Monday, May 30, 2016

The art of getting offended on behalf of other people

Social Justice Warriors have for many years now been offended by the American football team Washington Redskins, saying how racist and offensive that name is, and demanding it to be changed.

Recently, a poll was made among native Americans about that team name, and it turned out that 90% of them weren't bothered by it.

Ok, so controversy over? It wasn't such a huge issue after all? There might have been some cause for concern, but it turns out that it was just overreaction? After all, the people who could have been offended by that name are not offended, so the matter is closed?

Haha, of course not! Why should we listen to them? They don't know anything! They are victims, whether they know it or not. Their opinion doesn't matter. This is not a question of opinion (not even of those who are the "victims" of this blatant racism)! At least according to social justice warriors.

The article goes on and on how this shouldn't be up to a poll. Yet I am 100% sure that if the poll result had been the opposite, this exact same writer would be using the poll as an argument. It's only when the poll result is not something he likes that he dismisses it. And dismisses the opinion of the very people he is being offended on behalf of. He is denying them their agency, their ability to have their own opinion and have it affect the community. He is speaking on their behalf, against their opinion. The amount of arrogance is just astonishing.

Quite hypocritically, these exact same SJW's will tell to white heterosexual men that their opinions on minorities doesn't matter because they are not members of said minorities and haven't experienced what they have. Yet these same SJW's are quite happy to speak on behalf of minorities that they themselves don't belong to, and completely disregard their opinions and wishes.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Racism" on campus

White shaming and white guilt is getting more and more widespread on university campuses in the United States (and to increasing extents in some other countries).

The funny thing is that it seems that nobody is able to give any concrete examples of what the actual problem is, that needs to be addressed. There are lots of hoaxes perpetrated by non-white people (which have been increasing in numbers year after year), but little to show for actual problems.

Watch this video of the dean of Portland Community College being interviewed. They are organizing a "whiteness month", which sounds like an entire month dedicated to shaming (and, frankly, soft-oppressing) white people. The interviewer asks again and again for the dean to give some actual concrete examples of racism or other problem caused because of the "whiteness" culture, or white people. Again and again the dean just beats around the bush, alluding to vague problems, without giving a single concrete example of something that has happened. The most concrete example he gives is "complaints that are filed", but even then without giving any actual example of one of these complaints.

It seems to me that there are no such problems at universities. It's always vague things, never concrete acts. It seems to me that people have been conditioned into seeing monsters in the closet, to fear everything, and to see "racism" and "oppression" everywhere, hidden behind the surface.

And, of course, not only are white people the sole perpetrators of this hidden "racism", but moreover all white people are engaging in it, whether they know it or not. All white people are the villains here, and all non-white people are immaculate perfect innocent suffering people.

Why does this sound like an eerily similar attitude to how the nazis viewed the jews?

When did systemic racism become acceptable in universities?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

People defending Final Fantasy X

I have written previously in length why Final Fantasy X is one of the worst games I have ever played in my life. Even worse than Final Fantasy XIII. (The tl;dr version is: Everything that FFXIII did wrong, FFX did before it. Every complaint that you may have about the former is true for the latter. In fact, FFX is IMO even worse in almost every such complaint, and it even introduces a couple of its own.)

What I find curious, however, is that I seem to be the only person in existence who thinks this. Every person I have talked about it, either online or in person, who has played FFX, defends it.

Curiously, none of them seem to be able to give any rational reason why. For example I asked one such person, who I was talking to in real life, to name even one thing that was wrong with FFXIII that was not equally wrong in FFX. The only answer was "the battle system was better in FFX." No, seriously, that was the only answer they were able to give me.

I actually took that as an indirect admission that FFX was in fact effectively not any better than FFXIII (although I didn't say it out loud.) If the only argument is "the battle system" and nothing more, then that's pretty much the same as "effectively equally bad".

(As a tangent, it's a matter of opinion which game's battle system is better. In my personal opinion there isn't much of a difference, but I think I enjoyed the one of FFXIII more.)

Why people defend FFX is beyond my comprehension. It's an absolutely horrendous and frustrating game that does not deserve the bear the name "Final Fantasy" and does not deserve the category of (J)RPG.

Monday, May 23, 2016

How YouTube helps big corporations steal your videos

Very recently something happened on YouTube that really showcases how broken their copyright system is.

