Category Archives: Uncategorized

So in case you are not aware, the guy who ran oculus took some of the roughly $700 million he is worth and spent it on a ‘shitposting pro-trump meme organisation. Details courtesy of Eurogamer here. Because politics is politics there was a lot of anger directed at him, and no doubt some abuse,. and sides were taken, and shouting was done, and twitter was alive with outrage because…politics.

As the guy who made Democracy 3, you can imagine I am very interested in politics, I have views on the US election (I’m broadly pro-hilary) as an individual, and I dislike what Luckey has done, but my criticism of him comes not from the point of view of someone who opposes a political view, but from someone who is…disappointed.

Roughly 60% of my facebook/twitter buddies are Liberals, 40% of them conservatives. I hear both sides of all arguments. Inevitably, a lot of people act like there is NO WAY there can be merit to the other POV. people assume they are all in their ‘safe space’ and that if I like them/follow them/are friends with them, then OBVIOUSLY I agree that Hilary is crooked, or Jeremy Corbyn is the second coming and that taxes are too high/low <insert opinion here>

The problem I have with Palmer Luckey’s action are not his politics. Everyone is entitled to their own political view. The problem I have is what he DID, and how he did it.

To quote:

“I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time,” he told the Daily Beast about the shit-posting organization.

Thats not why you drag political debate into the gutter. For laughs. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, and how small a percentage of your wealth you give to such a cause. To do so is a disgrace. The billboard put up saying Hilary is ‘too big to jail’ is a disgrace. This is not political debate this is not political discussion. This is not how we choose the best people from hundreds of millions of citizens to be given the ultimate, terrifying, overwhelming responsibility of control of Nuclear Weapons and  the worlds largest economy

too-big-to-jail

If you believe that Trump is the best choice of candidate, and are prepared to change peoples minds, by all means put up a billboard explaining his tax plan, and how it will is good for America. or some stats on immigration, and stats on terrorism and how you will reduce terrorism by building a wall. Put up some coherent statements and some facts, and some detailed policy ideas.

Not ‘ha ha! we made Hilaries face look fat’ billboards.

This is the act of a child. A spoiled rich child, to be sure, but still, mentally a child. To be fair, he is apparently only 24, but even at 24 I’m pretty sure I knew that this is not the way for CEOs worth $700 million should behave. Its insulting to the electorate, it drags America as a whole DOWN, it drags politics down, and it celebrates and encourages lazy, ignorant tribalism. It also makes the games industry look like a joke and makes oculus owners feel stupid for contributing to such base level crap.

forbes

The thing is, its really very EASY to do good things when you have a lot of spare money. I built a school in Africa for £18,000. Thats $23,000. I tried to work out what that was as a percentage of 700 million but my calculator goes into exponential results. Its fucking trivial. By the way, it involves zero effort just an email and then a bank transfer. You don’t get to have ‘a real jolly good time’, but you help people in the developing world get an education.

There again, if you are trying to win political arguments using memes, maybe you prefer the general population to be as ill-educated as possible?

I strongly believe that money comes with responsibility. Its taken me a long time, and reading the thoughts of a lot of people to really develop my view on this. YES I earned the money I have, just as Palmer did. NO I was not ‘lucky’, and YES I deserve that money, it is MINE. I didn’t rip people off, dodge taxes or use any loopholes. I am perfectly within my legal right to do what the hell I like with my money, as is Palmer.

But forget the law and think about your moral duty. I’m an atheist, but still believe strongly in a sense of moral duty. if for some reason it offends you to give money to charity, then at least use that money to start some business enterprise that helps society in some way, even if its just creating jobs. The very least you should do…the absolute BARE MINIMUM you should do is to *refrain* from using the money that you have to make other peoples lives *worse*. For someone in a creative industry, there seems to be an astonishing lack of creativity going on here. $700 million to spend and to effect positive change in the world, and you spend it on billboards that photoshop a candidates face?

Pathetic.

