Atvelonis's recent activity

  1. Comment on This website will self destruct in ~comp

    Atvelonis
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    Thank you for sharing. I'm really enjoying reading through some of the messages that people have left. Some of them contain pieces of wisdom, some are funny or just silly, others are deeply...

    Thank you for sharing. I'm really enjoying reading through some of the messages that people have left. Some of them contain pieces of wisdom, some are funny or just silly, others are deeply melancholy. I want to reach through the screen and give these people a hug. Whoever's out there, you are loved!

    13 votes
  2. Comment on Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI in ~tech

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Goes to show how rarely I use MSN. Yes, you're right, they aren't writing articles from scratch, but I'd tend to think that editing headlines is just as important in journalism as article content...

    Goes to show how rarely I use MSN. Yes, you're right, they aren't writing articles from scratch, but I'd tend to think that editing headlines is just as important in journalism as article content itself. A lot of people never get to the real piece.

    Manual curation of news stories also ensured that headlines were clear and appropriate for the format, while encouraging a spread of political opinions and avoiding untrustworthy stories, while highlighting interesting articles from smaller outlets.

    5 votes
  3. Comment on What an economic liberal and conservative learned from their friendship in ~life

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    Nothing to worry about, I appreciate the response! I also don't know if what I'm writing makes any sense. I could probably use a drink too. I'm not sure I'm going to have the energy to continue...

    Nothing to worry about, I appreciate the response! I also don't know if what I'm writing makes any sense. I could probably use a drink too. I'm not sure I'm going to have the energy to continue talking after this.

    Isn't that based on your (and as is the case, my) ideological opinion though?

    Sure, but I would clarify that everything I say is based on my ideological opinion. There's no interpretation of "the facts" that I (or anyone else) can make that isn't. And you definitely could use my final argument against me; I'm not fundamentally any different from the people I'm criticizing. Either 1) I'm correct about what I'm saying, 2) I'm a hopeless idealist (!), or 3) I'm lying to myself about how much I care about oppression. It's actually sort of a truism framed in my comment as a reasonable binary (leaving out the first option). Abstracted: if I'm not right, I'm wrong, and if I'm wrong, either I know it or I don't. But I'm pretty sure I'm right, just as every "socially liberal, economically conservative" friend I have thinks that they're right. (But I'm the one writing here!) The implication of my comment, because "deluded" is a crude and unhelpful characterization, is the only option left: that people who identify in this way are acting with selfish intent.

    As far as I'm concerned, you can place any action by any person onto a single spectrum: "for the self" on one end, and "not for the self" on the other end. In my vagueries about "social liberalism" I make the assumption that a person who genuinely believes in such things is interested in some form of equality (i.e. at or approaching the "not for the self" end). If they know in their heart that they believe in this principle, I would consider it a contradiction for them not to actively pursue it through at least some manner. My framing might have implied that the only solution I'm proposing is government intervention, although I actually think that charity is a perfectly active pursuit of this goal, something that's compatible with libertarianism (or whatever). I agree with the general idea of Peter Singer's essay on "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," at least in a very high-minded way. But for the same reason that almost no "progressive liberal" or "effective altruist" (or whatever they call themselves) is actually going to donate all of their discretionary income to charity, not even Peter Singer, almost no "libertarian-esque" person would. They have accepted that they value their position in society more than they actually value equality. The sole difference is that one of these groups, seeing a dead end (for selfish reasons), tries then to utilize another outlet (e.g. higher taxation of the ultra-wealthy) in the hopes that it will have a greater effect, and the other group does not. If that other outlet was blocked to the second group to begin with for ideological reasons (because they want no government), and this one is also blocked to them for selfish reasons (because, defensibly, they are not ascetics), then they are no longer actively pursuing equality; they have accepted that they benefit from and in fact prefer inequality. Their inaction, hoping that everything will somehow just work itself out, is negative action.