Some guy had uploaded a video in 2009 (about some trick in a NES game). In 2016 the creators of the show Family Guy used that video, without permission, on their show. Now YouTube's copyright strike system has taken down that original 2009 video, claiming that its rights belong to Fox (the owner company of the TV series).

In other words, Fox effectively stole this guy's video, claimed ownership, and shut it down. As of writing this I don't know if they did it deliberately of whether it was just a fully automatized process, but the end result is still the same: YouTube effectively helped Fox steal somebody else's video.

YouTube's copyright system is in dire need of a revamp. As it is now, not only does it allow people to steal your ad revenue, it also allows big corporations to steal your videos and claim ownership.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The dilemma of difficulty in (J)RPGs

The standard game mechanic that has existed since the dawn of (J)RPGs is that all enemies within given zones have a certain strength (which often varies randomly, but only within a relatively narrow range.) The first zone you start in has the weakest enemies, and they get progressively stronger as you advance in the game and get to new zones.

The idea is, of course, that as the player gains strength from battles (which is the core game mechanic of RPGs), it becomes easier and easier for the player to beat those enemies, and stronger enemies ahead will make the game challenging, as it requires the player to level up in order to be able to beat them. If you ever come back to a previous zone, the enemies there will still be as strong as they were last time, which usually means that they become easier and easier as the player becomes stronger.

This core mechanic, however, has a slight problem: It allows the player to over-level, which will cause the game to become too easy and there not being a meaningful challenge anymore. Nothing is stopping the player, if he so chooses, to spent a big chunk of time in one zone leveling up and gaining strength, after which most of the next zones become trivial because the strength of the enemies are not in par. This may be so even for the final boss of the game.

The final boss is supposed to be the ultimate challenge, the most difficult fight in the entire game. However, if because of the player being over-leveled the final boss becomes trivial, it can feel quite anti-climactic.

This is not just theoretical. It does happen. Two examples of where it has happened to me are Final Fantasy 6 and Bravely Default. At some point by the end parts of both games I got hooked into leveling up... after which the rest of the game until the end became really trivial and unchallenging. And a bit anti-climactic.

One possible solution to this problem that some games have tried is to have enemies level up with the player. This way they always remain challenging no matter how much the player levels up.

At first glance this might sound like a good idea, but it's not ideal either. The problem with this is that it removes the sense of accomplishment from the game; the sense of becoming stronger. It removes that reward of having fought lots of battles and getting stronger from them. There is no sense of achievement. Leveling up becomes pretty much inconsequential.

It's quite rewarding to fight some really tough enemies which are really hard to beat, and then much later and many levels stronger coming back and beating those same enemies very easily. It really gives a sense of having become stronger in the process. It gives a concrete feeling of accomplishment. Remove that, and it will feel futile and useless, like nothing has really been accomplished. The game may also become a bit boring because all enemies are essentially the same, and there is little variation.

One possibility would be if only enemies that the player has yet not encountered before would match the player's level (give or take a few notches), but after they have been encountered the first time in that particular zone they will remain that level for the rest of the game (in that zone). I don't know if this has been attempted in any existing game. It could be an idea worth trying.

All in all, it's not an easy problem to solve. There are always compromises and problems left with all attempted solutions.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Game developers will not give me even a chance to try (VR)

I have ranted quite a lot about VR, and how I find it a disappointment. I think this article at Tom's Hardware summarizes the reason quite well. And I quote:
"Early solutions included using game controllers or keyboard-and-mouse setups to use the traditional control schemes, but that approach made too many people sick, so most developers have scrapped the idea of linear movements done with a controller for VR games."
And that's the major problem I have with how VR turned out: Most developers have "scrapped the idea" (of adding VR support to traditional first-person shooter, and other similar genres), and are not going to give me even the chance to try.

Sure, this may cause nausea and motion sickness (and sure, it can be a really strong feeling, and it may last even for hours even after stopping playing). But there are actual demonstrable examples of people either not getting sick, or getting used to it. It is perfectly possible to get used to playing FPS games in VR. (Sure, there may be a percentage of people who will never get used to it, even if they try, but demonstrably many people do.)

I would be completely willing to try. If it gives me nausea, then little by little; short sessions at a time. Maybe just a few minutes, then take a long pause, over several days and weeks. Slowly but steadily get myself accustomed to it, until I don't get nausea anymore, and will be able to fully enjoy the experience.

