Category Archives: General

The Last Jedi: Dawn of the Freeze Wars

(Previously: On Letting The Past Die, Or Killing It, Rise of the Flopbuster)

The Last Jedi is a weird, bad movie that might kill an entire franchise and even seriously wound Disney at the height of its power, but weirder still is how the Internet discourse around it has been managed in the last month.

TLJ itself is weird enough that I’ve coined the word ‘flopbuster’ to describe its counter-intuitive, non-Newtonian, non-Euclidean properties. The weirdness around it is even more bizarre. To describe that, I’ve coined another neologism: ‘freeze war‘.

What’s a freeze war? It’s what you get when a sufficiently big Internet comment-section flame war hits a sufficiently widely deployed based of automated algorithmic online fire-suppression systems – and when multibillion-dollar megacorporations, and nation-state level political movements, also get involved on each side. Entire comment systems just get frozen. Comments deemed insufficiently ‘civil’ are just deleted. Like a flame war, this phenomenon feeds on itself and expands. But the war is fought in silence, by silence, as silence.

And the silence is deafening.

It’s eerie as heck and it’s maybe the future of the Internet and of Western culture itself.

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The Last Jedi: On Letting The Past Die, Or Killing It

In 1977, George Lucas, his wife Marcia, and a few close friends made something extraordinary. For 40 years we’ve been unable to stop thinking about the strange little comic book movie that could, Star Wars.

In 1999, Lucas released a new film – The Phantom Menace – that failed as spectacularly as Star Wars had succeeded. It made Star Wars fans angry. But it didn’t stop us thinking about it. We were consumed with how to fix the Prequels. How the Original Trilogy was so good when the Prequels were so bad. What bizarre kabalistic art theories might be constructed in which the storytelling of the Prequels made any kind of sense?

But in 2017, finally, Rian Johnson has achieved the feat even Lucas couldn’t: He’s managed to make me – and many others – just plain not want any Star Wars anymore.

(There are spoilers and wrong opinions beyond the jump).

Continue reading The Last Jedi: On Letting The Past Die, Or Killing It

Dataspace 7: A Low-Level Encoding

Prelude:
Dataspace 0: Those Memex Dreams Again
Dataspace 1: In Search of a Data Model
Dataspace 2: Revenge of the Data Model
Dataspace 3: It Came From The S-Expressions
Dataspace 4: The Term-inator

I want a Memex. Roughly, I want some kind of personal but shareable information desktop where I can enter very small pieces of data, cluster them into large chunks of data, and – most importantly – point to any of these small pieces of data from any of these chunks.

‘Pointable data’ needs a data model. The data model that I am currently exploring is what I call term-expressions (or T-expressions): a modified S-expression syntax and semantics that allows a list to end with (or even simply be, with no preceding list) a logical term in the Prolog sense.

Up till now we’ve been looking at term-expressions as a thin layer over S-expressions (ie, one reserved symbol, the term marker), and assuming that at a machine level they will use a Lisplike cons cell structure (ie, linked lists).

The architecture of PicoLisp makes a good argument for using cons cells as the only method of storage, as it simplifies memory management, and simplicity may be more important for reliability and security than raw performance.

But if we wanted, we could have quite a dense encoding for term-expressions, based on the old Lisp Machine tricks of CDR coding and tagged pointers. This means we could map term-expressions directly onto sequences of memory cells.

Continue reading Dataspace 7: A Low-Level Encoding

Rogue Dreams and the Singularity Curve

No, my father didn’t fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter.

That’s what your uncle told you. He didn’t hold with your father’s ideals. Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved.

You fought in the Clone Wars?

Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father.

I wish I’d known him.

He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior.

The young man thumbs the plasblade’s stud while the old man smiles, his eyes travelling back to a distant time…

The GALACTIC DEMOCRON shines across a million suns, an interlocking nexus of cultures united in representative politics on its shining capital planet. It has stood for 20,000 solar years, an elegant frozen tableau of 1970s-ish American suburbia protected by its enigmatic and vaguely Asian battle-sages, the KNIGHTS OF WUXIA.  It might stand for a hundred thousand more. But dark winds of change are swirling, amid rumours that the dreaded DARK LORDS OF NU-METAL, last faced a thousand years ago, have returned. Their terrible leader, CHAD NYKYLBACK…

Yes, okay, but how does it actually work? This whole galaxy-falls-to-fascism-in-a-generation thing?

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