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The New Simulation

2018! We're in a simulation, Minecraft economies, Apple slowing down phones, robots in Sweden, sleepwalking emailers, and more.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here, have a song: Pomo - On My Mind to cheerfully, minimally funk you up for how much definitely-better-and-not-worse 2018 will be. Ah, I'm kidding. It's gonna be great! Because you're great.


The Men Who Are Convinced We’re All Living in a Simulation

I'm fairly convinced it's a simulation, too. But not a computer simulation. Apparently this is a serious realm of study, with lots of smart people saying that there's no way that this reality isn't a simulation given the argument of infinity universes and therefore our universe is most likely a simulation. But, ah, most of these ideas are honestly nothing more than a "sniff test"--boy, reality smells funny. Must be fake. Actually, yeah, I think it's completely fake, but not because computers (although, maybe computers).

This could be incredibly naive of me, but I like to think that you can't model the strange internal granularity and affection for abstract concepts because you simply would not have enough base data to do so. Developmental psychology requires an external world to, well, develop, so unless you put a replication of a human mind into an android body and raised it, you wouldn't achieve any sort of reliable human psychology (and therefore you couldn't simulate it). At least, that's what I think from my internal, mental view of the world. But maybe computers did that?! Maybe they raised a bunch of android babies?! Maybe underneath all my blood I'm actually an android?!?! Oh shit! Oh shit!



I've told you I'm a fan of Alice Maz, right? She's real smart and writes interesting stuff--here, have an article on how she and others managed to completely learn an economic system on a massive Minecraft server (hundreds of concurrent players). Lovely excerpt:

"I've always loved knowable systems. People are messy and complicated, but systems don't lie to you. Understand how all the parts work, understand how all the parts interact, and you can construct a perfect model of the whole thing in your head. Of course it's more complicated than that. Many people can be understood well enough for practical purposes as mechanical systems, and actual mechanical systems can be impossibly complex and plenty inscrutable. There are entire classes of software vulnerabilities that leverage physical properties of the hardware they run on, properties sufficiently abstracted away that most programmers have never in their lives considered them. But the thought is nice."

I will admit that this article did send me into a spiral of temporary insanity because it made me want to recreate my Minecraft server really bad and invite everyone to play on it. But I remembered that that's not something I have time for by any means. So instead I picked up some stats on Khan Academy. Priorities!


Apple faces lawsuits after saying it slows down aging iPhones

Bastards. I knew it. (I'm pretty sure Android does this too, tho.) The reason is different, however, and less evil and more incompetent: they've been forcibly slowing down the old phones because the batteries have a terrible lifespan, and slowed them down in order to conceal this fact. Of course, it's weird that the batteries are shitty enough to always be in danger of burning out or whatever that they slow the phones down right when a new one is released... maybe Apple IS evil, and is trying to pretend to be incompetent? :thinking_face:


The Robots Are Coming, and Sweden Is Fine

"'I’m not really worried,' [Mika] says. 'There are so many jobs in this mine that even if this job disappears, they will have another one. The company will take care of us.'" How incredibly refreshing. In Sweden, "unions are powerful, government support is abundant, and trust between employers and employees runs deep." This article is so positive it's almost depressing to read about in light of what's happening in the U.S., and the coming automatamegatechigarchy. (That's the correct term for it, mind.)


Zzz-mail: What happens when sleepwalkers go online

Here's a delightful bit of retro news from 2008: sleepwalkers going on the line to send party invites: "Come tomorrow and sort this hell hole out. Dinner and drinks,,. Bring wine and caviar only."


Audio samples from "Natural TTS Synthesis by Conditioning WaveNet on Mel Spectrogram Predictions"

A couple creepy samples of neural network-generated voices that are really good at reading typos, stress intonation, and weird words. There's even a set of comparisons with the real person versus the fake voice and I seriously can't tell the difference. I mean, they're clearly different with slightly different intonations and stress, but they're both completely passable and I would never question their authenticity if I heard them over a PA. Wellp, at least they can fire the woman who does the Google voice now. Yay, capitalism! (This is a joke. I hope she gets paid millions of dollars before she is obsoleted. (Did you know that obsoleted is a verb? Yeah, it totally is--unlike obsolescenced, which I almost tried to use.))