But developers are not going to give me even the chance to try. They have decided that it "doesn't work", period. No VR for you, sorry. At least not for your favorite games nor genres.

And that's why I'm so disappointed in VR. It just "doesn't work".

Friday, May 13, 2016

VR causes religious fervor in people

When watching YouTube videos about the new VR headsets, especially the Vive, I have sometimes commented, and responded to other people's comments, with some skepticism about the possibilities and future of VR, as I have done in this blog. I essentially say that while yes, the tech demo experience may be awesome, I have my doubts about what kinds of games can really be implemented, especially for "room-scale VR". (Room-scale VR has severe limitations that really restrict what kind of games you can make for it.) I often ask people how many 50-hour big-budget triple-A games they really think will be made for room-scale VR, and what kind of future it can have, if it has a poor triple-A game library.

Almost invariably many people respond to it with what could effectively be called religious drivel. Rather than addressing what I wrote, or answering my questions, they often instead go on and on rambling about how "awesome" the room-scale VR feels. Many count how many friends and family members have found it "awesome". They go on and on about how you have to experience it yourself to "understand" it. They really sound like they have had a religious experience that can't be described.

Rather than, you know, actually addressing my skepticism and what I actually said.

The fact is that it doesn't really matter how much of a religious experience VR may give you. That doesn't somehow magically produce a wealthy library of triple-A games, nor prolong the longevity of the system. If there are no games for it, it will simply be an expensive tech-demo peripheral. Many similar devices (such as traditional video games consoles, and peripherals like the Kinect) have failed because of a lack of a triple-A game library.

But somehow it seems impossible to have an actual conversation with these people. It feels almost exactly like having a conversation with a young earth creationist, or a devout scientologist.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Puzzle combinations amount as a selling point

How many times have you seen a puzzle game being promoted by telling how many billions of possible combinations it has, as if that were some kind of indication of difficulty or complexity? I have seen it quite many times.

The fact is, however, that the number of possible combinations is an almost completely useless number. It tells pretty much nothing about the complexity or difficulty of the puzzle. Moreover, increasing the number of combinations (eg. by adding more pieces to the puzzle) seldom correlates to increased difficulty or complexity.

To understand why, consider this hypothetical simplistic "puzzle": There is a bag of 10 tiles, and each tile has a different number on it. Your task is to take all the tiles out in a random order and put them into a line. Now you have to rearrange the tiles one by one so that they will be in increasing order, from the smallest number to the largest.

You'd agree that this is a rather trivial and easy task. Not very difficult or complex.

But there are 3.6 million possible combinations of starting positions! Surely that must be an indication of how complex and difficult the puzzle is? Well, no. That number is completely meaningless. The puzzle is completely trivial regardless of the "3.6 million possible combinations".

How about we use 20 tiles instead? Now the number of possible initial positions grows to 2.4*1018. That's a staggeringly large number! That's 2 with 18 zeros after it! Surely the puzzle is now impossibly complex!

Well, no. The difficulty of the puzzle didn't increase in the slightest. The solution is still exactly the same, and exactly as easy. The only difference is that now it takes a few seconds more on average to "solve" it.

And that's precisely the crux of the problem: With many puzzles, increasing the number of pieces (and thus growing the number of possible combinations exponentially) often does not increase the difficulty or complexity of the puzzle at all. The only thing it does is to make it slower to solve (which oftentimes translates to "more tedious".)

Thus, in many cases, and quite ironically, a larger number of combinations is actually a bad thing. It doesn't increase the challenge of the puzzle, only its tediousness. The only thing that it may challenge is your patience.

Yet people still keep spouting these numbers like they had any kind of significance or meaning.

VR: Is the hype dying already?

When the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift published their first final versions of their headsets almost at the same time, there were enormous amounts of hype surrounding them. You could see advertisements everywhere (eg. Vive ads were constantly splattered on Steam's front page), and every single internet reviewer in existence was making videos about them.

Of course I haven't been following the VR circles closely. I'm just a gamer who frequents Steam and semi-regularly watches YouTube gaming channels and reviews. But it seems like the hype has pretty much completely died out. Steam isn't advertising VR on their front page anymore (even the "Steam Hardware" ads, which have been there pretty much constantly for like a year, show the Steam Controller as its flagship product, not the HTC Vive; and I have yet to see a single VR game advertised on their front page), and it has been a rather long time since I last saw any YouTube reviewer talk about VR (either the headsets or any VR games).

