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Archives de la catégorie ‘My writings’

[Short story] Jeff’s Simcity

 

1. In the beginning was the Code, and the Code was with Jeff.
2. All things were made by Jeff; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
3. In Him was life; and life was the light of men.
4. In the beginning, Jeff created the heavens and the earth.
5. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the cursor of Jeff was hovering over the text editor.
6. And Jeff made a ray tracing module to manage lighting, set the flag “light=on”, and there was light.
7. Jeff tested his code and saw that it was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. // Tested his code = compiled and ran as expected? Probably not actual tests
8. Jeff then made a module to manage the passage of time, and tied it to the lighting system. He made a light period that he called “day”, and a dark period that he called “night”. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day. // Duality of time: what is Jeff’s time, and what is time in the world?
9. And Jeff then coded the elements. He first instantiated water, and then typed “let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water”. And it was so. And Jeff called the variable “sky”. And there was evening. And there was morning – the second day. // The description of what he typed is probably a literary embellished version of the programming declarative syntax.
10. And Jeff programmed another kind of matter, which he named “dry ground”. He instantiated an object of this type and called it “land”.  Jeff tested it, and saw that it was good. // Matter is the main class, and water and dry ground inherit from it?
11. Then Jeff wrote the base code for vegetation, and defined the algorithm for their growth and propagation. He defined various kind, and placed them onto the land, and their bore fruit. Jeff tested it, and saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.
12. And Jeff decided to refine the light sources. Jeff made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. Jeff tested it, and saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day.
13. And Jeff programmed the living creatures. He first placed them in the water, and then instantiated birds above the earth across the vault of the sky. He programmed their basic motion function and reproduction mechanism. Jeff made the wild animals according to their code, the livestock according to their code, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their code. Jeff tested it, and saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fifth day. // Also clear example of inheritance.

// Easy to imagine the algo for pathfinding and reproduction: implemented in countless other games

14. Then Jeff typed, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So Jeff created mankind in his own image, in the image of Jeff he created them. // Jeff took himself as model for the human avatar, but it’s unclear how he actually achieved that. Mind uploading? Probably producing a sophisticated approximation model (he “types” the code).

// Also not clear what the goal was: Research? Entertainment ?

15. Jeff tested all he had made, and saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day. By the seventh day, Jeff had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. // I think this means that all the coding took a week of Jeff’s time. Inside the world he created, it’s unclear how much time passed though. Evidence indicates billions of years.
16. And so it was that the world started running. As mankind multiplied onto the earth, so did the complexity of the program increase, and soon it came to be that Jeff’s machines did not have enough power to run the universe. // It’s easy to see that any machine could run a simple version of this, but an actual universe requires a lot more processing power.
17. So Jeff looked around for new hardware that could contain his whole universe, for the fruits of silicon could not sustain its growth, and the more machines he used the more he needed.
18. So Jeff turned inwards, and inwards he found the answers. For nothing is more potent than the human brain, which will record in its memory all the things one has seen and felt in life. It holds neural pathways for everything one will ever encounter, and therefore holds as potential the entire universe. // Probably most important element here.

// Everything someone perceives in their life exists inside their brain, even the unfamiliar/unexpected. What you haven’t seen yet can exist in your brain >> whole universe?

19. And Jeff used human brains to run its universe. Jeff tested it, and saw that it was good, and sustained the load. // Unclear how the software runs on brains.

// How does that compare with imagination?

20. And so it was that the universe was fruitful, and mankind increased in number, filled the earth and subdued it, ruled over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, and over every living creature that moves on the ground. So too did mankind increase in virtue, understanding and power, and their children built tribes, cities and empires, until their monuments reached to the heavens and they were like Jeff, and they could turn inward.
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[Short story] The child who did not know purpose

Note: This story is adapted from the game You Doesn’t Exist (steam link) but I liked it a lot, so it probably deserves its place here. I hope some day to turn it into a picture book.

 


There once was a child who lived in a house. It was a special child, for it was the Child Who Did Not Know Purpose. Therefore, one day, the child set off on a journey to find out about it.