    My comment touches on political morality, but is really focused on critical thinking; I'm not very interested in case studies. I agree that triple oppression and intersectionality are confusing and flawed theories, but I haven't come across anything that works better. Maybe this is my liberal arts education getting the better of me, but I feel that the worst way to analyze any specific policy is to consider it as existing in a vacuum, and by extension that the least worst way is to consider it in the broader context within which it definitely exists. I use labels like "feminism" as a medium for unspecific ethical thought simply because it's confusing and usually pointless to speak in the irritating generality of political theory all the time. Whether a historical feminist movement happens to fit a convenient definition of feminism in the modern day—not really the point. I see your comment about "No True Scotsman," and it certainly applies, but I don't actually have a stake in any particular historical Marxist-derivative movement or the like.

    If you'll allow me to untether myself from the ground just a little bit, I suppose that the value of my perspective here is not so much in analyzing anything specific directly, but more in becoming aware of the relationship between "what I want for myself" and "what's good for the world" in the context of said tangible subjects. Without that self-awareness, more specific discussion—while still possible—is unintelligible. I should be able to recognize in myself and in others what is fundamentally being done for the self, and what isn't. At a certain level, a policy that happens to benefit everyone is accepted by any given person primarily because it benefits them. That it benefits everyone else is a nice bonus in line with their moral compass. e.g. John Rawls' idea of the original position is a reasonable synthesis between the evident selfishness of humanity and the possibility for emergent (if somewhat accidental) equality that can still very much exist within that framework. So I actually would not decry selfish action as inherently or universally bad. However, as creatures capable of empathy, I would remain highly skeptical of its application to systems that do not promote such equality. This is ego with no telos but itself, which is unacceptable to me. What I can accept is ego whose telos is everyone, or its absence altogether.

    6 votes
  4. Comment on What an economic liberal and conservative learned from their friendship in ~life

    Atvelonis
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    As heartwarming as stories like this are intended to be, social and fiscal policy don't exist on separate planes; they are intimately connected and should not be construed as completely distinct...

    As heartwarming as stories like this are intended to be, social and fiscal policy don't exist on separate planes; they are intimately connected and should not be construed as completely distinct parts of the political discussion. I don't think that it's actually possible to be "economically conservative" and also "socially liberal," as many people like to claim that they are. This just means "selectively socially liberal such that your socioeconomic position is not negatively affected."

    This article talks a bit about feminist movements, nominally a social process, but I struggle to understand how that can be reconciled with anything viewed through an economically conservative lens. A proper feminist movement is not simply "about women." It is instead about how issues affecting women are complicated when considered through a lens of intersectionality; the life experiences of a wealthy, white, Protestant woman are not the same as that of a poor, black, Muslim one. And what about someone whose identity is more complex, with some backgrounds providing privilege and others withholding it? A poor, white woman of immigrant parents? An educated, Asian-American, lesbian woman from a line of old money? There are many more examples of identity becoming tangled with social and economic qualities. Feminism is valuable because it provides insight into the gender aspect of these intersectional identities, but it shouldn't ignore the others. An economically conservative feminist is one whose political opinions can very much negatively affect women, and by extension the very platform that they are fighting for; such a position is self-contradicting. Consider a single mother of two living off welfare; her position as a woman and as a mother cannot be extricated from her economic status, reliant on the financial goodwill of the government to survive. Many of her problems are ones that are unique to women, and so one cannot simply vote in favor of a politician who opposes welfare and expect that her life will somehow not be made worse by doing so.

    I believe quite strongly that economic conservatism, as it manifests today, represents very little beyond self-interest (and has for virtually all of history). Some specific economic policies commonly construed as "conservative" are indeed beneficial in particular situations, but the ideology as a whole is, by nature, one that does not address the systemic inequality that exists within our society. Shielding oneself from the reality that economics affect social aspects of our lives, as "socially liberal, economically conservative" people are wont to do, is possible only from a position of privilege. Such beliefs maintain one's socioeconomic status by ignoring solutions that would fix the broader issues, but potentially harm said position. Of course a wealthy person will argue that taxing the 1% to provide funding for social programs affecting the 99% is unfair, because it is from them that money is being taken to re-proportionalize a significant disproportionate socioeconomic balance. They can theoretically agree with analysis of the "social issues" affecting that 99%, but it means very little if they contribute nothing to fix them.