It almost feels like a passing fad... which already passed.

Of course I'm not saying VR is dead and forgotten. Obviously it takes time for developers to make big-budgeted large games; it's not going to happen in a month or two. (Heck, it took the PS4 over a year before it started to have a sizeable library of real triple-A games made for it, rather than just ports and "HD remakes" of existing games.) However, this is what it feels like at this moment: It was a phenomenon when it launched, and now nobody is talking about it anymore. Heck, even Valve isn't advertising it anymore, for the looks of it (neither the device itself, nor any VR game that I am aware of.)

As I have written several times previously in this blog, I can't help but feel a bit skeptical about the future of VR, especially the Vive and its "room-scale VR". The experience might be "awesome" and almost religious, but if you think about the game mechanics that are possible in "room-scale VR", it seems extremely limiting. (What kind of 50-hour big-budget triple-A games do you think are possible, and will be made for "room-scale VR"? I am very skeptical of this.)

This apparent death of the initial hype, and lack of visibility (of either the hardware or the games) isn't exactly helping my skepticism.

(I am still, however, somewhat optimistic in that maybe VR will have a future. But not because of the Vive, but its sort of opposite: The PlayStation VR. The latter might be a platform for which many games will be made, and this might indirectly help the Vive. Sure, the games will not be "room-scale VR", but perhaps that's a good thing. I don't see any future in "room-scale VR". I see possibilities in sit-down experiences, which is exactly the direction that the PS VR, and the Oculus Rift, are going.)

The feminist hypocrisy of "consent"

There are many things that modern feminists are morbidly obsessed about. One of them is rape. In their minds not only is rape the worst possible crime in existence, by a wide margin, but it is also everywhere all the time, and every minor thing in existence is now "rape". They just can't stop talking about rape. They are absolutely obsessed with it.

For this reason they go on and on and on about "consent". They are pushing (often successfully) all kinds of policies and campaigns to define and enforce stricter and stricter definitions of "consent".

It has, in fact, gone so far that "consent" has become completely meaningless. It doesn't even matter what feminists think is "consent". For all of their rambling and raging about it, and what it is, and how it should be given and so on and so forth, none of that matters in the least.

Why? Because in the modern feminist zeitgeist a woman can withdraw "consent" at any point. Including after the act. Including well after the act. Even if it's literally years after the fact, they can withdraw consent. Even if the relationship continued for a long time after that one act, it doesn't matter: If the woman withdraws consent years later for that one single act, it was rape, period. Details don't matter, only the accusation does. And don't you dare try to even investigate if the allegation is true: If you investigate, you are victim-blaming and excusing rape! You are a rape apologist!

It has become so bad that in the feminist zeitgeist a man cannot have sex with a woman safely. It doesn't matter what either one of them does, or how much "consent" she gives him (and it's always in that direction; the other direction doesn't exist in the feminist narrative). If she withdraws consent at any moment, even well after the fact, if she claims she was raped, then she was. The accusation is the proof. Even if it's the most consensual sex act that has ever happened in the entire history of humanity, it doesn't matter. If she years later claims she was raped, then she was. Period. No buts, ifs or maybes.

So all the talk about "consent" is pretty much empty, hollow and meaningless. It doesn't matter. In the feminist mind, it's completely inconsequential. It's effectively a charade. It doesn't matter how much "consent" was given, it can be denied later, and it automatically becomes "rape".

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Multiplayer-only games

In the 80's game developers were making games for really cheap, often with shoestring budgets, or basically no budget at all. Even the largest game companies had relatively limited budgets to create games. Such games were often created by a team of just a few people. It was really rare for a game to be created by more than ten people. Sometimes some even very good games were created by one single person (who, obviously, needed to not only be a good programmer, but also be a somewhat talented graphics artist and musician; more often, though, these three roles were separated to (at least) three different people, but that's about it.)

Nowadays most triple-A games have budgets surpassing even those of Hollywood blockbuster movies (ie. in the hundreds of millions of dollars). Team sizes are often comparable to those of movie productions, meaning that oftentimes there are literally hundreds of people involved in the creation of such a video game. This includes things that were just completely non-existent in the 80's, such as professional scriptwriters and actual actors performing the roles (both voice and even physical acting for motion capture). Production values are really high, and the demand for a large amount of high-quality content is large.