On the Candy Mountain, the child met the Rabbit Who Does Not Know Still.

– Hello, said the child. How are you?

– Can’t talk, sorry, the rabbit answered. I’m late.

– Late? Late for what? the child asked.

– Anything. I have to go!

– Go where?

– Anywhere. I have things to do.

– What?

– Anything. Life is short, I have plenty to do. 

– Well it doesn’t sound to me like you’re doing something important or meaningful, the child said.

– You wouldn’t understand, you’re too young. You’ll understand when you do things too.

The child decided to leave. “What a strange character. » the child thought.

In the Mushroom Forest, the child met the Owl Who Does Not Know Silence. It never stopped talking, except to catch its breath.

– Hello, child. Whoo… hoo… hoo… are you?

– I’m just a child.

– That sounds like an interesting story, replied the Owl. Tell me more!

– I cannot, said the child. I should be on my way, and there is not much to tell. What about you, who are you?

– I’m the Owl Who Does Not Know Silence, said the owl. I talk.

– What do you talk about?

– Everything.

– That seems vague…

– If you’re not going to tell me things, at least stay and listen to my story. It’s been so long since I last had an audience, I’m tired of talking to myself. Come on, it’ll be a hoot!

– Ok…

– Hoo… hooo… Ok so there was that one time when I was talking to a traveler…

– Are you just going to talk about talking? thechild asked. It doesn’t seem very interesting to me. In fact, it seems like you’re just saying things.

– Okay, the Owl replied, frustrated. Then you say something, if you’re so good at saying things.

The child decided to leave. “What a strange character. » the child thought.

In the colorful plains, the child met the Deer Who Does Not Know Time.

– Hello, said the child. Who are you?

– I’m the Deer Who Does Not Know Time, answered the deer.

– How can you not know what time is? said the child who was surprised. It’s…

– Sorry, said the deer. I don’t know what this means.

– If you don’t know time, how do you go about your day?

– What’s ‘day’ ? asked the deer.

– It’s what happens after the sun rises and before it sets.

– There are many such things, said the deer. A fixed number of these. It does not change, nor does anything else.

– But time passes, the child protested. We all move!

– Not if you look from far enough, answered the deer. From far enough one does not see your motion.

The child was a bit confused.

– I should go now.

– What’s ‘go’? answered the deer.

The child went on his way. “What a strange character. » the child thought.

In the frozen Ice Lands, the child met the Bear Who Does Not Know Itself.

– Hello, said the child. Who are you?

– What is ‘you’? answered the Bear Who Does Not Know Itself.

– It’s what’s just in front of me.

– You mean fur, muscles and fat? asked the Bear.

– No, it’s what’s saying these words.

– You mean vocal cords and lungs? asked the Bear.

– No, I mean what thinks about what they say.

– You mean neurons? asked the Bear.

– No, I mean what results of their activity.

– You mean electrical current? asked the Bear.

– No, I mean what decides what they do.

– You mean a plurality of causalities? asked the Bear.

– No…

The child gave up and went on his way. “What a strange character. » the child thought.

Finally, the child went back home. The child knew very little more than before, despite all that was seen. So the child just went to sleep, and forgot all about it.

[short story] 85 to 255 Hz

Lots of things have been written about my forefathers from the Manhattan Project and their reaction to the first nuclear bombs. I don’t know what is accurate and what is dramatized fabulation. But today I think I can understand how they felt. I’m terrified and awed by the power of this thing I helped build.

When the project started, it seemed no different from any other neuroscience research endeavour. We did get a lot of funding from the government, but there was nothing suspicious or uncommon about that. We were just another lab in a sea of brilliant academics.

Our focus was the response of brain tissues to external stimuli. There was a lot of literature about the response of brain tissues to implants, of course, and neuron’s response to various molecular stimuli was a hot topic in neurobiology. But we wanted to try a different approach, focusing not on the components of the brain, but treating it as a closed system.

Most of our colleagues were focused on mapping the effects of emotions or perceptions on the brain. We couldn’t realistically hope to compete with the brilliant fellows from the University of California, let alone all the others. That’s why we were looking for a novel approach that could be our own, a new door in the field we could open. That may seem presumptuous, but back then we were not aiming for results, just for exploration of ideas.

