Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Avatars, in Space!

When looking for examples of what Mark Stephen Meadows is discussing in his book, I, Avatar, you need look no further than EVE-Online. In the world of EVE-Online, users engage in social activities beyond what is normally capable, but mirroring the real world. They form national entities, social systems, even their own policing forces.

As he discussed Lindin Labs' vision, it seemed reminiscent of what has been going on in the world of New Eden. However, it goes further, and simulates the more dastardly elements that he discussed.
Thievery and assassination are strong elements in EVE Online, and are in fact a big draw to the game.

In this article, we have the social system that Lindin Labs had hoped to create, and the dastardly, malicious activity that was a byproduct of such a system. Much like Killingmachine Marx, (and arguably, the author in his retalation), the Guiding Hand used underhanded tactics to subjugate an enemy. It goes even further, that they were paid in a contract to do this.

Lindin Labs had wanted to create a real world, much like EVE Online's CCP. Both have created a seedier element. As you can see from this article, sometimes it is the more dispicable behavior, and the potential for such, that draws players into a game. Other such events often incurred a retaliation on behalf of the victims.

A quick look on CCP's forums reveal much truth to this. Entire corporations are built around pirating, espionage, scamming, and other corporations are built around fighting this sort of thing. This kind of immersive, emergent behaviour is a critical point to analyze when discussing the success of a sandbox game, the likes of which constantly discussed in I, Avatar.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Future Supposition

The future holds many possibilities. To accurately predict specifics would be an incredible, next to impossible feat. Yet, discussion on the topic is always interesting, so here I shall attempt to provide such discourse.

Ten years down the road is the target. The basics I believe will stay the same. I will hold a job, build a family, live in a home. The technology involved may have evolved, but the premise will remain without a doubt. We will probably still have elected offices, and the same offices. The nation will be largely in tact, and the social/national structure will also be in tact.

Here's the reasoning behind this. This scenario has worked well for a very, very long time. Such basic things have little reason to change fundamentally, and ten years is not long enough to produce a reason.

Government, I believe, will grow bigger. It seems that in times of trouble, the common response is to make more government oversight, expanding the power of the government. Today we see this in the incoming president, and the creation of more oversight as a response to the financial crisis. These trends can grow to include internet and technology oversight, closer surveillance, and even oversight to monitor social trends.

My job is likely to be in technology, specifically in programming. Technology jobs I think will become more common as more and more technology becomes available, and innovations more and more important.

It will likely still be a 9-5 setup. Work environments are still important, so telecommuting may only be for certain circumstances. Depending on my stage of life, and the job, the company may be very important in my life; but family will be the most controlling factor in my day-to-day.

I guess my point is this. Technology and situations may change over the course of time; however the basics of our society will survive, just like they do in other societies. As the saying goes,"The more things change, the more they stay the same".

Now for changes. The internet, I believe, will eventually open up as companies give up trying to litigate and manage users' rights. DRM is failing today, and may be phased out over time in order to compete. As it is now, DRM is causing more revenue loss than it retains, and as more companies realize this, the more sure I am of its eventual demise.

Information will become more readily available. As portable devices gain internet access (high speed in some cases), information can literally be at one's fingertips wherever they go. The effects of this will be far reaching. Politics, science, news, and the arts will be the most affected. Scientific discoveries, ideas, and research can be shared globally in less than a second. Politicians will be scrutinized much more thoroughly, and dissented much more often.

The voters will become more and more informed ( or mis-informed; but either way behaving as if informed), and the politicians will need to adjust their strategies to compensate. Today, it appears the mainstream media can greatly influence public opinion in their choices of reporting (or not reporting) certain items. This may not be the same in the future, due to the large dissimenation of information.

News and ideas will be transmitted just as easily. Digital art, distrubuted throughout the world may become more popular. Artistic trends will change faster and faster, much like the meme's of today.

