This is the March 2018 edition of the
gwern.net newsletter; previous, February 2018 (archives). This is a summary of the revision-history RSS feed, overlapping with my Changelog & /r/gwern/; brought to you by my donors on Patreon.
- nothing completed (due to SF trip & recovery from LASIK; I had a great time and thank everyone who hosted me in SF—if we didn’t get to meet, I am thinking of returning for EA Global around June 2019, so perhaps then?)
- McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War, Gregory 2015 (review; see also Low Aptitude Men in the Military: Who Profits, Who Pays?, Laurence & Ramsberger 1991.)
- Zen Koans, Kubose 1973 (a fairly comprehensive collection going beyond the standard ones, accompanied by some nice commentaries & sumi-e illustrations)
- Japan As Number One: Lessons for America, Vogel 1979 (review)
Previous novel review; a streamlined & more tense retelling with most of the ’80s pop culture replaced by ’90s/’00s, presumably because licensing was easier (even Spielberg cannot defy “copyright is why we can’t have nice things”). In some respects the movie plot is superior to the book as it trims much of the fat, adds a few clever gimmicks, and more drama, thus avoiding the relatively slack book finale where the heroes are safely ensconced in a private mansion, but worse in other respects like the cheesy anti-VR message tacked on Hollywood-style at the end (apparently Spielberg thinks the best argument that can be made for the real world over VR is that you can’t have sex in VR, only in the real world? which is both an insultingly crass & impoverished view of human nature and also a thin empirical reed to rest a defense on). It is excellent to watch on a big screen in 3D despite how silly it ultimately is, so I’m not surprised it’s been successful. I expect it’ll increase interest in VR over the next few years, especially because in some ways the VR tech already feels like the future past (making the real thing less of a letdown): years out of date, big and heavy and requiring wires and clunky haptic suits, compared to current headsets and things on the roadmap for the next decade like vestibular stimulation. Content will remain a challenge; Ready Player One can make each game/scene/world look like, well, a custom action-adventure CGI movie because it is one but real VR games will struggle to invest in the creation of the enormous graphics assets necessary… Futurology-wise, it emphasises my original observation that VR is a terrible metaphor for general computer use and it would be miserable to use a Metaverse/Oasis paradigm for everything—eg spending several minutes walking/flying to a library, bickering with a personified interface, to run a single keyword search on a set of videos which could be done in <5s with a keyboard shortcut.
Moulin Rouge! (clever but ultimately overly melodramatic; I wished it had kept more to comedy since I felt checked out by the end)
- Hells (movie similar to Dead Leaves or Redline, energetically animated but difficult to describe otherwise; a parodic highschool anime take on… the Cain & Abel myth? all jammed together in a fast-paced plot which damages the character development it depends on to glue the madness & non sequiturs together. Nevertheless, I have to give Hells props for being so different.)