    I dislike political scientists, their axes, and their boxes. It's very hard to argue that someone who believes in true social equality can also believe that economics don't have an immediate impact on it. People who genuinely identify as socially liberal and economically conservative are either deluding themselves, or have accepted that they're actually okay with some level of inequality and just won't admit it.

    17 votes
  5. Comment on Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI in ~tech

    Atvelonis
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    Ah, exactly what we need in the disinformation age: narrowly programmed AIs to copy+paste content from existing, possibly unreliable news sources instead of doing genuine research themselves....

    Ah, exactly what we need in the disinformation age: narrowly programmed AIs to copy+paste content from existing, possibly unreliable news sources instead of doing genuine research themselves. Without the ability to ask genuine questions and structure a story in ways that are both personal and attentive to national or global trends, I don't believe that an AI emulating a journalist's writing style is anything near a replacement for an actual journalist. Perhaps this doesn't matter too much for something like routine data coverage of sports games, but in covering anything with a remotely subjective focus, an AI will fail to comprehend the bigger picture. I don't question the ability of an AI to write with correct grammar, but I would question its ability to write with substance. The technology just isn't there yet, and a big part of me thinks that it never will be (the human experience is informed by so much more than words that can be fed into an algorithm).

    19 votes
  6. Comment on Fitness Weekly Discussion in ~health

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Wow, those are beautiful performances! They look like they require a lot of dexterity and technical attention. How do you learn? Are you self-taught? I like a good, old-fashioned rave as much as...

    Wow, those are beautiful performances! They look like they require a lot of dexterity and technical attention. How do you learn? Are you self-taught? I like a good, old-fashioned rave as much as the next person, although I bet it would be a lot more fun if I knew how to dance like that. Social dancing doesn't give me too many tricks to show off, haha. I'd love to give something new a try while I have the opportunity!

    2 votes
  7. Comment on What are your favorite and least favorite gaming tropes? in ~games

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    As a fencer myself, I would like to remark that people actually do get hurt in the sport (a lot). :P Jokes aside, I think that this is a good way to think about mechanics; just as a lunge to your...

    As a fencer myself, I would like to remark that people actually do get hurt in the sport (a lot). :P

    Jokes aside, I think that this is a good way to think about mechanics; just as a lunge to your opponent's chest in a fencing bout is really just a way to score a touch, not to kill them, doing the same through the hands of an RPG character is less about the literal act and more about the broader context that it's in. Even in a game like Call of Duty, you inhabit the character of a soldier, not your own person, so your actions are only comprehensible through the lens of someone in that occupation. The standards of morality genuinely do change between a regular person and someone whose job it is to ostensibly "defend their country," and this isn't any different in an artistic representation. So I actually think that it hampers the potential creative meaning of a game to reduce or omit realistic or thematically useful aspects of violence, etc. solely because they "aren't morally acceptable." Of course they aren't; the game should show that.

    When this becomes problematic, I think, is when the narrative or structure of the gameplay justify violent or cruel behavior when they should be using it as commentary against such acts, implicitly or explicitly. To connect this to my earlier comment about what I think are excessive random encounters with enemies in open-world RPGs, while The Witcher 3 (for example) introduces a reasonable system of morality for your character (a monster-hunter, not a murderer, doesn't kill sentient monsters, etc.), it largely ignores it by placing innumerable packs of bandits and pirates whom you're clearly supposed to kill in locales across the map, with no real dialogue options to deal with most of them in an alternative way. It's possible to just run past them, but this forfeits the treasure they have and isn't even always possible. My favorite morality system in any game I've played is that in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, wherein:

