Always up for discussion!

Please keep discussions civil.  Drivebys/angry politicos/hateChat and other unhelpful comments will receive a tap with the banhammer.

Run, Barry RUN!

Augmentation is a funny thing.  In science fiction you tend to see integration, bionics, different and intimate ways of meshing machines with humanity.  Superhero fiction and Steampunk tends to be where you find the true gadgeteering.

Experimenting on live people tends to be frowned upon, so oftentimes you see these technologies developing not only in parallel, but there is a certain amount of reinventing the wheel.  The end result seen in these bionic boots mimics the result seen in the “kangaroo” boots that are already on the market. Is the engineering that creates this effect exactly the same?  Probably not, but the end result (that we as the potential user experiences) is very similar.

You see the same kind of thing happening in “bionics” (I’m defining this as “limb replacement” for the purposes of this blog).  There are a half-dozen solutions for getting a replacement hand to close on an object.  Some are simple, mechanical levers and dials operated by the off-hand, some are directly hardwired into the muscles, some use a conductive surface to “read” impulses under the skin, but they all have a very similar end result.


Not today, but tomorrow.


Pre-crime is coming.  Actually, pre-crime has been here for half-a century, but nobody’s really noticed yet (and, truth be told, a great many people will still never notice until it bites them in the *ss).

Take credit scores, as an example.  Your score is based on your history.  They look at your reliability, your f*ckups, your open credit lines, your possible debt (if you go all hog-wild and blow your remaining open balance on thousand dollar whiskey and strippers, for example).  They analyse your past behavior to determine your future behavior.  Because people tend to fall into a rut.  We fall into a pattern.

The JP Morgan algorithm is doing much the same thing.  It’s looking, not for a single f*ckup, but for a pattern of behavior (which is funny, since “Past performance is not a guarantee or indicator of future performance.” is typed neatly at the bottom of every brokerage account statement for every brokerage firm *everywhere*).  Those patterns of behavior used to be the purview of the managers, the Branch Admins who’s job it was to keep an eye on all the transactions that went in and out.  Once upon a time, it was a big job.  Once the internet became a THING it became an almost impossible job.

And for those among you, who is not going to feel better knowing that their banker or broker has another layer of control on them to make sure they don’t blow all your savings on a trip to Tahiti?

And how many of you, who held your hand up just now, are going to complain when those same algorithms are applied to YOUR jobs?  In retail, in concessions, in any company where you have a lot of employees and a lot of opportunities, this thing is going to find a home.

Three Gun Monte

This is a re-post from my Gamasutra Archive.  As Halo 5 approaches, I’m working my way back through Halo 4 and I’m very interested in seeing how the gameplay has evolved over the past few years.  The change from Bungie to 343 brought about some significant changes to the way the game played.  Not all “bad” but some things that took quite a bit of adapting to.




I’ve been playing Halo since the original demo at E3 many many years ago now.  Like so many of you, I’ve had the privilege of watching this IP evolve, go from being the Flagship title of the original XBox console to a product vast enough to change the way we think about entertainment (but that’s for another post).

My first thought, out of the box was (and you can find this on Twitter) “Holy sh*t, 343 brought their A Game…”  And I stand by that statement.  If this title were to stand alone, even without the decades of experimentation and innovation behind it, it would be worthy of the AAA rating.  I have my complaints, everyone does with a new game in a well loved IP, but one thing sticks out to me.

There used to be this Big Three in the level design.  Within the space of a single level there would be 1.  a place where you wanted to use grenades, 2.  a place where melee combat might be best and 3. a place where you wanted a hand-held weapon.  Might be in different places in different levels, but it was consistent enough that you had to *think* as you played through the game, because these changeups would happen inside the level.  You had to be able to assess where you were, what you had to hand and how best to use that.  You had to be quick on your toes, but it made you FEEL like the best of the best if you didn’t get your *ss handed to you.  If you started slogging too much, then you’d screwed something up, missed a cue, gone in for melee when what you’d really needed was the Battle Rifle or the Needler.

Halo 4, in contrast, almost feels like a “One Level, One Perfect Weapon” game.  When you come around the corner you can look at the layout, the architecture and you know, “okay, it’s all sniper shots from here on out”.  The combat change up *within* the encounter spaces seems to be gone.

And I guess this is what happens when you have a new set of minds working with an old and familiar franchise.  But I can’t help but wonder if this was a conscious design decision, if 343 decided to do away with that Big Three aspect of the original in favor of this One Level One Perfect Weapon approach, or if this simply reflects a difference in how they think a FPS ought to play.  OR, conversely (since I don’t know anyone over at Bungie or 343 to ask this of) was that Big Three a mistake?  Was it a random convergence of level design and gameplay and never intended to be the way things were supposed to be played.

I like to think, especially after hearing reports of the oodles of gameplay and focus testing that went on for the Halo franchise, to keep the “fun” factor vibrant, that there has been a conscious change here (hopefully something with an awesome payout as I near the end of the single-player game) and that there is a higher-concept at work that I’m just missing.  But I miss being able to make those assessments on the fly, being able to play smarter, not just with a bigger gun.

Judo as an Applied Science

In the novel that I am currently trying to find a home for, a group of government entities use what I called Kinetishield (or KBA, for Kinetic Bodyshield Assist).  The original idea was very much along the lines of what this team is developing, a blended fabric that utilizes different elements (in this case a blend of a non-Newtonian materials with more traditional kevlar style fabrics) to diffuse the kinetic energy of a projectile across a larger surface area (resulting in a truly epic set of bruises, rather than large messy holes).

Kinetishield (as I envisioned it) has an “electronic” component to it that pushes this effect even further, tightening and loosening areas of the weave in response to impact forces, as well as some situational awareness elements (if tied into someone’s wearable computer), but the core science remains the same as what is currently being explored by military scientists in many countries.  It’s the energy focused on point of impact that makes the hole, if you get the same amount of force, over a broader area, you end up with something far more survivable.

Of course, then we get into the effects of hydro-static shock, but that’s a post for another day.

Hugo Nominees for 2015


I would like to congratulate the Hugo nominees for 2015.

It’s not a small thing, being nominated.  There are more than a few works on the list this year that I have personally read and adored and I am delighted to see works I recognize and people whose work I know and enjoy on the ballot.

So congratulations to ALL the nominees, and best of luck to you all.