One umbrella genre that has gained enormous amount of traction in the past decade or so is online multiplayer, thanks to advances in technology and fast and very affordable widespread internet connections. Obviously online multiplayer gaming has existed for almost as long as the internet has, but it wasn't until fast internet connections became a very affordable de-facto everyday product that basically every single gamer has that online multiplayer really got traction.

Especially in the 90's and early 2000's, while some multiplayer-only games did already exist, online multiplayer was most often just more or less artificially slapped on an otherwise single-player game. Most often a first-person shooter. Usually the biggest portion of the budget went to the single-player campaign, and the multiplayer mode was just slapped on top of it with not much effort put into it.

That has changed quite a lot in the last decade or so. Nowadays not only have online multiplayer-only games proliferated quite a lot, but an enormous amount of effort (ie. money) is being put into them. Multiplayer gaming aims to be more than just a simple Counterstrike-style arena shooter with extremely simplistic and repetitive goals. (While this, also, is nothing new to the last decade, as deeper multiplayer experiences have at least attempted to exist as far as the 90's, the demand for a more immersive and story-heavy multiplayer experience is nowadays much higher.)

The problem is, with the production values (and thus price) of modern video game productions, it often reaches a point where as a game developer company you have to choose between making a single-player or an online multiplayer game. It's often not economically feasible to do both. You have to put all your resources onto one. You just can't do what would essentially be two games bundled into one (which is what games with both modes often effectively are).

For this reason nowadays there are more and more big-budget triple-A multiplayer-only games inundating the market. Games that try to innovate, try to do something new, try for a deeper playing experience that goes beyond your average 90's repetitive arena brawler.

And which, unfortunately, I have very little interest in, no matter how exciting and interesting they might seem on the surface.

I really prefer video games to be more like a movie-watching experience. I don't mean that I just want the whole game to be one large cutscene with little to no interaction. What I mean is that I want the game to have a complete story, with beginning, middle and end. An interesting story; an engaging story. The gameplay should of course also be interesting, engaging and even addicting, but the game shouldn't rely on gameplay mechanics alone. And, like a movie, once I have played the game through, that's pretty much it. I'll most probably never play the game again (with a few rare exceptions).

In other words, I want a consumer experience. I "consumed" the game, and then I have seen it, and that's it. I move to the next game.

That might sound like a strange preference to some people, but that's just how it is. I'm really not interested in endless games; games that have little to no story, no (storywise) progression, no conclusion, no ending. Games that just go on and on, doing the same things over and over. Some of such games might be fun to play for a few hours, but I quickly get bored of them, if it's continuously the same thing, and there is no actual progression in terms of storytelling.

And that's the problem with online multiplayer games. They are most usually of the endless variety. Some games may have story-like campaigns, but they are effectively what amounts to side quests in typical single-player games. A side quest in itself can be interesting, but it's not really the full story, the full experience. And, of course, the game doesn't just end after this "side quest" is done. There is no actual conclusion to the overall story.

Many online multiplayer games don't have even that.

While game developers always try to break boundaries, the online multiplayer mechanic severely limits what can be done storywise. It's just unfeasible to make a multiplayer game to be like a single-player campaign. (At the very most what you can do is create what's effectively a single-player campaign that's playable by two or more people in co-op mode. Of course even then, playing the game can be a hassle. Will I find somebody who wants to play? How long will they want to play? What if they leave when I would want to continue? In other words, it's difficult to play the game at my preferred pace and available time.)

Sometimes a game may have really interesting and exciting teaser trailers and promotional material. But then, when I find out that it's a multiplayer-only game, I immediately lose interest and feel disappointment. What promised to be an awesome game turned out to be a boring one. And I don't even need to try it to know.

GPU power cable positioning

What sticks out in this picture like a sore thumb?

That's right: Those power cables.

I have never understood why they always position the power connectors like that. When you connect the power cables, it needlessly increases the space required by the graphic card inside the computer case. They could move those connectors just a few centimeters and put them on the end of the card rather than on its side. This way the card wouldn't require any extra space widthwise. But no. For some incomprehensible reason almost no manufacturer does that (although there are a few exceptions).

