Machine as hero

10/04/2010

So Obama cancelled the Constellation program apparently and there’s no going to the moon in 2020 for NASA.  That utterly utterly SUXXXXXORS!!!!  It’s great if there’s some anger about this decision.  It seems the opposite of hope really, though cancelling something is “change” I suppose.  However, I’m angry about some of the things that have been said against robots.

Stephen Colbert interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson on 8th April 2010 (f you don’t know how to watch that watch this or use google and sort your own life out)  The two COMPLETELY BRILLIANT people both of whom I love express surprise that Obama would do such a thing after  He said “We will restore science to its rightful place”  in his inaugural address.  However, there are those in the space science community who have been saying for years that putting people into space is not really science.  That the science is done better by robots.  For these people, putting science at the heart of NASA would mean ditching the space penises and their jock pilots so that we can get on with the geology.  No, I’m not referencing or linking to anyone.

So Obama could have been sending a coded message that peopled space flight was not real science.  Well, he didn’t really.  The other half of that sentence is about healthcare, and at the time I assumed he was referring to things like climate change and evolution.  Searching just now I couldn’t find any reference to the words “space” “moon” or “NASA” in the speech.  What does it matter?  There’s more to space exploration than geology.

There are those who say that NASA should also be providing us with what we want.  These people wanted the FACE ON MARS investigated.  “We’re” paying for it, make it fun for us.  Exploration isn’t just about finding interesting science, it’s about finding amazing places and views.  No, I’m not referencing or linking to anyone.

Neil deGrasse Tyson said that we need astronauts to be the inspiration for the future.  That they’re the heros that we looked up to when we were little and are the reason we’re interested in space in the first place.  That no-one can idolise or be inspired by a robot.  Well I bloody was.

I was inspired by Viking Landers.  I was too little to really remember the last Apollo missions.  I sort of remember the Apollo-Soyuz meeting up in space over Cadburys hot chocolate.  Landing on Mars!!! With pictures?!?  I mean, MARS!!!! THE ACTUAL MARS!!!!! I also loved Vikings, so I guess it was a double bonus.

I was in the middle of this post when I RPS alerted me that Warren Ellis has writted this.  He say that spaceflight is clearly vital yep and yep.  Eggs, baskets.  “The dinosaurs died because they did not have a space program” (no idea who said that first oh it turns out someone mentions it in the comments and attributes it to Larry Niven.  It should be a trite statement hongu).  People seem to think that the money spent on space programs is put into a rocket and fired at the sun.  That somehow shuttle launches are fuelled using equal weights of dead HIV children and the tears of baby seals.  Actually the money gets given to real people who spend it on food, rent, cinema tickets, phonecalls, and the tears of baby seals.  So fur-Q if that’s your argument.

I am passionate about people going into space, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to slag off robots.  They’re a companion species.  We do things they can’t, they do things we can’t.  They’re like dogs.  I was inspired by K9 an’all.  I like robots, but that doesn’t mean I want to fuck all of them.  You might think that’s the sort of over the top rant I say all the time, but apparently:

“The only people clamouring for space launches to Mars to recover the wandering robot skateboard currently stuck in a sandtrap there are, well, the people who want to make it their android whore.”

I can only assume he wants to be fucked by a Saturn 5.  Maybe he wants Buzz to come back avec his soapy fish? I’d have thought that if anyone wanted to bring them back it’d be to put them in the Smithsonian.  Don’t think we should though.  We should leave them right where they are, with a view to putting a plaque next to them.  We should be planning to build the visitors’ centre and the gift shop.  (Skateboard though – really?  Sigh.  I suppose that makes Warren Ellis is a lemur who writes shopping lists then).

clip from XKCD comic

How can you not be inspired by the tenacity of Spirit and Oppotunity? And gods peed the Mariners, Pioneers, and Voyagers.  So far from home.  Our brave metallic explorers.

Would you rather have the child of a god or that of some acne-scarred artisan?  Which child would you rather be?  Jumping through fire is good for you anyway.  Games are good for you, because they are harder than not doing them.  It’s that old protestant work ethic that could have ruined my slacker dream were I not able to subvert it towards something you might think is pointless.

