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Sunday, July 26, 2009

When I Grow Up, I Want To Do Everything

♫ Some Day Myself Will Come… ♫
Back in the days when I was younger and wilder, I had many dreams to fill my thoughts with. I dreamt of programming a perfect replica of human intelligence. I dreamt of single-handedly creating hit science fiction movies. I dreamt of crafting educational software to put the school system to shame. I dreamt of writing "quests" the likes of which the world had never seen. I dreamt of gaining the respect and admiration of those who looked down at me.

Most people never figure out life.

At the age of eleven, I had already solved it.

All the wasted time at school gave me the opportunity to think about my plan, a comprehensive set of logical steps that would get me exactly where I wanted to be.

Step 1: 3D
I had figured out the basics of programming by messing around with the Visual Basic 2.0 demo. In recesses, I'd borrow Chayim's scientific calculator and program my trademark cheating guessing game-------
if guess=num (num=getRnd(min,max))
if guess=num & min=num & max=num (write "You win!")
on it, or use it to plot out random graphs to see if I could make them look cool. I was on the right track. Okay, so I'd never finished any program more impressive than the guessing games, but anything was doable. So I thought a lot about how 3D graphics were supposed to work. I didn't like the idea of polygons, so I wanted to program a 3D equivalent of pixels, where every object you see is made of tiny cubes in a 3-dimensional grid. It didn't seem like such a hard thing to implement; I just needed to figure out how perspective worked, and the job was half done!

Step 2: Arellian
I had almost finished my logical alphabet, where the connections between letters are perfectly intuitive and logical. I needed to start working on the vocabulary. It would use a modified version of Hebrew's "root" logic, because it just makes everything more sensible. In addition, you could get the opposite of any word by spelling it backwards. And the longer a word, the more specialized its meaning. There would be short words talking about general concepts, so that you could have a basic conversation without having an advanced vocabulary. But adding on more letters to the start and end would add on subtleties and contexts and connotations and iterations. Starting from these rules, I'd eventually deduce the single most logical language in the world. I believed I'd find that in the end, there would only be one solution to this problem.

Step 3: AI
The most important part of intelligence is learning. If I could just make a program that would learn from me, it could figure out all the rest for itself. I gave a lot of thought to how the files would be organized, where each file is a learned behavior and the files are in folders and are all connected to each other but the computer program changes all that on its own. If it saw me acting differently than the appropriate file suggested that a person should act, then it would create another file to go alongside it suggesting an alternate behavior for that context. Then it would have to figure out the more subtle difference behind the two situations, which is just a math problem. When it decided on its own behavior, it would never have exactly the same situations so it'd pick whichever file was closest, and then adjust the programming of that file based on what reaction it got. All pretty straightforward. I'd already picked out a name for my first AI: "Artie". We'd have all sorts of fun together. The Arellian language would now come into use, because any robot would be driven mad by the current languages. Trying to speak to my Artie in English would add years on to the time it'd take to train him!

Step 4: Movies
Once Artie was reasonably independent, I'd teach him English and show him lots of movies so he could imitate famous actors' performances in 3D. If I gave him enough movies to watch, he'd eventually figure out how to play from any script, and with any style of performance! (He'd probably need to organize all the different styles of performance himself, though I could help him out a bit.) Then I'd write a script, a high-stakes time-travel story of some sort. (I was always thinking about the first scene, since the rest would follow once I got that right.) Artie would play all the parts, and it would all use my 3D graphics to look totally realistic, and -Voila!- professional movies by the age of 18.

Step 5: Quests
Once I was able to do movies, I could just make it exponentially more detailed (This is just math, really.) and I'd have some amazing adventure games. I'd just need to design the branching paths so that everything you can do leads to a good movie. All the characters would actually be AI-actors (probably Artie's successors by that point), because you need to be able to talk to them (via a microphone) and it's not conceivable that I could program all that manually. Those would also be futuristic science-fiction stories. I'd brand them as "VCQs", which is short for "voice-controlled quests".

Step 6: Education
Once I knew how to make games, I could figure out how to teach. The trouble with teachers was, they didn't understand anything. They knew what the material was that needed to be taught, but they didn't understand the logic behind the material, and they certainly didn't understand how that could be fun. But I could figure out how to make stuff fun. I'd release some educational software under the heading of "Orot Software", named after my elementary school not because I liked my school the tiniest bit, but because there was more to my plan than that. See, my software (being based on an intelligent evaluation of the player and good game design) would be so much more effective than the school system that within five years, I would utterly replace all schools, and all teachers would be out of a job. So the point of the name was actually going to be to rub it in their faces that I could do their jobs better than them.

Step 7: Whatever
By that point, I'd pretty much have reached the point where I could do anything I liked. Maybe I'd make a comic strip, or maybe an RTS game. Or maybe I'd get to work on that time machine, because I still had no idea how that was going to work.

This didn't happen, of course. I utterly failed to live up to my own standards. My 18th birthday came and went, and three more after that. I've still never gotten serious about figuring out 3D graphics, I never made a language to go with my alphabet, I've never come to understand intelligence, I no longer feel any need to make movies, I don't think I'll be able to ever teach anyone, and the closest I've come to an adventure game is Smilie. I rarely leave this room, and most of the time I've got this nagging feeling in the back of my head that life is supposed to be more than this. Life's supposed to make sense. And it doesn't.

It occurs to me that maybe the sentiment behind the old plan is still there. After all, I still want to do everything. I made a character and a strategy game, and now I'm trying to make a movement game and then an exploration game and then an adventure game and someday a platformer and a role-playing game and a metalude. These are all separate worlds, and we act like they're all one medium. So I can say "I want to be a gamist!", and because it's so simple to understand that it seems like it'll be simple to do. I guess that makes me happy. I can be realistic, and still know that I'm eventually gonna get to step 7. It might just take a bit longer than I anticipated.



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