two examples from my own lifetime. I grew up in an extremely conservative, religious household, then as a teenager I called myself an Atheist [capital A] and adopted that worldview. They’re kinda the same thing; just different sides of the same identity coin. A memetic distillation of complex human behaviors that, when embraced to their fullest, lead to a similar kind of slavishness to an idea that ultimately exists for its own, selfish sake.

Memes require complete devotion, they dispense with subtlety, and over time they trend towards the most extreme variations of themselves. As they grow and propagate, the minds they possess act according to the most fundamental and clownish strains of the meme they adhere to.

Now you might be asking at this point, what’s any of this have to do with user data?

Episode 3

Social Media—Meme Transmogrifier

The problem we face on the Internet, whether it’s with social media, or user-centered design, is this: human beings cannot be accurately represented by a like, or a share, or a radio button, or a pin, or a post, or a retweet. These are binary options that exist as an abstraction of human behavior.

And while hashtags and analytics might be a quick and easy way for some to claim they have an accurate model of human behavior, what I’ve come to realize is that Google, Facebook, and their ilk, are merely meme collectors.

They can index all they like, they can claim that their repository of analytics, and photos, and location data, and purchase history, and whatever else can tease out facts about mankind’s truest self.

But in my estimation, all they’ve ever been able to do is facilitate these memes, and expedite their transformation into ugly, extremist parodies of themselves.

So when Google comes along and portrays itself as an altruistic record keeper, and diviner of truth, I have to scoff. Truth without meaning is useless, and a ledger of zeros and ones interpreted through an artificial intelligence is as useful as the entrails of a chicken interpreted through an artificial intelligence.

Their greed, their gluttony for our data is driven by—you guessed it—a meme. That being control, dominance. And whether their ends are altruistic or not. Their goal is to ‘sequence’ human behavior as if it were some an epigenetic tome, but there’s no objectivity to the data they sequester about us.

As their catalog of behavior grows and their predictions of user choice gets more ‘accurate,’ you have to stop and ask yourself… where does the prediction of a choice end and the manipulation of the user begin. How could anyone think their vision of a Selfish Ledger does anything but enslave our future generations to the mechanizations of today’s memes? Imprisoning our children into a pigeon-hole, and typecasting individuals into an ever-louder and more extreme caricature of a viral thought.

What they’ve built today is nothing more than the ultimate meme machine that does nothing but divide us into little groups of ostentatious, memetic behaviors. And if their goal is to actually help future generations, the best thing they could do is let the memes die and just forget.


These five games BLEW ME AWAY during the Linux Game Jam 2018!

Hey guys! I’ve had a BLAST playing through every game that was entered into the Linux Game Jam 2018. It’s been incredible and I want to thank everyone who participated. If you submitted a game and it’s not on this list, please know that you’re by no means a loser. Game jams aren’t a sport, and they’re not competitive! They’re more a means of testing yourself and seeing what you’re capable of. And you lot? You’re a talented bunch!

Several people have stated they wish they had more heads up, so I set up the next jam a year ahead of time! April 10th, 2019. Be there or be square!

The date’s set in stone, and it should be a good time. It looks like Cheeseness is on board to judge, again and hopefully we can get more people on board to judge, as well.

Speaking of my friend Cheeseness, he’s composed a superb write-up of the Jam. There are a ton of interesting facts, too, like… did you know that nearly 60% of the games submitted to the jam were licensed permissively? That’s awesome! Check out his write-up over on his blog, there’s a link in the description!

But! Let’s talk about my favorites, shall we? I had a very hard time whittling this list down to only five. Virtually every game had something unique and interesting; even if it wasn’t evident on a surface level. However, there were a few standout entries that I feel deserve some recognition. In no particular order we have:

Two Button Knight

Two Button Knight is a combat game that maps all your actions to just two buttons. Hey! Now I get the name!

Two Button Knight is a fabulous example of not having to sacrifice aesthetics over mechanics as it equally delivers both within the short timeframe of the jam.

The game’s controls are fairly robust, especially considering the two-button nature of input. You move, high- and low-attack, parry, and dodge, which, again, is impressive for two buttons.

The game even features a two-player mode, which is lovely.

Going forward, I’d love to see what a more polished experience would look like. With better button combo detection, and maybe a bit more telegraphing of which move the enemy is trying to pull off.

All in all, though, great job Vladar

KILLALL

KILLALL is a platformer that focuses on ‘combat’. Well, I mean, you’re a brick and you ‘fight’ other bricks. And that’s cool. As you move around, the circle around you grows; this circle is your attack range. It’s pretty cool. Your attacks do more damage based on your velocity and what direction you’re moving in!

I’d love to see more from this title, especially a fleshed out visual style. More levels, tighter controls, and a bit more visual feedback. Attack animations, etc. Unity engine is notorious for having strange jumping physics. Smooth this over and your title will be A+.