So this is my look of the future. Alot of the same, with some subtle differences.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Real ID

Real ID is an act passed that is requiring states to update their ID system, waiving laws prohibiting physical barriers at borders, and several other important immigration changes, asylum changes, etc.

There isn't much info on technical specifics worth mentioning, but here's a gist.

1. All states must share DMV databases amongst each other. Information about drivers is instantly available.

2. Security measures must be enhanced on all documents. (Holograms, small-print, etc).

3. Required for travel, entrance into federal facilities, nuclear power plants.

Blind Man's Bluff

The interesting topic of espionage, counter-espionage, and surveillance is covered pretty well by "Little Brother". An Orwellian supposition on our near future is the mainstay of this story, in which the populace is being monitored closely following terrorist attacks.

I found that while the scenario is a bit exaggerated, the technology and protocols are all entirely modern. The author makes an attempt at capturing today's technological subculture, and for the most part has been successful.

Small cameras, tracking software, histogram detection methods, wifi-detectors are all things we've encountered before (even if we don't know it). Their widespread use for the purposes of surveillance of an entire populace, and overt surveillance at that, simply has not been done in the United States as of yet; but the technology is there.

Okay, so we know the cameras are available, that's a no brainer, but what about gait tracking software? This rather interesting concept is something I'm not sure exists yet, but the premises are available. Use a camera to identify shapes, watch the change in these shapes and make a supposition on the nature of these changes.

This type of software does exist. Volvo, for instance, is using a derivative of this to help cars identify incoming obstacles, and automatically apply the brakes. The camera identifies a shape, identifies that it has gotten larger, or has quickly appeared close to the camera, and determines it is an obstacle. This is an improvement over current, radar/infrasound based technologies for reasons that are beyond the scope of this writing.

The technology I am most familiar with in the story, however, would be the cryptological methods described. Public/Private key, web-of-trust, middle-man attacks, are all things I've studied for a good while when concerned with web development. Use in the situations described is entirely plausible, and recommended!

Security is a continually evolving field, with many angles that need to be covered. It's interesting to see how the mathematical cryptography could be worked around with even more math using the histogram methods; Bayesier math. The simplistic elegance really contrasts with the complexity of higher math, an item touched upon in the story as well.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nom nom nom

Okay. It's 4am, and this is now the fifth attempt at posting something here. Damn thing seems to have eaten my last however-many-posts. I'm fed up and about to collapse; so sorry this space will be filled sometime later when I'm awake.

In the meantime, I'll post something I wrote a while back when I was bored. The following is a copy/paste from a Facebook note I wrote (hah. that rhymed), and yes, I know it has nothing to do with anything. I just have this thing about after spending the last god knows how long trying to rewrite posts from memory, and still failing, that I shall not leave this space depressingly short.

Now I feel at least a little accomplished

I became interested in flight and aviation when I was much younger. My father would take me to Martin State Airport; pulled over at a little observation area near the fence. My grandfather would tell me stories about how F-86 Sabers saved him and his platoon in Korea.

Since then, I became interested in PC simulation, and military flight simulation. When I was in a writing mood I decided to write a few lines after hearing some stories from friends ( real combat pilots )I had met while flying these simulators.

-- Ode to the Falconeer

Soaring effortlessly amongst the windswept heaven,
Rising on metal wings above Angels Eleven,
He is the guardian of the unmet brothers down below,
Comrades with their arms in tow, marching to meet their dire foe.

When danger he spies from above, no time for them to heed his call.
Action conspires with fate, as he takes himself and his life into free fall.

Falling with the wrath of heaven,
The burning power blazing in the descent.
Diving with a fierce range in his eyes,
Smiting for liberty, in his Cadillac of the Skies.
--- Jack Rappazzo

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Starlit City

I not-so-regretfully return to the world of New Eden for this posting. I allowed my account to lapse on Pirates of the Burning Sea, and as such do not have access to the game world.