As it often does, our work sparked from a silly idea I had watching the Matrix Reloaded. In the movie, they get rid of the machines pursuing them by launching a powerful EMP. The electromagnetic field emitted by the pulse would wreak havoc in the electronic circuits of the machines.

Why wouldn’t EMP work on humans, whose brain is essentially an electrical circuit? Brain chemistry wasn’t as simple as a train of electrons running around wires, so something as simple as a magnet wouldn’t work, but surely there was some way we could alter the brain’s flow with some sort of magnet-like wave. There must be frequencies that could induce a reaction in the brain.

We discovered there that some teams were investigating the potential of gamma wave stimulation during sleep to stimulate lucid dreaming. This was very encouraging. If lucidity could be triggered during a dream, maybe we could incept in the brain our own image or ideas.

We experimented with various magnetic fields and electromagnetic wave radiation. At first it seemed doomed, nothing we did seem to have any meaningful effect. The chemistry-based circuitry of the brain proved remarkably impervious to our tinkering attempts. It was actually a pretty impressive defense against external attacks.

But any defense has weak points, and there were gateways to the brain that let information through. That was probably our breakthrough. Using the perception canals the intellect was already receptive to. With waves in the visual and auditory spectrum, surely we could reach inside the brain.

And it worked. Better than anyone could have expected or dreamt. This was the starting point, and everything accelerated from there. Within days, we could trigger various vague feelings in our patients. It wasn’t long before we could summon simple images in their mind. Entranced by such success, we quickly moved on to more and more complex ideas to incept. Nothing seemed to be out of our reach.

It wasn’t much of a stretch from implanting images in their brain to implanting thoughts, and therefore decisions. Soon, we could manipulate the will of a person. We started by simple things, like accentuating an already present desire (say urinate or eat…). That was easy. But in essence, that wasn’t much different from making people do our bidding.

Before we realized it, we had on our hands the Device, a powerful mind control system. To be honest, we were playing with fire, but none of us really realized what we were doing. It’s only after having witnessed the effects of the Device that we really came to terms with the consequences of our invention. It’s unbelievably powerful. It can reach out into anyone’s mind, change what they perceive, change how they think… I can only shiver faced with the might of the invention I helped build.

We did our best to keep our project secret, but such success in such a dangerous field was bound to attract attention. The government reached out to us, and I cannot begin to imagine what other organizations are secretly after us. It’s probably only a matter of days, if I’m lucky, before this gets out of our control.

If the Device falls in the wrong hands, there’s no telling what its power could do. Cement totalitarian empires or sustain the most abject cruelty is probably just the tip of the iceberg. It’s no exaggeration to say it could wipe out humanity. I can’t even comprehend all the ramifications of this.

I’m utterly terrified, and my fear grows more and more the more I think about it. But I can’t destroy the Device. We can’t go back. It would only be a matter of time before someone else discovers what we did and reproduces it. Maybe some people are already working on it. Maybe there are other versions already being used.

So I came up with a plan. I think this is the only thing I can do. If I can’t destroy the Device, I can at least limit its power. If the Device can manipulate people and incept any thoughts, I can use it to make people wary and careful. I can make people think harder, and realize how powerful this technology already is. And then I can only hope for the best…

So I’m using my access to the Device one last time before it gets revoked. Let’s control a few minds and put in my thoughts, to show how easy it can be, in hope that it serves as a warning.

I’ve just turned on the machine and logged in. Now to prepare the visual signal I’m going to send to get things started. The screen of the machine is still a blank slate. I enter a cryptic message as project title, and I start typing the configuration code that will incept the subject: “Lots of things have been written about my forefathers from the Manhattan Project and their reaction to the first nuclear bombs…”

[Short story] Save point

When I die, I want the last thing I see to be your face. I want my last thought to be of you. I want to be close to you, be it in body or in soul… It will be scary, but it’s unavoidable, and with you I think I can face it.

When I die, remind me that there was no other way. Remind me that death comes for all, and that everything has an end. Tell me again how absurd it is to not accept that, and how useless it is to try and rebel.