Great job, WillBl3pic

Wereshift

There’s a surprising amount of depth in Wereshift. There’s action, strategy, and a risk-versus-reward gameplay loop that I find satisfying to no end.

There’s a level of complexity to the game’s design that you don’t readily see in a game developed in 9 days. You have ever-draining health that can be recovered through killing enemies and hiding in bushes. You can also transform between different states.

The game’s visual style is on-point and I found it one of the most charming displays of the jam.

The lack of sound and the somewhat bawdy controls are the only real critiques I can levy against Wereshift. I’d like to see enemies have to draw their bow and take aim before they fire their arrows… something that would telegraph to the player where their arrow’s are going (and I’d like to see arrows move a bit faster). Similarly, I’d like there to be a dedicated attack button instead of having to jump to attack. Perhaps the dedicated attack button would only take effect as the werewolf, giving you more incentive to transform.

Great job, Clipsey and Shramper!

Project AL

Project AL, while lacking in the number of levels, certainly has the most complete mechanics of the jam. It feels like a bit of a cross between a platformer and a metroidvania-style game, which I completely dig.

The game’s graphics are stellar, the music is awesome, and the controls… while a bit stiff, get the job done!

You can morph into a ball to enter narrow corridors, wall jump, and even dash. Collect coins along your way to the exit and you’ll find yourself in a having a ton of fun with Project AL.

I’d like to see the controls be refined. A larger window for dashing after jumps might add more to the experience. Also, having the duration of the jump button control how high and long you jump would make a huge difference in my perceived stiffness of the controls. Also, MORE LEVELS would be awesome, obviously, and if there were, perhaps a variety of objectives to complete in each stage, that would be cool too!

Great job, ObsidianBlk!

Gunship: Tactical Munitions Capitalism

Gunship: Tactical Munitions Capitalism is a puzzle game that utilizes simple monochrome graphics to conceal a deep strategy game.

You get two types of ammunition and each type subtracts a fixed number of points from your score. To gain points you need to destroy the blocks on the other side of the screen. In order to progress, you need to destroy all the blocks while breaking even in your scoring. Planning is required in order to blow up the blocks while breaking even, and the last level is deceptively difficult.

I’d like to see more levels with this title. Perhaps a quick preview of what the puzzle looks like before you play the level the first time. Maybe an additional type of ammunition could shake up the gameplay, or perhaps later levels have a preloaded ‘opening volley’ you have to account for in your budgeting.

But, yeah… great job, Zak Stephens!

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the jam, thanks to the judges who helped make it a reality.

And seriously, you really should check out Cheeseness' post. It's about as detailed and insightful as anything I've ever read.


Microsoft v. Eric Lundgren Case

Now, here’s the deal. Several people have tweeted at me over the last few days about the lawsuit surrounding this guy. He’s an entrepreneur who has been convicted of software piracy. He made copies of operating system restore discs--software distributed online free of cost--in a self-described attempt to divert old PCs from landfills. Which, in my opinion, is a truly noble goal.

However, there are a couple things that I find irksome about this, and some of my opinions may prove to be unpopular… but hear me out.

First of all, Lundgren and his business partner did do something that is technically illegal. The discs that they manufactured in China had the PC manufacturer’s logo on them. That’s obviously a stupid idea… like, why would do that? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Second, the reporting on this story is terrible. People seem to be taking sides and it’s mostly with him. Yes, Microsoft is a litigious bully. Did they lie to the government about the value of these discs? According to what I’ve read, they did… but I’ve also read things that stated the software on these discs might have been cracked. So, who knows?

Plus, the liberal use of the term “Free Software” in the reporting on this is problematic. The software in question, Microsoft’s Windows 7 and the myriad of binary drivers included along with it are proprietary and closed source, meaning they are the exact OPPOSITE of Free Software. What they mean by the use of these terms is “available free of charge.” And yeah, that is true. You can download a copy of this software for free from the manufacturer’s website.

But the facts seem to be: they mimicked the layout and branding of the official discs which seems super shady to me, and the fact that the guy can’t seem to keep his story straight makes me pretty suspicious of his motivations.

Now this story has become somewhat of a warcry for my fellow ‘Right to Repair’ revolutionaries. And guys, I am completely on your side. But this Lundgren character is probably not the horse you want to back. This all seems a bit too shady to me.

I’m gonna end this with a call to real arms; if you truly believe in extending the life of old hardware and you want to help the environment, Linux is really the only way to go. It’s free software; truly free software. Meaning it can be redistributed without fear of legal reprisal.

It also isn’t defective by design; the OS doesn’t stop working if your license key is invalid (since there are NO license keys). And finally, modern versions of the Linux kernel still work on old systems. Meanwhile, modern versions of Windows are likely to have performance issues; leaving you with two options: run the newer version of Windows and waste power, or us the older, insecure versions of Windows that could be compromised and used to mine bitcoin or join a botnet… and thus wasting power.

So Linux is truly the only way to go.