 

We often read talk about how there is a ‘tech bubble‘ or more accurately ‘another tech bubble’. People with long memories can recall the insanity of boo.com, and then look at current valuations for airbnb and uber, and wonder if there is another day of reckoning coming. Maybe there is, or isn’t, I honestly have no idea. There is however, another ‘bubble’ issue with silicon valley, and in some ways its both more worrying (for what it says about society) and more destructive (for whom it hurts). To explain the bubble, I need to talk about my car, and its autopilot features.

I am stupidly fortunate enough to drive a Tesla Model S, with autopilot. It is AWESOME. Its by far the best car I have ever owned. I love Tesla, I have Tesla stock, I believe in the company, I have a Tesla T-shirt, I’ve read that book about Elon Musk, I am a Tesla fanboy. Autopilot is amazing, and cool, and awesome, and worth the money. Now let me tell you why it is completely oversold, overhyped and rubbish.

tesla

Autopilot does exactly what its advertised to do. On a motorway (highway to you Americans), its basically a self-driving car. It is pretty flawless at staying in lane, steering, and changing lanes, and the ‘Traffic aware cruise control’ is awesome. On smaller, but good quality wide A-roads, its also amazing. Its very, very good at what it does. The trouble is, all the things it really sucks at are very interestingly all the things you don’t get much of in Silicon Valley.

Autopilot is bad, even maybe a bit dangerous if one side of the road is unmarked with lines, has no kerb, and a hedge. It hugs the side of the road way too much in that case. Its not very good in heavy rain, where you have dirty roads and muddy roads and the lines are obscured or just not even there. It doesn’t like cars parked on the roadside. It is absolutely useless / dangerous if it encounters a roundabout (mini or otherwise).  None of these are surprising to me, none of these are a problem. I drive with autpilot on maybe 20% of the time (at most). (By the way, I live in a tiny tiny village in rural England.)

magic

So far, so good. The problem is, lots of the tech/money people in silicon valley seem to think driverless cars are imminent. No Fucking Way. A car that does 95% of your motorway driving? Sure. A car that maybe does 90% of your driving in general? Sure. But a car that does 100% of your driving and you can read a book? Not now, not soon, not for a lot longer than people think. The trouble is, if you live in Silicon valley, you commute from your home with a garage, drive along highways and wide open US roads in California sun, never encounter a roundabout, never get stuck behind a horse, never see a road that has the remains of straw bales scattered all over it to cover horse crap…never encounter any of the 1,000 other ‘anomalies’ that I see on my roads every day…then sure! Self-driving is imminent. And those hedge fund managers who live in ‘grid-layout’ new york will agree with you too. The car industry as it was is DEAD. All cars are about to become robots.

Fucking hysterical.

The most dangerous thing in the world is to think that everyone lives like you, thinks like you, and wants what you want. That way, you start to disregard whole areas of thought, whole groups of people, and become insular, closed minded and prejudiced. The vast majority of non tech people I know do not give a DAMN about self-driving cars. They want cheaper rent, more stable jobs, better pay. They are happy if they can afford *any* car. The idea of lusting after a self-driving one is a laughable past-time for the super-rich.

Leave this problem with cars and it doesn’t matter. I think it leads to over-optimistic tech stock valuations, but that’s no big deal in the grand scheme. The problem is the ‘driverless cars are here’ cries are a symptom of a wider problem. Most of the people with big financial clout are living in a bubble, where the only concerns they understand are the concerns of *people like them*.

Here is a shock: My phone is cheap enough, light enough, and has enough features. My laptop is thin enough, light enough, and has enough features. By the way so does my car, so does this desktop PC, so does practically everything I own. I have some fucking virtual reality goggles for crying out loud. if you ask me what is *missing* from my life, I’d have to start dreaming up some really crazy stuff. maybe a self-filling voice-activated kettle?  errr maybe it would be nice if my TV was voice activated. errr…

And this is dumb as hell because there are VAST swathes of people out there who can rattle off their top needs with no problems. Ask a Syrian refugee, or someone in a country with no running water or mains electricity what their needs are. or better still, don’t even go that far, just walk outside your luxury office with its canteen with pastry chef and neck massages for all staff, into the streets of San Francisco and ask someone homeless what they want. I doubt they will start talking about how they hope the iphone 7 has a new headphone connector. Its not going to make their list.