Remind me that there’s no changing the past, that it is the only way things could have been. We never really had any choice, our lives were only the result of so many different forces pushing us.

Remind me that there is no changing the future, that it was always due to come this way. Everything was leading up to this all along. In a way, I always was and always will have been already dead.

Remind me that everything is deterministic, that every action has reasons and causes, which in turn have their causes themselves, and that this causal chain goes unmoving from the beginning of all to its end.

That’s how I wanna die. Facing the vertiginous infinity of time, embracing in its entirety this unabiding chain I am but a thread of. I think I find it comforting to be part of that neverending whole, even if it means I never had any choice…

I think I’ll be a lot less scared that my life is ending when I embrace the fact that Time means nothing, that the relentless chain of events always was and will be, and me within it.

So when I die, tell me about how absurd Time is, tell me about that infinity of moments we’re all connected to. Talk to me about the endless possibilities every second holds, which will only have lived in our minds.

Remind me of all the time spent in my own head, navigating through dream worlds or lost in my thoughts, envisaging unlimited possibilities for every moment I was breathing…

Tell me about the infinity of memories, where I dwelled over and over again, stretching these moments until fact was no different from fiction.

Tell me about those eternities captured in ink and paper, forever happening in books all around us. Tell me of these heroes forever starting and finishing their quests, making a mockery of time itself. Remind me of all the lives I’ve lived at their sides.

Remind me of all the time I’ve had, and all the time we’ve had together.

But most of all, remind me of this precise moment. This moment when we’re connected together through time and space. This moment when I’m writing these words. This moment, different but same, when you’re reading them. This moment, different but same, when I’m remembering them.

This moment forever immortalized on this page. This moment, but also all of these moments. This temporal singularity.

When I die, remind me of these words. I want to die remembering them. I want to die in this moment. This is where I want to remain, forever existing between now and never.

The moment I’m talking to you. The moment you’re hearing me. The moment you’re reminding me.

The moment when I’m remembering. The moment that I’m remembering.

The moment I’m imagining my death. The moment I’m dying.

The time when I’m staring at the absence of time.

When I die, remind me… of that time I imagined my death, and how I would spend it remembering that time I imagined my death, and how I would spend it remembering…

When I die, remind me that I am infinite.

You Doesn’t Exist

Hi all!

I just wanted to let you know that my first RPG-maker-like game is finished and available for free on this download page: http://www.yoannbourse.com/yde/

It’s pretty experimental, I describe it as half way between Chrono Trigger, Earthbound and the Stanley Parable. If you follow this blog you will find it very much in keeping with the tone 🙂

Set out on an adventure that challenges all the codes of the RPG genre, toying with its boundaries to create something unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
In a world full of magic and adventure, a young boy starts his apprenticeship to become a knight, protector of the Kingdom.
He will face many challenges along the way, but overcoming them will allow him to grow into the hero the world needs.
Join him in his quest to find himself, as his steps guide him towards something way bigger than him: the mystery surrounding the very nature of mankind and the fabric of reality itself.

 

I hope you play it and enjoy! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you find bugs or if you have comments or if you wanna be friends ^^

[Short story] Humean condition

We’ve always known this day would come. Everybody does, on some level. After all, nothing lasts forever. Everything has an end, there’s no way around it. That’s true of every relationship. When you get down to it, they can only end in death or breakup, so this isn’t half bad… It could have been much worst.

When you meet someone, it’s easy to forget about everything else. The world becomes the background to your story. Nothing else matters. But there comes a time when reality catches up. It always does. You can’t avoid your fate forever. I’m no exception.

I never truly hoped I could escape and get away. It’s just that it wasn’t on my mind. I let my guard down, I softened. I got comfortable, relished in happiness, forgot my place. I got lost in the spur of the moment. And that moment was now drawing to a close.

– I… I don’t want you to go. Please stay. She said in a voice shaking with emotion.

– Me neither, I replied. But you know we don’t have a say in the matter. You know it. It’s just something I have to do…

– There’s got to be something we can do, some way we can prevent it!

