Good Afternoon December 31, 2016

Good afternoon on this the thirty first day of December, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 2016.

Fair warning, I won’t be talking about the changing of the year because as a mathematician I just can’t get worked up about rolling over of numbers in arbitrarily chosen bases. We all have our weaknesses.

I put together a second computer, for my second son, so that he and his older brother can play minecraft together. He had been borrowing an old laptop of mine which was very slow (“laggy” is the term my eldest son has picked up from the minecraft youtubers he watches, though to my ears that refers more to events happening after the fact rather than low framerates). Interestingly he’s a bit young for most cooperative games because in minecraft they tend to be puzzle games, and he’s not old enough to really understand puzzles. Herobrine’s Mansion, which is a class RPG hack-and-slash adventure has proven to be nearly ideal since it is cooperative but the cooperation is all about hitting undead things with your sword until they’ve been restored to a normal state of being dead. It’s a wholesome activity—demon-infested corpses should (in general) be put down quickly and inhumanely—and simple enough even for young children to get the idea and not screw up the game for their older siblings. (It’s also really cute to hear him screaming, “Naughtie zombie! Naughtie skeleton!” as he bashes them with his preferred simulation of a re-dead maker.) I suspect in another year or so they’ll be able to play the games with logic puzzles in them, which will be very awesome to watch. Incidentally, I really enjoy playing Herobrine’s mansion with them. Hack-and-slash are some of my favorite games, and were since I was a child.

Which brings me back to the topic of restored continuity. With new technology people keep recreating old games, both for nostalgia and because the old games were good—I was going to say, “and just lacked good graphics”, but sometimes the graphics were good (if mostly by being skilfully suggestive), and in Minecraft unless you’re using a high quality resource pack (like Chromahills) together with a shader pack like the SEUS shaders, Minecraft doesn’t have good graphics. Anyway, there was a huge disruption of culture in the late 1800s and the first half or three quarters of the 1900s, but I think things are settling down. My parents, I believe, felt somewhat disconnected from me, and their parents—again, I believe—felt somewhat disconnected from them. But I don’t feel disconnected from my children. I don’t mean in a complete sense, of course; all parents have a strong connection to their children. I just mean culturally. My children play the same sorts of games that I played as a child, if perhaps as a somewhat older child than they are now. Then again I listened to the same sort of music my parents did—I was a big Simon & Garfunkel fan as a child—so there is probably some similarity there too. And the things I used to do that they don’t, I mostly don’t do now either. I don’t feel any loss of cultural connection because we had land-line phones and kids these days only use cell phones. I only use cell phones these days too. I think this is classed in, “my children are better off than I was”, even though I can’t take any credit for it unlike the immigrants who worked their fingers to the bone so their children would grow up with a good education and an easy job that doesn’t leave them weary and sore in the evening.

It’s an interesting subject, because for example audio codecs have gotten slightly better than mp3s, but it doesn’t matter much and the music is still the same (especially pop music with its eternal three cords). And amusingly phones are getting HD voices at a time when people increasing text rather than call each other. That in particular I find a fascinating trend. As soon as the technology in cell phones got good enough, we didn’t move to video calling or video+smell-o-vision or whatever. We “regressed” to pure text. Bad news for the blind, perhaps; great news for the deaf, and for most of much more convenient. But we’re not going to see HD text which is radically different from the texts we send now. I’m not such a fool as to think that life will be unchanged in 100 years—in A Stitch in Space I certainly gave a vision of progressed technology with implantables that overlay on top of our optic and auditory nerves, though I didn’t flesh its implications out all the way—but I suspect that we’re going to see technological progress appearing to slow down because of human preferences. We will preferentially adopt new technology which doesn’t require much change of us, and so new technology will often emulate old technology with improvements, and the people who grew up with that old technology will feel that things haven’t changed all that much. We’ll see, of course. Nothing is so hard to predict as the future. But at the very least I sure am enjoying it as my kids do the things that I did as a kid, or those things with mild variations.

God bless you.

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