    MGSV spoilers Killing enemy soldiers contributes to an invisible "demon point" counter for Snake, which literally changes his appearance if it gets high enough. At its worst stage, he has a demonic horn sticking out of the side of his forehead, and his face is permanently covered in blood. The game actively encourages you not to kill all enemy soldiers, but instead to stun them and parachute them away to join *your* army instead, thereby giving them a "second chance" at life instead of ending their first for no reason. It's a little goofy, but it's an enticing alternative, and I took it at nearly every opportunity I had. The mechanics surrounding this are very complex, and very intentional. There's nothing stopping you from killing all of the enemy soldiers you see, but the game reminds you well of the effects that this should be having on your character's psyche (or yours).

    I also have a few thoughts on the somewhat gratuitous treatment of sexual imagery in The Witcher 3, much in the spirit of the above. Many instances of the depiction of sexual violence in the game contribute to its broader moral themes; its representation of humanity's potential for cruelness. This, I would say, is done appropriately, if a tad more often than is strictly necessary. But what doesn't make sense is how the game occasionally treats sex with women as a reward for finishing quests. This can occur while Geralt is in a relationship, but has no effect on its status, even though the narrative otherwise makes it clear that his partner would care very much if they knew what he was up to. There is always the option of just not doing it, but in these moments the game presents very little in the way of active suggestions that what Geralt is doing actually matters, i.e. representations of the inner moral turmoil that someone cheating on their SO could potentially have. In my opinion, this contributes negatively to the overall representation of sex in the game, and more generally to the implicit characteristics of masculinity that Geralt's character carries for many players.

    The way that I approach games is not "Is this game literally perfect? If not, I won't play it," as if that were the case, I would have nothing to play. Plenty of games make mistakes like the ones I mentioned above, intentionally or otherwise, and that shouldn't necessarily disqualify them from getting any playtime. However, I think that it's very important for players to be conscious of the actions that they're taking in the context of their characters, and themselves. Video games are an art form, and art cannot just be passed off as... "just art." That makes no sense. Art is meaning, and vice versa. The normalization of certain behaviors in video games, I would argue, actually does have an effect on the way that players view the world in the context of those things, and for that reason we should be aware of our actions in-game as manifestations of our real wills.

    4 votes
  8. Comment on What are your favorite and least favorite gaming tropes? in ~games

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    Of course, my comment is my opinion and shouldn't be taken as The Truth (TM). Skyrim as a whole is one of my favorite games; I actually help run one of the wikis for it, and it's not impossible...

    Of course, my comment is my opinion and shouldn't be taken as The Truth (TM). Skyrim as a whole is one of my favorite games; I actually help run one of the wikis for it, and it's not impossible that my overplaying of the game for that purpose has contributed to my irritation with the combat.

    I play story-driven RPGs for their narrative elements in the context of a game, so mechanics that become tedious snap me out of that relationship. But the issue is not that I just want the story (there are plenty of movies with better narratives out there that I could watch instead), it's more that I look for a balance between these two. I appreciate well-designed gameplay elements as much as anyone else; I very much enjoy being able to make choices and go at my own pace (I have no elitist qualms about playing on easy mode when I need to). But if I'm going into a game with the goal of feeling immersed in its world, an overpowered combat system would be just as jarring as an underpowered one. i.e., either way, the narrative and gameplay aren't working together to create an emergent experience so much as they're independent systems conflicting with each other within the same framework. Maybe I'm just too picky, haha. :P

    4 votes
  9. Comment on Fitness Weekly Discussion in ~health

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I have no idea what those techniques are, but they sound interesting! Can you tell me more? I've only ever done social dance, specifically Scottish country dance, and a little bit of English dance...

    I have no idea what those techniques are, but they sound interesting! Can you tell me more? I've only ever done social dance, specifically Scottish country dance, and a little bit of English dance and contra. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society has been doing online video dance classes for the past couple months; they're not quite the same as a real dance, but it's helped me stay sane throughout this regardless.