In fact, there are some server cases, especially rack cases, which are designed to have graphics cards in them (usually for computation purposes) which have an extra bulge on the cover of the case for the sole purpose of being able to fit those power cables, which are sticking on the sides of the graphics cards. This is an extra manufacturing process, and it increases the space requirement for the server, and would be completely unneeded if the graphic cards had a more sensible positioning for those power cable connectors.

Those power cable connectors are positioned as if they had been designed to be most easily accessible, as if they were something you would frequently need to connect and disconnect. But that's of course just nonsensical. Once you have installed the GPU and connected the power cables, you don't need to touch it at all anymore. (And, besides, the connectors being on the end of the card, just a few centimeters from where they are currently, eg. on the picture above, wouldn't make it any more difficult.)

(And no, if the objection is that putting the connectors on the end of the card would increment the length of the card, the connectors can be put in a recess; or the card could simply be made just a bit shorter, at least on the part where the connectors are. Anyway, I have never seen a computer case where that positioning could cause any kind of problem.)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How can 1+2+3+4+... = -1/12?

There's this assertion that has become somewhat famous, as many YouTube videos have been made about it, that the infinite sum of all positive integers equals -1/12. Most people just can't accept it because it seems completely nonsensical and counter-intuitive.

One has to understand, however, that this is not just a trick, or a quip, or some random thing that someone came up at a whim. In fact, historical world-famous mathematicians came to that same conclusion independently of each other, using quite different methodologies. For example, some of the most famous mathematicians of all history, including Leonhard Euler, Bernhard Riemann and Srinivasa Ramanujan, all came to that same result, independently, and using different methods. They didn't just assign the value -1/12 to the sum arbitrarily at a whim, but they had solid mathematical reasons to arrive to that precise value and not something else.

And it is not the only such infinite sum with a counter-intuitive result. There are infinitely many of them. There is an entire field of mathematics dedicated to studying such divergent series. A simple example would be the sum of all the powers of 2:

1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + ... = -1

Most people would immediately protest to that assertion. Adding two positive values gives a positive value. How can adding infinitely many positive values not only not give infinity, but a negative value? That's completely impossible!

The problem is that we tend to instinctively think of infinite sums only in terms of its partial finite sums, and the limit that these partial sums approach when more and more terms are added to it. However, this is not necessarily the correct approach. The above sum is not a limit statement, nor is it some kind of finite sum. It's a sum with an infinite number of terms, and partial sums and limits do not apply to it. It's a completely different beast altogether.

Consider the much less controversial statement:

1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 + ... = 2

ie. the sum of the reciprocals of the powers of 2. Most people would agree that the above sum is valid. But why?

To understand why I'm asking the question, notice that the above sum is not a limit statement. In other words, it's not:

This limit is a rather different statement. It is saying that as more and more terms are added to the (finite) sum, the result approaches 2. Note that it never reaches 2, only that it approaches it more and more, as more terms are added.

If it never reaches 2, how can we say that the infinite sum 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + ... is equal to 2? Not that it just approaches 2, but that it's mathematically equal to it? Philosophical objections to that statement could ostensibly be made. (How can you sum an infinite amount of terms? That's impossible. You would never get to the end of it, because there is no end. The terms just go on and on forever; you would never be done. It's just not possible to sum an infinite number of terms.)

Ultimately, the notation 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + ... = 2 is a convention. A consensus that mathematics has agreed upon. In other words, we accept the notion that a sum can have an infinite number of terms (regardless of some philosophical objections that could be presented against that idea), and that such an infinite sum can be mathematically equal to a given finite value.

While in the case of convergent series the result is the same as the equivalent limit statement, we cannot use the limit method with divergent series. As much as people seem to accept "infinity" as some kind of valid result, technically speaking it's a nonsensical result, when we are talking about the natural (or even the real) numbers. It's meaningless.

It could well be that divergent sums simply don't have a value, and this may have been what was agreed upon. Just like 0/0 has no value, and no sensible value can be assigned to it, likewise a divergent sum doesn't have a value.

However, it turns out that's not the case. When using certain summation methods, sensible finite values can be assigned to divergent infinite sums. And these methods are not arbitrarily decided on a whim, but they have a strong mathematical reasoning for them. And, moreover, different independent summation methods reach the same result.

