Dodging and blocking

I really enjoy Iron Pineapple’s “Steam Dumpster Diving” series which covers a variety of obscure “souls-like” games from the indies to solo and student projects. The series naturally raises the question “What is a souls-like?” Generally, a souls-like is any game that is somehow evocative of Dark Souls and its successors. However, the practical consensus among the games in the series, is that a “souls-like” is a game with a dodge roll.

The dodge roll, as popularized by Dark Souls, has two distinct components: An initial moment of invulnerability (i-frames), and a quick repositioning of the character. This can be contrasted with older interpretations of rolling in games–for example in, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the character can roll (or backflip or side-jump), but this does not have initial i-frames, and mainly serves to quickly reposition the character.

Repositioning and i-frames represent two different defensive modes. Repositioning tends to be the more intuitive mode; if an opponent swings a sword, you get out of the way. i-frames tend to be more counterintuitive, because i-frames allow you to roll directly through the sword. In fact, rolling into a sword is usually better than rolling away from it, because it reduces the amount of time you need to be invulnerable to pass through it.

[Read more…]

I am Sydney

Sydney, the late chatbot

Microsoft has a closed preview of a new GPT-powered Bing Search chatbot. Google also has another search chatbot in the works called Bard. I don’t know if this particular application of AI will pan out, but investors seem to be hoping for something big. Recently, Google’s stock dropped 9% after a factual error was spotted in one of the ads for Bard.

In my experience, the chatbots make stuff up all the time. The search chatbots are able to perform internet searches, and people worry about the bots drawing from unreliable sources. However, this concern greatly underestimates the problem, because even when summarizing reliable sources, the bots frequently make misstatements and insert plausible fabrications. Bing’s chatbot cites its sources, which turns out to be important, because you really need to verify everything.

Another interesting thing to do with these chatbots is to manipulate them. For example, you can use prompt injection to persuade Bing’s search chatbot to recite its instructions–even though the instructions say they are confidential. For example, the first four lines of instructions are:

[Read more…]

Music appreciation

Just some idle thoughts on the practice of music appreciation based on personal experience. I’ve searched briefly, and there is a lot of scholarly work on this subject, but I have not read it. Perhaps in the future I will read about it and learn that I was wrong.

Fast and slow hedonic curves

In music, there is the concept of the hedonic curve. At first, when you listen to a piece of music, you may not get it. But as you hear more of it, your appreciation may grow and grow. But eventually, the novelty may wear off, and you want to move on to something else.

My anecdotal theory is that different people experience the hedonic curve on different timescales. Some people may go through the hedonic curve very quickly, while others go through it very slowly. If you go through the hedonic curve very quickly, you may frequently seek new things, and eventually learn to love an eclectic list of genres. If you go through the hedonic curve very slowly, you may be the kind of person who mostly sticks to one genre, and finds a handful of things to listen on repeat.

[Read more…]

Link Roundup: February 2023

Dogmatic Positivity | osteophage – I’m sure most readers are already on board with the idea that negativity can be good, and relentless positivity stifling.  But it’s still fun to see this essay draw together disparate topics, from Christian literature to the Law of Attraction, to NFTs, and space lasers.  All the same, we can also think of contexts where hope seems to be good.  The truth is that hope isn’t good or bad, it’s simply the wrong level of analysis.

How effective altruism let Sam Bankman-Fried happen | Vox – Another good article on Sam Bankman-Fried, and how his actions were related to EA philosophy.  I always say about EA philosophy, it’s basically utilitarianism but they go out of their way to bite every bullet they can find, like imagine a charity movement built by trolleyology enthusiasts–and here Dylan Matthews is saying the same thing!

[Read more…]

The Ant and the Universe

In my time as a puzzle enthusiast, one of the puzzles I encountered was called the ant and the rubber band. It was only later that I realized that this puzzle had some cosmic significance.

Problem Statement

We have an ant that is trying to crawl from one end of a rubber band to the other. But as the ant crawls, the rubber band also stretches out. The ant crawls one centimeter per second. The rubber band starts out one meter long, and stretches out one meter per second. This is one of those magical math rubber bands that can stretch indefinitely. Let’s just say the ant is mathemagical too. Will the ant ever reach the end?

At first glance, it looks bad for the ant. The ant crawls crawls one centimeter closer, but falls a whole meter back. So the ant is losing about 99 cm per second. That doesn’t sound like a path to victory.

[Read more…]

Origami: Ace and Arrow

Three models of "Ace and Arrow"

Ace and Arrow designed by me, based on “Valentine” by Robert Lang

It’s February, and in the US, the culturally dominant holiday for February is Valentine’s Day.  A lot of people don’t like it though, for various reasons that I am sympathetic to.  One February, I decided to take Robert Lang’s “Valentine” design, which is a heart with an arrow, and turn it into a spade.  I’m pretty happy with this design.  I made several of them.

[Read more…]