    2 votes
  10. Comment on Lankum: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert in ~music

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    What a lovely little concert! Thank you for the notice, I appreciate it.

    What a lovely little concert! Thank you for the notice, I appreciate it.

    1 vote
  11. Comment on Fitness Weekly Discussion in ~health

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    What kind of dancing do you do?

    What kind of dancing do you do?

    3 votes
  12. Comment on The 'wall' that keeps flesh-eating worms out of America in ~enviro

    Atvelonis
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    This is an incredibly interesting article, I appreciate you sharing it. I always wonder about the myriad jobs like this that are essential to the modern functioning of our society, yet which...

    This is an incredibly interesting article, I appreciate you sharing it. I always wonder about the myriad jobs like this that are essential to the modern functioning of our society, yet which almost no one knows about. I think that a lot of people these days look down on the woes of farmers, but their problems are perhaps the most important of anyone's in this country.

    6 votes
  13. Comment on What are your favorite and least favorite gaming tropes? in ~games

    Atvelonis
    Link
    The thing that irks me the most about open-world games, especially fantasy titles, is the sheer number of enemies scattered across every corner of the map. The worst thing you can do to your...

    The thing that irks me the most about open-world games, especially fantasy titles, is the sheer number of enemies scattered across every corner of the map. The worst thing you can do to your game's already-bad combat system is to require the player to utilize it so often that they no longer enjoy it in any capacity (looking at you, Skyrim). I shouldn't have to battle a pack of wolves, sixteen trolls, three dragons, and two thousand bandits on my way from point A to point B on the map. Wild animals are not this common in real life, even in the middle of nowhere, and most of them try to avoid people anyway. Implementing so many unnecessary random encounters devalues the experience that the player has in each one.

    I think that this is particularly irritating in The Witcher 3. I understand the whole "monsters are a big problem in this world" theme that they're trying to convey, and it's an important one for the series, but the overabundance of enemies makes traveling a chore instead of something to have fun with, whether it be roleplaying or just appreciating the environment. I should be afraid to encounter enemies, or at least apprehensive of it, even as a great warrior. If they're so common that my reaction is "ugh, another drowner," they no longer contribute to the game's horror themes and are simply fluff.

    21 votes
  14. Comment on What are your favorite and least favorite gaming tropes? in ~games

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    This has definitely happened to me at least a few times in The Witcher 3, which I've been very slowly going through for about a year now. I don't really mind if it's a fistfight that I'm doing for...

    This has definitely happened to me at least a few times in The Witcher 3, which I've been very slowly going through for about a year now. I don't really mind if it's a fistfight that I'm doing for sport, but if I start fighting something for real, I should be able to kill it then and there. What I find even more annoying is when there isn't even a narrative reason for the cutscene, the enemy just runs away and I have to go track it down and kill it somewhere else. There's no purpose, and it's a waste of time.

    4 votes
  15. Comment on What games have you been playing, and what's your opinion on them? in ~games

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I absolutely love this game. I'm constantly surprised by how varied the landscape is across the world; I have images in my mind of what every country looks like, but they're usually incomplete.

    I absolutely love this game. I'm constantly surprised by how varied the landscape is across the world; I have images in my mind of what every country looks like, but they're usually incomplete.

    4 votes
  16. Comment on Recommend me a movie that _________ in ~movies

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I just finished watching Annihilation after your suggestion. I'm a fan. It reminds me a lot of Arrival in the sense that the scientist leads aren't dorky Hollywood tropes, but instead feel like...

    I just finished watching Annihilation after your suggestion. I'm a fan. It reminds me a lot of Arrival in the sense that the scientist leads aren't dorky Hollywood tropes, but instead feel like real, complex people. There are a couple questionable plot decisions, but I think they're made up for by the characters (especially Natalie Portman) as well as the beautiful or maybe grotesque visuals. I'm surprised that this movie did so poorly in the box office, because it's really quite good.

