We all live in a Virtual Reality

Human civilization has always been a virtual reality.  At the onset of culture, which was propagated through the proto-media of cave painting, the talking drum, music, fetish art making, oral tradition and the like, Homo sapiens began a march into cultural virtual realities, a march that would span the entirety of the human enterprise.  We don’t often think of cultures as virtual realities, but there is no more apt descriptor for our widely diverse sociological organizations and interpretations than the metaphor of the “virtual reality.”  Indeed, the virtual reality metaphor encompasses the complete human project.

How VR Gaming will Wake Us Up to our Fake Worlds by Eliott Edge

 

 

Image: Virtual Reality Demonstrations; The 2015 ISOJ on the University of Texas-Austin campus, Apr. 18, 2015. Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/Knight Center

Article: Rules for Survival in Autocracies

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.

NYR Daily - Masha Gessen: Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Wikipedia gives us this definition of autocracy
An autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of a coup d'état or mass insurrection). Absolute monarchy and dictatorship are the main historical forms of autocracy. In very early times, the term "autocrat" was written in coins as a favorable feature of the ruler, having some connection to the concept of "lack of conflicts of interests".

Incredible WaveNet Speech Synthesis

Yaaaay, there is certainly some magic in deep neural networks - after mastering Go or making huge progress in the field of Spoken Language Recognition, Google now presents WaveNet, a deep neural networks-based approach to Speech Synthesis. It sound astoundingly real and even can compose music or fictional languge-like sounds. Amazing. And spooky. 

WaveNet changes this paradigm by directly modelling the raw waveform of the audio signal, one sample at a time. As well as yielding more natural-sounding speech, using raw waveforms means that WaveNet can model any kind of audio, including music.

Heise: http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Google-DeepMind-Sprachsynthese-so...

DeepWave: https://deepmind.com/blog/wavenet-generative-model-raw-audio/

Metric Time

As I haver major difficulties in using the 12-based time system (and the 24-based aswell) I would recommend changing to metric time...

Metric Time (MT) is an attempt to create a decimalized time system for our modern base-10 using world. This is a neglected part of the Metric System (or SI) which has created a whole measuring system based on 10 for mass, distance, volume, etc., but no official decimalized time units for normal day-to-day use. Since any system for measuring time is arbitrary, we should be using one that is most practical for us. I think that system is Metric Time.

Guide to Metric Time

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Lone Wolf - The Boardgame and the Kickstarter

Some time ago, I stumbled upon the Lone Wolf Boardgame Kickstarter project which was recently funded (they are always already funded or at least ended when I find them). Luckily, I could preorder it which seemed to be a useful way to
a) instrumentalize my current euphory to spend money for the board game
b) give my support to the project team and especially the inventor and main artist of the game, the original Lone Wolf illustrator Gary Chalk
c) get the game after release without having to remember it a year later

Unfortunatley, this was the first Kickstarter project I experienced by myself (although I have not funded it, it felt like this). The main problems seemed to be in the communication between the project partners, Graywood Publishing and Megara Entertaintment, as well as some errors in creation. By accident, the game board was produced in a too good quality, so it raised the shipping costs as the games weight increased significantly. I could live with all this and I was not sorry to wait longer for the game, especially with this quality and the beautiful illustrations by Gary. But the thing that was really sad to see was the conflict emerging between Graywood and Megara. This was neither necessary nor helpful but it was a mess to watch this helplessy. Some of the project posts just consisted of washing dirty linen in public. Guys, I really hope you will come together one day and talk this out. You made a wonderful game and set a monument for a beloved artist. Being in contact with you was always a pleasure. I finally got my game and the quality is the best I have seen for a board game so far. Be proud of it!

Lone Wolf

Do you know Lone Wolf? It is one of the most famous adventure book series ever and was pretty popular among fantasy interested teens in the late eighties resp. early nineties. I loved them. I played them hundred of times. They were the best. I also tried some other books, obviously by the founders of the genre but I didn't find them as intriguing and fascinating as the books about Lone Wolf. Long story short: Lone Wolf is the last survivor of the order of the Kai lords which may be described as medieval jedi-eske warrior monks with super powers. Lone Wolf got to end his training by himself, revive the order of the Kai Lords and find Dark Lord Gnaag to end his tyranny and take revenge. 

Ok, writing this it sounds pretty standard. There may be several reasons why I judge this as great nevertheless. 

1. There was no Harry Potter and no Star Wars Prequel (nor Sequel) and no Lord of the Rings (nor Hobbit) Blockbusters, so finding revenge by killing someone called Dark Lord was not sooooo omnipresent as it may seem today.

2. I was around 12 years old, so this was prette much the beginning of my journey through fantasy literature and roleplaying games.

3. The quality of those 12 books (1) , written by Joe Dever and majorly illustrated by Gary Chalk, was higher than my 2 lines sum up could ever be. Telling you there is a Dark Lord to be killed is a lot less interesting and intruguing than surviving 12 interactive and brillantly written books full of deadly traps and mysterious encounters in order to kill the Dark Lord finally by yourself. 

By the way, there is a pretty new release of the books, if you are interested. I can totally recommend them. OR you could play the interactive eBook, which seems to be half book and half RPG. Looks good aswell. 
AND I have seen there are new books (in form of conventional fiction), co-written by the grandmaster Joe Dever himself. I should risk a look myself, I guess. This is also true for the games that have never been translated to German.

Oh, yeah, AND you can read my post on the Lone Wolf Boardgame. Soon.

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(1) As I notice right now, there are 28. In German, there are 12. Wow. 

Nighttime Coding

Night

This is not a new article as it is from December 2014 but I keep refering to it, so I think you should read it right now: 

A popular saying goes that programmers are machines that turn caffeine into code. 
And sure enough, ask a random programmer when they do their best work and there’s a high chance they will admit to a lot of late nights. Some earlier, some later. A popular trend is to get up at 4am and get some work done before the day’s craziness begins. Others like going to bed at 4am.

Why Programmers Work At Night

Image: By ISS Expedition 25 crew (NASA Earth Observatory) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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German Literature: Stan Lee and my Big Brain Theory

Everytime I deal with German literature I remember this scene from Big Bang Theory:

Raj: I can’t wait to ask Stan Lee why he insists on giving all his characters first and last names that start with the same letter.
Leonard: Oh, come on, why would you do that?
Raj: Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Stephen Strange, Otto Octavius, Silver Surfer, Peter Parker, oh, and worst of all, J. Jonah Jameson, Jr.

I wonder if Stan Lee, American comic book writer and inventor of some of the greated comic super heroes of all time, also invented the most famous writers in German language:

Heinrich Heine, Günter Grass, Rainer Rilke, Herman Hesse, Bertold Brecht, oh, and worst of all, Achim von Arnim. 

 

Image: „Printing4 Walk of Ideas Berlin“ von Lienhard Schulz - Eigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter CC BY 2.5 über Wikimedia Commons.

 

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