homeless

I get the economic argument. Homeless dude and Syrian dude have no money, whereas I do. So you try and sell me a new phone to replace last weeks phone. I understand the maths. I understand that trying to develop a business model where you can provide goods for people with very little money is REALLY hard. But the tech elite keep telling us how clever they are. If so, you guys can do it. You just need to step outside your silicon valley bubble and take a look in the real world. Thankfully, and ironically given this blog post, the one guy who seems to ‘get it’ is actually Elon Musk. The Model S was a stepping stone to the model 3, and I fully expect the cars to get cheaper and cheaper until *shock horror* they are available to ordinary people. My question is… where is the Elon Musk for food, for housing? for education? It seems like the ‘real world’ problems of access to education, clean water, food, shelter, are ‘too dull’ or maybe just too boring for the tech elite to bother with. That doesn’t need to be the case, they just need a little imagination. And if the only thing they can possible invent is a slightly thinner, slightly faster phone? then how about just paying the fair share of corporate tax, and let the government use it to do the ‘dull’ work?

By the way, if you do happen to be a tech-elite type, and feel bad reading this, you can build a whole school in cameroon for about $25,000. It’s easy.

 

Warning: political post. (But not party political, so its ok!).

I am, as someone very interested in politics (mostly because I’m the designer of Democracy 3) Increasingly distressed by the phenomena that I notice both in the UK, and the US, of what I’m going to call the infantilization of politics. What I mean by this, is the way in which political argument and debate on issues is reduced to a level where critical thinking and analysis is non existent, and becomes based entirely around personalities, appearances, memes and humour. The phenomena has got worse in recent years with the spread of twitter and facebook and reddit, and similar sites to the extent that most political discourse now seems to be reduced to short form (in twitter, alarmingly so) one-liner jabs and jokes, rather than actual analysis of any topic.

Why actually bother explaining why you disagree with the tax policies of Donald Trump when you can just post this:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1GZCO

Why bother dissecting the economic policy of George Osborne when you can just paste this:

os

This is how children behave, but increasingly its also how adults who think they are making political arguments behave. Why?

As I see it, there are three forces at play. One is the development of the professional politician. The second is the shortening of political argument required by social media, and the third is the reinforcement of social bubbles allowed by selective ‘blocking’ and ‘friends-lists’ that is a feature of social media.

The Pro Politician.

There was a time when politics was not a career that people embarked upon from the very start, but something they swapped to late in their career. US president Jimmy Carter served in the Navy, then ran a farm before entering politics.  Ronald Reagan was 56 when he became governor of California. UK politicians like Alan Johnson and John Prescott had careers before parliament, and this was not considered unusual, but recently, especially in the UK, politicians have come from an extremely narrow social group. That group in the UK is so narrow that you can describe it not only as a single pair of universities, but also a specific course (PPE, or politics, philosophy and economics) and in some cases, membership of a specific university drinking club.

bullingdon

In short, the pool from which politicians are being chosen seems to be shrinking. The US is no different, we get a Bush, then son of Bush, a Clinton then Wife of Clinton, and need we even mention the Kennedy clan? A vast country with hundreds of millions of citizens, but the voting options are often the wife/son/relative of the last leader.

This seems to be a problem because these people do not understand a life outside politics. That sense of total detachment from the ordinary voter is leading voters to feel that all politicians, be they left or right or anywhere in-between, are from a ‘political class’ that neither relates to the, or understands them. As a result, politicians are despised, hated and treated as the enemy. because of this, there is no need to ‘engage’ with politics on an intellectual level. The average voter now thinks its fine to mock, ridicule and treat politicians like idiots, and its actually considered weird to take any other view towards them. When respect for politicians nosedives, we all get dragged down into the gutter.