    4 votes
  17. Comment on Recommend me a movie that _________ in ~movies

    Atvelonis
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    Recommend me something post-apocalyptic with a human focus. I like gritty, but not nihilistic per se, in the sense that no realistic apocalypse should be impossible to recover from. Where human...

    Recommend me something post-apocalyptic with a human focus. I like gritty, but not nihilistic per se, in the sense that no realistic apocalypse should be impossible to recover from. Where human ingenuity exists, hope exists, and I find that very compelling.

    I recently watched Mad Max: Fury Road and was very taken with the wasteland society that it depicts. It's extremely unique, and although its members have clearly regressed from the present day, the world it shows still contains dashes of life, energy, and possibility if you look closely, both literally and artistically. I appreciate a good monster/disaster movie now and again, but actually what's most interesting to me about the broader apocalyptic genre is not the disaster itself, which tends to be depressing and lonely, but the way that the characters are able to cope with it after the fact. For example, the focus of a zombie movie, almost without fail, is in fact the zombies, which is why very few such movies have any particularly good characters and usually end with almost every single person dying. It's not really even about the humans, they're just set pieces to play out the grand apocalypse. That's not what I'm looking for.

    I watched Children of Men some time ago and enjoyed it a lot. The characters are clearly living in some sort of dystopian world, and society is struggling to reconcile what the premise of the movie means for its own survival. A Clockwork Orange is depraved, depressing, and nihilistic, but not for reasons that are fundamentally outside of humanity's control (so I would think). But I feel like I can't find any more movies that go for this. The spectacle of the apocalypse is nice and all, but people are what makes the world turn.

    2 votes
  18. Comment on Haven't gamed on a PC for 10 years. Built a gaming rig. What games do I install? in ~games

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    It's a night-and-day difference between 60hz and 144hz for me, even when just browsing the web, although I'm a bit of a nut about it. I spend a lot of time looking at a screen every day, so I'm...

    It's a night-and-day difference between 60hz and 144hz for me, even when just browsing the web, although I'm a bit of a nut about it. I spend a lot of time looking at a screen every day, so I'm completely serious when I say that the smoothness of the cursor is something that actually matters to me. I personally feel that it's very important in video games as well; there's nothing wrong with playing at 60hz, and it can easily be a very good experience. However, once I switched to 144hz, I realized that there was no way I could ever go back.

    There are diminishing returns as you go higher. The highest refresh rate I know about is 240hz, and though I'm also certain that you could tell the difference between 144fps and 240fps if you were paying attention (LinusTechTips did a video on this once), I personally don't think that it justifies the higher price tag. I don't know if there are any 4k 144hz monitors on the market right now, but if there are they're probably very expensive.

    The thing to remember is that this is your decision, not mine or anyone else's on this website. If you value a higher screen resolution more than you value a higher refresh rate, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. The nice thing about PCs is that you can customize your experience to exactly what you want, and nobody can stop you.

  19. Comment on Haven't gamed on a PC for 10 years. Built a gaming rig. What games do I install? in ~games

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
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    Are you looking for eye candy, or are you looking for good games? I could spit out a list of popular and fairly graphically demanding AAA titles, like Doom Eternal (2020), Red Dead Redemption II...

    Are you looking for eye candy, or are you looking for good games?

    I could spit out a list of popular and fairly graphically demanding AAA titles, like Doom Eternal (2020), Red Dead Redemption II (2019), Assassin's Creed: Odyssey (2018), Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018), and many, many others, all of which will put your machine to the test on ultra settings, I'm sure, especially if you're on 144hz. But I have not played a single one of these games, so I don't know if they're actually well-designed or more importantly fun. Other than perhaps Doom Eternal (if you're okay with Denuvo), whose gameplay I would cautiously vouch for given the lovely and visceral experience I had with its predecessor, I also do not intend to play any of them. Generally speaking, AAA titles are a literal waste of time. They're designed to contain grindy filler content, and the recent trend toward making absolutely everything into an open-world RPG has only exacerbated this problem. I've lately become somewhat more inclined toward shorter games (often from indie developers), as the amount that you get out of them intellectually/fun-wise is usually a better ratio than for something absolutely massive. I like much of the content in The Witcher 3, but it's got a lot of junk too.

