Links! August 5, 2020

Lately I’ve been nostalgic for an older, slower, more curious version of the internet. Social media can really be an anxiety-inducing hell-scape. Then I thought, hey, those old forms online sharing and discourse never went away, even if they went out of style. I can make my little corner of the web however I want. Be the internet you wish to see in the world, or something.

So, here’s the first of what I hope will be many similar blog posts: links! Just stuff I found that I think you should see. Simple as that.

Here’s a very long and well-researched article about the Business Simulations division of Maxis Games in the 1990’s. Maxis made Sim City and other Sim games, and the Business Simulations division was set up to make custom software for corporations and foundations. Their most famous (or notorious) project was a game called Sim Refinery that let you run an oil refinery. It was commissioned by Chevron and there are no surviving copies.

An Etsy listing for a post-apocalyptic version of the LEGO City Street Creator Series Downtown Diner.

A good Twitter thread by Venkatesh Rao about how the future of Anglo (US/UK) culture is Neo-Victorian. Really helped me consider the ways we confuse freedom with performances of things that we think signify freedom. Not every culture works that way.

The Wikipedia page for hole is surprisingly interesting (not the band, the thing). It goes from talking about The Beatles’ song Day in the Life to this: “Holes have also been described as ‘ontologically parasitic’ because they can only exist as aspects of another object. The psychological concept of a hole as a physical object is taken to its logical extreme in the fictional concept of a portable hole, exemplified in role-playing games and characterized as a ‘hole’ that a person can carry with them, keep things in, and enter themselves as needed.” I love it when a D&D reference comes out of nowhere. Also, what other things are ontologically parasitic?

GPT-3 is the latest iteration of an artificial intelligence that collects an enormous corpus of online writing and finds patterns in order to answer questions and complete texts. It’s like autocomplete but it can write an entire essay, maybe more. It’s smart in ways that are kinda creepy. Here’s a good Twitter thread about it by Simon DeDeo.

Here’s an article about GPT-3 on The Verge which better explains what it is, how it works, and what lots of people are saying about it. “The dataset GPT-3 was trained on is … mammoth. It’s hard to estimate the total size, but we know that the entirety of the English Wikipedia, spanning some 6 million articles, makes up only 0.6 percent of its training data.” So it knows a little something about portable holes.

One last Twitter thread, this one by Keith Ammann, explaining how the D&D spell “Command” works differently depending on which language the players are using (not the fantasy characters, the actual people playing the game). The spell lets you command a subject with a single verb, but verbs can carry different implications depending on language.

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