– There isn’t, honey. It’s a fucked up world we live in. We all have to pay our dues.

Out of rage, she tore down the letter she was holding in her hand, as if it would somehow destroy the obligation that was binding me. I hugged her tight, and let her beloved smell fill my lungs. I was going to miss her so very much.

– What’s gonna happen to me without you? she cried.

– You’ll do just fine.

But I knew she wouldn’t, just as I wouldn’t be the same without her.

– What am I going to become? I’ll be all alone, forgotten… Basically dead. I don’t have that many friends, you know.

I swallowed a sob.

– We’ve got to be strong, love. There’s no other way.

Our bodies intertwined in our final embrace were shaking from the same torment.

– And you know, I continued half-heartedly, it’s not forever. I will be back.

These words sounded unbearably fake and empty. We both knew that this was most likely not going to happen, and there was nothing I could do about it. I would probably not be given the chance to come back. It wasn’t up to me to decide. If I even survived. Yet none of us dared voice the cruel truth. But I still wanted to believe:

– I’ll do everything I can to come back to you. To come back here, to this life.

She didn’t answer, and her silence spoke more than any words ever could.

Tears ran down my cheeks as I tried to memorize every aspect of the face I cherished and I was about to lose. I would at least do my best to carry her memory with me, for as long as I could. Nobody could take that away from me.

– I’ll wait for you, she finally whispered. I won’t ever replace you or love anyone else. So come back quickly.

I wasn’t sure I wanted this… I wanted her to be as happy as possible, even if it meant without me… But the thought was so painful that I couldn’t possibly bring myself to say it. Instead, I tightened my hug, silently cursing the world, this rotten reality that forced us to part.

– It’s almost time…

I finally and reluctantly let her go. We were both messes, our eyes red, our faces wet, our hair messy… But she was still the most beautiful person I had ever met.

Slowly, as if I was hoping that time would somehow stop and hold me back, I started to walk back. I took a long last look at the woman of my life.

And then I woke up.

[Short story] How you repeatedly murdered your friends

Maybe everybody kinda feels on some level that they are special, that they aren’t just anyone, that the rules of the world don’t really apply to them. After all, we’re all the main characters of our own stories, we all count on some great plot twist to lift us up…

I think this kind of hubris is even more present among intelligent people. We’re used to feeling a bit superior, we feel we can outsmart any problem that comes our way. We’d look at the sad twists of fate in someone else’s life, and we’d think « that can’t happen to me, I’d never be that careless… ». And that’s of course stupid pride…

For always Death comes in. The Great Equalizer that touches us all, no matter how smart or arrogant we may be. Only the most foolish ever thought they could outsmart it, and none ever succeeded. Everybody knows that everybody dies…

And yet, nothing quite prepares you for the pain when it happens, and all these certitudes fade away to the irrational.

Delphine’s parting was not even sudden. The illness was eating her away, little by little, in front of my very eyes. You’d think I’d have time to make peace, to ready myself… But somehow it never felt real. I mean… I knew, but I guess you can’t really comprehend it, not until you go back to an empty apartment, filled with your pictures and memories of someone who isn’t there. Until you reach out to the side of the bed where she ought to be in the middle of the night. Until you find yourself talking to her and there’s no answer… And what help is being smart then? Nothing can prepare you for the terrifying emptiness of this silence.

The moment of death is nothing, it’s just one second like any other. The hard part is what comes next. The lack. The life without.

I just couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t bring myself to accept she was gone. That was simply too unfair. She was so young. We still had so much to do. We had come too far, fought too many battles to let this one defeat us.

Just like I beat all the obstacles that life had put on my way, just like I used my abilities to fight and make my place in the world, I’d somehow destroy this enemy too. I had no other choice. Life without her was simply not an option. She was as much a part of me as any of my organs.

« Us smart girls find a way… »

Thas was her motto, and I would make true to it. I’d find a way to defeat death, to bring her back, to keep her with me… Even a shred of her would suffice. Anything to break these unbearable silences, to see a little motion in her images, anything to talk to her again…

I’m no biology wonder, I can’t resurrect dead bodies. But I dabble in writing, and it can be quite immersive. I started to imagine her answers if she had been there, her reactions, her activities… It wasn’t too hard, since I knew her so well. At first I just played this in my mind, but soon I found myself writing all of it down, pages and pages of imaginary conversations, a little journal in which a memory of her lived on.