We have to understand that a sum with an infinite number of terms just doesn't behave intuitively. It does not necessarily behave like its finite partial sums. The archetypal example often given is:

1 - 1/3 + 1/5 - 1/7 + 1/9 - 1/11 + ... = pi/4

Every term in the sum is a rational number. The sum of two rational numbers gives a rational number. No matter how many rational numbers you add, you always get a rational number. Yet this infinite sum does not give a rational number, but an irrational one. The infinite sum does not behave like its partial sums, nor does it follow the same rules. In other words:

"The sum of two rational numbers gives a rational number": Not necessarily true for infinite sums.

"The sum of two positive numbers gives a positive number": Not necessarily true for infinite sums.

Even knowing all this, you may still have hard time accepting that an infinite divergent sum of positive values not only gives a finite result, but a negative one. We are so strongly attached to the notion of dealing with infinite sums in terms of its finite partial sums that it's hard for us to put aside that approach completely. It's hard to accept that infinite sums do not behave the same as finite sums, nor can they be approached using the same methods.

In the end, it's a question of which mathematical methods you accept on a philosophical level. Just consider that these divergent infinite sums and their finite results are serious methods used by serious professional mathematicians, not just some trickery or wordplay.

More information about this can be found eg. at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hiring quotas are discrimination

Currently there is a culture war at American universities, where spoiled rich kids have been brainwashed into Marxist social justice (if you don't believe it's Marxist, just search for videos where they are chanting the Communist Manifesto), and are protesting completely imaginary "oppression" that's allegedly happening at university campuses, somehow. I have yet to see any concrete definitions or examples of such "oppression"; the claims are always vague and nondescript. (There is an ever-increasing number of hoaxes being perpetrated, but finding examples of any real racism or other kind of "oppression" is really hard. That's probably why they are perpetrating so many hoaxes.)

The solutions being offered are equally vague and nondescript, and don't really address the alleged "oppression". Only very few actual, concrete "solutions" are being demanded. One of them is implementing hiring quotas on university staff based on race. Because reasons. And oppression. And stuff.

The scary thing is that the universities are in increasing numbers capitulating to these insane demands. These illegal demands. (Drinking game: Every time you see a list of demands made by these privileged rich spoiled kids, take a sip every time one of the demands is actually illegal or unconstitutional.)

Hiring quotas based on race or gender are discrimination, pure and simple. They are racism and sexism in their purest form.

"Yeah, you would have the best qualifications for the job, but unfortunately we cannot hire you because you have the wrong skin color. We already have too many of your kind."

"Sorry, we'll have to let you go. You have the wrong skin color, and we already have too many of your kind. You'll be replaced by someone of a more proper skin color."

How is this not textbook racism and discrimination in its purest form?

Not only is it discrimination based on race in its purest form, it's extremely obnoxious and blatant racism. It is also illegal, explicitly so in the United States, where this is mostly happening. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes this explicitly illegal (emphasis mine):
"It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer--
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

How trustworthy are user reviews of (mobile) games?

One of the banes of mobile game developers is the "fast food" culture of most mobile casual players. This not only means that they will download dozens, if not even hundreds of free games, try each one for 10 or 20 seconds and then delete it if they don't like it in that time, but it also means that many of them will easily give a 1-star (ie. minimum) rating on such games.

The 1-star ratings, and the ease by which casual players give them, are a bane of developers. Many (way too many) of them will give the lowest possible rating for the flimsiest of reasons, without giving the game, or its developers, any leniency or chance.

One of the worst possible things that can happen is if your game sometimes crashes on launch. You are pretty much certain to immediately get tons of 1-star ratings, right off the bat. (Of course it is genuinely bad if your app crashes on launch, but sometimes this just happens even with competent developers, for quite many reasons, some of them not even being entirely their own fault. Maybe a new version of the operating system breaks things, for example. You can see this all the time, even from really big-name developers and big-name apps. Heck, even Apple's own apps sometimes crash on launch, or during execution. Even they are not immune to this, even though they should know best how to develop apps for their own system.)

Of course that's not the only situation. Maybe your servers are momentarily down and the app can't connect and thus not function properly? 1-star ratings. Maybe somebody else's servers, which your app depends on, are down? 1-star ratings, for no fault of your own. Maybe they don't like your in-app-purchasing system (even though they are basically otherwise getting the game for free)? The list of reasons is plentiful.

The casual player masses are sometimes really "trigger happy" with their 1-star ratings, and will do it for the flimsiest of reasons. This can really drag down the ratings of a game, sometimes for no good reason.