Why pretend to conquer worlds when you could really be stacking shelves?  Why live in a fantasy of power and importance when you could er… well I’m sure you can work out where that’s going.  So yes Good Works and helping the less fortunate and eating a great meal and sex and sunshine are all great.  They make us feel good.  That’s because of chemicals and electricity in our heads.  Working, succeeding, failing, saving every day in the fictional worlds that we also inhabit triggers the same feelings and they are ultimately the same chemicals and electricity.  Have you looked up lately?  I mean, it’s fucking vast out there and so whatever you’re doing with your time it hardly makes much odds.

Well I seem to have said that.  Right.   Last October we were forced to move house.  It was a bad time, loss of control.  Loss of a home.  Loss of stability.  Lots to do…

BUT

There’s only so many days you can face booting up the computamabob and watch as Firefox opens up the many, many tabs of Gumtree ads and estate agent websites.  Only so many times you can cycle between “why am I wasting my time looking at these houses when I haven’t got a job?” and “why am I wasting my time looking for a job when I haven’t got a house?”  Only so many times you can wake screaming in the night shaking with rage and bellow “WHY GOD DID YOU GIVE ME THIS IRON CLAW INSTEAD OF A HAND?  YOU SHALL PAY FOR THIS AND THEN YOU SHALL DIE!!!!!!” before you realise that it’s time to take a break, take stock, and take it out on the pixels that live at the bottom of the garden.  Er I mean hurt virtual people.

Evil Genius is a god-game/base-builder er… it’s a game where you are the villian in a hodge-podge Spy-Fi comedy parody world.  It’s very much like Theme Hospital but with poison-gas traps.  You build your secret base under a mountain, with locker rooms for minions, a generator, a research lab, training… all the stuff you need to build an evil empire.  The bits of machinery are sometimes funny in themselves.  You’ll be dogged, DOGGED I TELLS YA, by loads of stupid tourists and secret agents.  So you build hotels and casinos to distract them, and traps to catch the unwary.  Oh yes the traps… SUCH FUN!  Setting it up so that the FOOLS get blown around and then… shall we say… removed?  No, let’s say “KILLED” and THEN removed to the morgue in a body bag so as not to upset the tourists.  Actually, I had to amend one of my amazing chains of traps cos far too many of my minions were getting caught in it.  They’re supposed to know better idiots.  I mean I wish I knew better idiots. Or commas.

Yes! Pretending is good, pretending is fun, and the fun I had from Evil Genius mostly came from role-playing and laughing a laugh bwa-ha-ha mine is an evil laugh.  I could have fixed that trap-chain a lot earlier, but watching the foolish minions snuff it… well that just seemed like part of the job.  Unusually (er probably) for a game like this you the player are actually represented in the game world.  There’s a little guy walking around who is actually you.  All he can do is walk around, but his presence boosts the loyalty of those present.  The only real action he can do is to kill a minion.  THAT boosts the loyalty of the surrounding peasants an’all.  As does letting them watch you torturing prisoners.  God, don’t tell Alan Part^H^^H^H^HTitmarsh about this game.

There’s the occasional graphical glitch including one that really freaks me out which is occasionally one of the tourists seem to have the top half of their bodies stretched into a horizontal plane, all jitterry.  Eugh.  I really find it disturbing for some reason.  Now I don’t have a screenshot, nor have I actually played the game for a while.  It’s there though, on the Steam list.  I know I was running out of room on the island.  I needed to expand and for that I needed to increase my infamy.  (I’ve already miniturised and stolen the Eiffel Tower – I keep it in the generator room, my engineers redouble their efforts in it’s presence.  Maybe it’s cos it looks like a series of exponential curves.)  It’s a world to which I will return.  Lovely to look at, really really great soundtrack.  It got me through a bad time.

I only paid £1.74 for it cos I am a patient evil genius.  However, that was last November.  Where were you maaan?  Well, you’ll just have to suck it up souled-out-sista, cos them days is go-o-one.  However, lovely Lewie of Savygamer points us to  Evil Genius, PC where it can be yours for £3.27.  Well sort of.  That’s the page for the game.  The sale itself is here and says teh game is yours for $4.99.  Whatever a $ is.  It’s a string isn’t it? So why the float. Just confusing.  Well this sale gave me the spur to write something about the damn game.  Made me do it in a hurry too.  Where are all the great insights into GAME AI then?  Eh?  No-bloody where that’s where.  Sheesh.

Blimey and I nearly forgot to mention that this reminded me of villainsupply.com which was a comedy “evil ebay” that has gone now as you’d guess if you look at the url…