The Short Argument

Would you like to hear my views on the top rate of tax? I could tell you, but I need more than 128 characters to do it in. In fact I probably need several pages, but of course, you wouldn’t read that because frankly, who does in 2016? There is a reason so many people add ‘TL;DR’ to articles (too long, didn’t read). Political points of view are often nuanced, complex, and in need of expansion and clarification, but sadly our attention-deficit society cannot cope with this any more. We killed of true journalism by refusing to pay for it, so what we get now is clickbait. The pound/dollar drops a bit? THE SKY IS FALLING! it reverses slightly? ECONOMY SOARS! Nothing less will get any clicks.

tips

Most arguments are nuanced. There is a reasonable argument to retain nuclear weapons, and a reasonable argument to disarm unilaterally. Perfectly rational and sensible countries have taken each route. The trouble is, try explaining either argument in 128 characters and you basically get “I love nuclear war” up against “I love peace and flowers”. It’s not that simple, and it never was. Soundbites were bad, but twitter makes them even worse.

Added to this, people are not simple stereotypes. I know some people online think I’m an Ayn-Rand reading free-market loving libertarian fruitcake. Some others think I’m a tree-hugging communist. I’m neither. I’m probably 75% capitalist, 25% socialist,  90% environmentalist, 50% libertarian, 60% liberal and 100% atheist. That isn’t a viewpoint you can condense to a single article, let alone a page, and don’t even consider making it a tweet. Even my views on Nuclear power (I’m against mostly in practice, but not in theory, and mostly relating to time v climate change, cost & waste, and also depending on liability, proliferation concerns and security provision) don’t fit easily into a tweet. The chances of really learning what an individual feels about political issues unless you are a close friend who regularly discusses such topics with them are close to zero, but we have forgotten all that. We simply put people into ‘us’ and ‘them’ and make no attempt to reach out and change minds. Politics should be about nuanced views, but people treat it like football teams. And if you dare move a few centimetres away from your team, its amazing how rabidly the team turns on you.

blue

The Social Bubble.

And that leads us to the third depressing factor in all this: The social bubble. Reddit is a perfect example. The consensus amongst certain subreddits is that Jeremy Corbyn is going to lead the UK Labour Party to victory. He will not (the polls make that clear), but if all your friends think he will, you will tend to start believing it, and its never been easier to screen out the views of dissent. People live in geographic bubbles as it is, but combine that with a facebook friends list and a twitter-follow list of only people who think like you and your ability to listen to opposing views will diminish to the point of extinction. Lets also not forget the whole ‘no-platform’ movements, deliberately opposed to letting other views be heard. When it become so ‘dangerous’ to let opinions be heard?

platform

I think we all need to be on guard against a new type of cognitive bias. Not just a confirmation-bias as we have understood in the past, but a turbo-charged confirmation bias where we are not only actively seeking out confirmation of our views, but have set up filters so we do not even know a contrary view exists. Walking out of a bar because some people in it have opposing views is bad enough. Turning on a filter that renders those people invisible to you is way worse. This is dangerous. Not being open to hearing the views of people who disagree with you is a route towards loss of empathy, and not to get all yoda, but a loss of empathy leads to cruelty, indifference, and much worse. Dehumanizing people because they are not in ‘your tribe’ is a terrible way to behave, and only fear of the cliche of godwins law prevents me joining up the dots here.

Everyone should make it their mission to cultivate some friends who hold different views. I follow people on twitter who make my eyes roll every time I see their political tweets, but doing so is good for me. If you auto-block and unfriend people because their politics is different you are only hurting yourself. And if you outsource the blocking of people to online lists of ‘bad’ people, thats even worse.

Lets all try and actually listen to the other point of view for a change.

 

Ok, so there were people who said WTF when Facebook bought Instagram for a BILLION dollars in 2012, saying how on earth can it be worth that? They had a point. Instagram had 13 employees. Yup, that was not a typo, THIRTEEN. By contrast, for example, Comptacenter PLC has the same market cap and employs 12,993 people. Yup, a single instagram member of staff was worth 1,000 people at computacenter. That was insane.

But today I hear that linkedin has been bought for 26 billion dollars. Lets put 26 billion in perspective.

Thats more than the market cap of Associated British Foods, a company that employs 124,000 people, has 6 million square feet of retail space, owns twinings, ovaltine and primark, was established in 1935 and now has 200 stores.