And people, generally, trust these ratings too much. And low ratings will quickly drop the game down the list of thousands of other apps, and into complete obscurity.

It's a really harsh marketplace.

Immigration and asylum as something inevitable

In most European countries there has evolved a mentality that immigration and providing asylum for foreigners is some kind of inevitable duty, an inevitable social service that we just have to provide. Basically that there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. If somebody enters the country, we just have to deal with it "properly", and provide that person with all kinds of free services. And that we just have to take a certain amount of immigrants every year and give them permanent residence, maybe even citizenship. We have some kind of "duty" to do so, and it's something that we simply can't deny or refuse.

Says who, exactly? And why us?

There seems to be some kind of mentality that since European countries are rich, they have some kind of humanitarian duty that they just must obey. Yet nobody is demanding rich countries at other places to perform the same duty. In fact, it seems that nobody is even expecting those other countries to do so.

How many people have you seen demanding that eg. Saudi Arabia, China or even Japan, some of the richest countries in the world, have the same global social worker duties as European countries? How many people do you see expecting a country like Saudi Arabia to welcome all immigrants and asylum seekers, and become baffled and enraged when they find out that they don't? Or China. Or even Japan. Basically nobody has this mentality. It's only Europe that seems to have this duty.

But why?

"International agreements" is always the stock excuse used in these situations. We are bound by some such "international agreements", and this removes our agency, our independence, our right to self-govern in these issues, completely. There's nothing we can do about it. We are pretty much forced to take immigrants and asylum seekers, because of "international agreements". And if we don't, then we will get punished with some vague, undetermined international sanctions. Somehow. (I'm not making this up. This is from actual conversations with people. Not with those exact words, of course, but effectively that.)

Yet, consider Australia. When the current migration crisis began, they pretty much immediately closed their borders. What international sanctions have they received from this breach of "international agreements"? In fact, the vast majority of people here don't even know that Australia closed its borders. They also are not aware of eg. Saudi Arabia not taking any asylum seekers at all (even though they would be much closer, and would share the language and culture.)

Europe has this altruism syndrome, where it feels that it just has to help, and it just can't say "no". And there's absolutely nothing that can be done about it. If a million asylum seekers come to Europe, then they have to be taken in, period. If ten million of them come, they have to be taken in. We can't just let them die outside. We have to take them in. And once they are in, it's really, really difficult to return them, even in the cases where there is zero legal reason to grant them asylum or immigrant status. Only a very small percentage of them will ever leave Europe again.

This altruism syndrome has pretty much removed our agency and right to self-governance in these issues. We are completely helpless. And this mentality is extremely prevalent not only in our politicians and media, but also the average citizen. The vast majority of them have been raised in this kind of "hyper-altruistic" mentality, where they instinctively just accept the fact without questioning it, and abhor any suggestion that this wouldn't need to be so, and that we could just say "no". Even the idea of saying "no" scares them. The "international agreements" and "sanctions" boogeyman scares them. It almost feels like we are all victims of a strange kind of propaganda.

Ghostbusters hatred caused by misogyny?

The trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie has got an enormous amount of backlash. It has been estimated that it breaks the record for the largest amount of dislikes on YouTube for any movie trailer.

Because there's a lot of identity politics behind the production of the movie, and it tries so hard to pander to feminists, obviously the defenders (including many journalists) are claiming that it's hated purely because of rampant misogyny. They say that people hate it only because now the lead characters are female.

But is that really so?

Ghostbusters is a cult classic movie of the 80's. Nobody wanted it to be remade, especially not the people who fondly remember it from their childhood. It doesn't help that the jokes in the trailer are lame, the effects are sub-par for modern standards, and overall it seems highly uninteresting.

But it's not like we don't have something else to compare it to. We can take a movie franchise that's even more of a cult classic: Star Wars. Not only did we get one new Star Wars movie with a female lead, but two! In fact, many commenters were expecting a huge backlash from "misogynists" immediately when the trailers came out. But how well did they do in the end? Well, let's see:

It seems that they were liked quite a lot.

I would posit that if the Ghostbusters movie had had male lead characters, its trailer would have had even less likes than it currently has, rather than more. That's because it wouldn't have an army of feminists trying to defend it. (I am quite certain that a significant portion of those likes in the trailer are from feminists who don't care about the actual quality of the movie, only that it engages in identity politics.)