Cities in New Eden are mostly unseen by the Pod Pilots. Cities are too rustic, unfit for men and women of their position. There are cultural centers, social centers, and economic centers visible in EVE, but not always centered in the same place.

Social and cultural interaction usually takes place via the chat channels. Without a concrete location for players to idle in game other than a space station (which restricts you to the hangar), the primary communication tools find themselves filling in the gaps caused by being de-centralized.

As far as other needs are concerned, the space station is the closest you can get to a city within EVE. Certain stations (Such as the JITA 4-4 station of The Citadel Region) are more popular than others, but they all fill the same needs. They provide a point of trade, housing the markets and escrow items. They repair vessels, allow pilots to rearm and refit their ships, and facilitates trading.

Only part of the system can function without other players. Vehicle repairs and fitting services function just as well with or without other players. Agents can be spoken to (NPCs), and missions accepted and completed. However, trade, contracts, corporation offices and market interactions all require another player.

The station is very much an obvious illusion. UI elements display the functionality of the station, not physical travel and interaction. Simple menu navigation and UI manipulation accomplishes all possible tasks. However, there is work being done to allow the avatars to move about the station.

Currently, the internal views of the station shows illusionary activity. News tickers and advertisements for in-world, but inaccessible services flash by. Observation lights pan around, and vehicles even move about on these interiors.

All in all, cities are largely simulated in stations, but are actually represented by the tools present in the communications within Alliances, and the economic hubs of regions.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Diamond Age, and a Copper Era

So I finally managed to snag myself a copy of The Diamond Age, over the weekend. Quite a fascinating book with rich characters. The world is well developed and interesting, both technologically and culturally. However it does leave me with a few questions.

Not about the current world, but the events leading up to it. I suppose if I read Snow Crash I'd understand a bit better. I'm trying to understand how the phyles came about; how did people start becoming so divided culturally, so much so that each cultural group acted as its own political entity.

Also, how did people come to accept the popularity of the nano machines? Today, it seems people are a little fearful of the invasive technology this suggests. The enhanced surveillance, hidden weapons (skull guns), and even torture devices (Mr. PhyrePhox).

It must be a very fearful society, knowing that the person next to you could be armed with a tiny firearm implanted in their head, or they could hack into your own body, and embed advertisements into your vision. My main question is how do people deal with this? How are they compliant and what led to the overall acceptance.

In New Eden, one sometimes finds returning to the beginning to be as fascination adventure as moving on into the upper echelons of player-alliance warfare. I decided to join a small corporation that had ambitions of moving into low-security space in order to set up a small station there.

However, I was dismayed to discover that as a pilot with my particular set of abilities, I had little place here. This was an industrial corporation, (Product Number 3 they call themselves) which considered "high combat" to be fighting the local NPCs. They made little effort to protect themselves against player attack, or war declarations, and merely hoped diplomacy would avert any tensions.

The system we scoped out for the station is a 0.4 security system, the highest security possible to still be called "low-sec", and therefore without CONCORD consequences. This particular system is surrounded by high-sec systems, making it a de-facto island of its type. It was no great adventure travelling here; a mere novelty. Almost as safe as true high-security. There was no risk or application, and I soon found myself despairing in the lack of activity I've found myself.

Escorting mining operations seems to be the most intense mission I've undertaken since starting with this corporation (despite being the most experienced combat personelle on their roster). This task, in high-security space which the corporation refuses to leave, simply involves me hovering around the miners in my Cerberus, and intimidating away anyone who might steal ore from the floating canisters we use as a go-between for the miners and hauling ships.

The closest I've come to actually firing was when a mining barge hovered over one of our "jet-cans" (jettison canister. We jettison material into space in a large container, and then add into the container so we don't fill up the host ship's cargo hold). He lingered for a while as if he was trying to remove some of our minerals, so I locked with my targetting computer, and approached warp-drive scramble range.

He, of course, thought better of his decisions and moved on.