Thats more than the GDP of Estonia, Uganda, El Salvador or Latvia.

Linkedin has 9,000 staff, and presumably some buildings, and a great big email list, which, lets be honest contains a LOT of peoples details like me, who tried and tried and tried again to stop the damned company spamming me before eventually setting up an email filter to nuke any mention of the damned company, as the only way to stop the endless spam.

So a spammers database, and a website, and presumably some office chairs, some name recognition 9although not all positive, by any means). And thats worth 26 Billion dollars.

The thing is, other companies worth 26 billion have something tangible. Associated British Foods has a lot of physical assets. Even if the company became associated with pure evil, you can still break it up, sell the buildings and recover some of the capital, but when it comes down to it, linkedin is a social network. A SOCIAL network. And these never go out of fashion do they?

myspace

Newscorp paid 12 Billion for myspace in 2007. Then they ended up selling it for 35 million four years later. Yup…these things happen eh?

This acquisition seems to me to be the kind of thing massive tech CEOs do in order to feel big and important. Its not a sensible purchase, its a bullshit valuation (oh BTW have I mentioned that linkedin makes NO money. All ikts done so far is burn through investors cash. Literally you would be better off owning Positech than Linkedin), and I’m not at all surprised Microsofts stock dropped a bit on the news. This is a case of big tech having surplus cash and not having a clue what to do with it.

I have a suggestion for all the tech CEO’s who don’t know what to do with the spare cash.

Pay some tax.

Or actually build something tangible with it. Facebook and Apple are at least investing in some physical infrastructure in the form of their own renewable energy to power their datacenters. Tesla is investing in a big battery factory (very big!). 26 billion dollars can achieve a hell of a lot. You could build the severn barrage in the UK, a renewable power source that would last roughly 120 years. You could develop a 76 acre urban complex in Las Vegas:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CityCenter  TWICE.

But no, why not buy linkedin, they have a big email list. Thats way easier, their offices are just down the street.

Is this the ‘big thinking’ that CEOs get their big salaries for?

 

An Englishman in New York

March 25, 2016 | Filed under: Uncategorized

Yay. I went to New York. It was pure sightseeing. I saw times square, and went up the rockafeller tower thing. We rode in yellow cabs and drank ‘coffee’. We laughed at people who thought we were Australian. We got used to saying ’76th and Madison*’, like in the movies. We even saw people filming ‘a new NBC pilot’ in the streets, just like they do in the movies. Also we saw woody allen play jazz. It was cool. I was impressed with the fire hydrants. I was less impressed that in 2016 some hotels employ people as ‘elevator attendants’. I’m a C++ coder, I can handle a fucking button. I also marveled at the insane cost of room service tea, and the intensely groomed nature of pedigree dogs in ‘central park’.

God I miss real trees and hills, and nice views of sheep, and horses. And QUIET.

Its always interesting to see different cultures, partly because as an indie dev, I sell GLOBALLY. Understanding what variety there is among your customers is pretty important. The UK & USA are very different. I saw a hot dog stand with a sign that read ‘If you enjoy your freedom, thank a veteran’, which is interesting, because you would NEVER see that on a burger van in the UK. Which veterans do I thank? all of them? did the Vietnam war secure my freedom? I’m unsure. I’m also confused that a society so obsessed with freedom won’t let me just cross an empty road, and seems to revel in some petty rules, regulations and restrictions. I’m sure the UK seems mad as fuck to New Yorkers too, its just interesting.

Anyway… I probably checked my work email too much for a ‘holiday’ but that’s because I have new DLC for something coming up, new DLC for something else coming up, A new game (D3:Africa), new translations for old games, another new game (Shadowhand), new websites, another new game (Top secret) and probably a dozen other things, including a trip to the European Parliament to talk about Democracy 3. (Cool huh?).

Right now my main concern is how much battery loss my car has experienced while I’m away. Also, must remember which side of the road to drive on, when the car isn’t handling it.

*Given the relative smallness of New York vs coruscant in the star wars prequels, what addresses do they give? “Take me to the Jedi Temple, 445,234th and Madison”. Seems a bit wordy?