It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. Just like I had explored Hogwarts next to Harry Potter and his friends, I went through life next to this ghost version of Delphine. I drew pictures, imagined our daily life, kept adding more details, fleshing her out every day.

I’ve sometimes found that the characters I was writing took on a kind of life of their own and became quite independent of my will. They followed their own personality, and would even sometimes surprise me. But it was nowhere near real interaction, and a very selfish part of me wanted more. Wanted to have a talk with her where I wasn’t typing her part and putting words in her mouth. Longed for a way for this character to… somehow… write itself?

That didn’t even seem too far out. Computers had reached mind boggling capabilities. They could simulate entire universes. Surely there was a way to simulate one little human brain. All that was needed, really, was enough computing power, and some data to base the copy on.

As I kept thinking about this crazy idea, it seemed more and more doable. All this information was already in my brain. I knew how she’d react to any situation, I knew the pitch of her voice, the tiny details of her facial expressions. I knew what made her laugh, what made her think or what made her mad… Surely I could teach all of this to a computer, and have it talk to me as she would.

Where would I get a machine adequately powerful and adapted to store a human brain, though? You’d need to replicate the behavior of so many neurons… It seemed really specific. As motivated as I was, I couldn’t exactly invent a new kind of computers.

That’s when it dawned on me. There was already a computing system able to do this job. It had, in fact, been doing this precise job for a while now. And maybe the reason it was efficient at it was that it was made of neurons itself. What better to simulate a human brain than another human brain?

Wasn’t that what I had been doing all along? Running simulations of minds, see how they would respond to some inputs and predict the outcome… Isn’t that what all authors do, emulate the brains of their characters? Hadn’t I been mimicking the mind of Delphine somewhere inside my own to write down all of these pages? Her brain was a device that decided how she would behave and react to anything. Wasn’t a part of my neurons computing exactly that?

It reminded me of a phrase I had read in a book not so long ago. The character was explaining that he could imagine the reaction of his friends in their voice, and it was as if there was « a copy of them living in his head« . Maybe, on some level, it was more literal than he imagined. Don’t we all hear the voices of our friends? Can’t we predict their reactions ? And how are we doing that if not by emulating a copy of the computational device that is their brain? Don’t we all harbour replicas of their minds within us? Wasn’t it what generated what I was writing on paper?

The simplest solution might just have been to get these resources where they already existed. I was starting to contemplate the possibility to put some kind of electrodes in my brain to leverage this computing power when a terrifying realization dawned on me. What if these replicas were somehow sentient?

If a robot acted exactly like your friend, all the time, you could never tell the difference… How would you know if it was conscious? A character imitating them wouldn’t be so different… It would be only text, but then what if this friend was a pen pal you could only interact with through mail? They lived abroad, and these ghost copies lived in my head…

Sure, technically, they were nothing but parts of my brain… But couldn’t a part of my brain be conscious? After all, I was nothing more than a bunch of neurons that were self-aware. How many of them would it take to make a person? I would still be me without a few of them. We all lose neurons all the time. So how far could it go before it stopped being me? This was like… an existential version of the ship of Theseus…

Consciousness is a specter, where pets were just less self-aware than humans. So what about a small human brain? Or 90% of a brain? If I split it in two, would the parts be conscious? And, more importantly, could the subset of neurons simulating Delphine be conscious too?

How could I ever be certain that this part of my brain, this embryonary version of a character’s mind, didn’t have some kind of self awareness, feelings, fears… Was I just… creating and destroying conscious beings every time I emulated them, every time I wrote them, every time I predicted about how she would act…

Suddenly a horrifying image came to my mind, and I was too afraid to even try and dismiss it. I pictured her face distorted by terror in the face of the unknown. And in the same voice I always heard her speak inside my head, broken in tears, she begged:

« Please… I don’t want to die… »

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