    Some fairly recent games that I have played that I can actually recommend are The Talos Principle (2014, good puzzles, design, and story), Ori and the Blind Forest (2015, and you may want to check out 2020's Ori and the Will of the Wisps too, although I haven't gotten to it yet), The Witness (2016, somewhat minimalist puzzles and certainly ethical, if slow, game design), Limbo (2011) and its sequel INSIDE (2016), and others are all a lot of fun, and on the shorter side. Something like Metal Gear Solid V (2015) might be worth your time if you like open-world stuff; it has plenty of problems (mostly UI), but the mechanics are notably more open-ended than typical AAA titles. And I almost forgot about this, but Minecraft (2009) is one of the greatest video games ever created.

    Several people have recently recommended Disco Elysium (2019) to me, although I haven't bought it yet. I've also heard good things about Celeste (2018), Hollow Knight (2017), and Cuphead (2017), if you're into platformers, although again I have no personal experience with these titles.

    4 votes
  20. Comment on Electrons may very well be conscious in ~humanities

    Atvelonis
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    Thank you for sharing. I like this idea a lot, especially the iterative behavior that Whitehead prescribes to particles; feels quite postmodern. The article brings up a lot of good points about...

    Thank you for sharing. I like this idea a lot, especially the iterative behavior that Whitehead prescribes to particles; feels quite postmodern.

    What Dyson is getting at in his remark about electrons and quantum theory is that the probabilistic distribution-outcomes of quantum experiments (like the double-slit experiment) are better explained as the product, not of pure chance (another way of saying “we don’t know”), but of numerous highly rudimentary choices by each electron in each moment about where and how to manifest. [...]

    Rather than being unchanging things moving around in a container of space-time—the modern view in a nutshell—Whitehead conceives of particles like electrons as a chain of successive iterations of a single electron that bear a strong likeness to each other in each iteration, but are not identical to each other. Each iteration is a little different than the last. There is no static and unchanging electron. The degree to which each iteration is more or less different than the last iteration is the place for an iota of choice, and mind. This iota of choice compounds upwards and, through the course of biological evolution, results in the complex types of mind and choice that we humans and other mammals enjoy.

    The article brings up a lot of good points about the "spectrum" that life exists on, i.e. that it is much more of a gray area than many people assume. We make the cutoff somewhere around viruses in accordance with our rules for life, but clearly the fact that these figures of liminality exist at all is an indication that a binary is not necessarily a good way of classifying them. It follows that consciousness, as an emergent quality of the processes of life, represents a similarly spectral characteristic, and further that this spectrum can be extended to include, in some sense, everything that we can observe. There cannot be two spectra; if one end is "un-consciousness" (i.e. void; absence as a physical quality, the "thing" that is absolutely, definitely the least conscious in the universe) and the other end is "arbitrary maximum consciousness," then by definition everything that has a material existence is at least somewhat more conscious than the un-conscious; if it were equally so then it would be the un-conscious.

    Perhaps anecdotes are a little unscientific of me, but, well, this is ~humanities. I've always felt the dichotomy between life and un-life, between qualia and otherwise that we consider ourselves to live in an irreconcilable one. The insane level on which quantum physics appears to operate is not compatible with the classical models that assume subjectivity in ourselves (perception, etc.) and objectivity elsewhere. If our observation alone of a particle is what determines its "state," then on some level it is acting of its own accord. Further, if this process is "random," as we seem to think it is, and therefore cannot be predicted, how can it fit into our perception of inanimate matter as quantitative, unchanging, and predictable? Controllable? Evidently it controls itself, on an atomic and subatomic level, and I think that certainly merits it the title of "just barely conscious."

    6 votes