Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Steam Problems with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I've recently been discussing problems with the Steam scheme for games on Amazon forums and product reviews.  To me, this (IMO: completely illegitimate) "digital rights" system seems almost virus-like in its intrusive and disruptive nature.

(Above: Taskbar After a Steam Update)

Debate opponents who are strong supporters claiming to "love Steam" suggest I've been unfairly targeting a great add-on, with suggestions that my computer, myself, or the Skyrim program are culprits.

 (Above: Steam hangs, neither button works)

 (Above: When internet access is limited, this immovable window
locks user out of software indefinitely.)

 (Above: Use Windows to shutdown malfunctioning Steam at your own risk!)

Unfortunately, I was unable to collect screencaps of the "Changes to hard drive loop" which appears, like so many problems, related to using Steam to handle the startup for Skyrim.  Digging into the internal functions of Steam and telling it to resync its internal files and perform a verification of those files seemed to do the trick, once again allowing me into a product for which was advertised as a purchase, for which I paid, and I expect to own.  

Being locked out for hours or days because Steam is unable to verify that I'm not playing a game without permission is abusive and insulting.  Steam advocates, (like Facists and Nazi's) claim that the extra security and other benefits are worth any minor inconvenience - often hinting that anyone who complains has something to hide, and is probably a "pirate", "terrorist", or a [fill in official bogeyman here].

Of course, it is true that originally, the Nazi's and Fascists were widely praised in U.S. policy and intellectual communities, in a manner indicated in by John Gill in the Original Star Trek ep. "Patterns of Force".  Spock explains this efficiency propelled a crushed and bankrupt country to major imperial power quite rapidly.  What was most attention-getting: this was during a global depression with people unemployed and starving everywhere, including Germany.  Kirk points out it was a horrible system that had to be destroyed at terrible cost, but the official strategic decision to oppose Germany was only made after it was realized that tremendous strategic opportunities could be realized by entry into the war, and that Axis ambitions would conflict with U.S. imperial ambitions.

Shortly after this decision, Japanese were able to read how the brutal conquest of Hawaii followed by illegal invasion & occupation was providing the staging area (Pearl Harbor) for B-17's from Alaska in the hopes that they would be used for operations like the indiscriminate firebombing of Japanese civilians advocated by Claire Lee Chenault.  A friend of Chiang Kai-shek, Chenault lobbied for extermination (by fire) of the "the teeming bamboo ant heaps of Honshu and Kyushu."  After a more than a year of military buildup by the U.S. consistent with both public statements and past history regarding the inhabitants of North America, Central America, the Carribean, Hawaii, and the Philippines, the Japanese attacked the illegal military base in occupied Hawaii. 

In the U.S., Pearl Harbor's bombing by Japan is generally understood to be, and widely referred to as an "unprovoked, surprise attack" on the U.S.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Objectivity 1.2 - Collective Empiricism

The world is big, chaotic, and dynamically changing.  To get a grip on things, we humans put things in categories to which we refer with terms like "dog", "pastel color", "malaria", or "revolutionary scientific theory".  

To communicate ideas to others, they must be able to understand the terms we use, and have the ability to recognize when something fits a categories we are using.  To facilitate this, books have been produced for centuries which provide examples demonstrating relationships between individuals as types of a category.  What we learn about each category seems to be summed up by an archetype of that category.  

Joseph Campbell's "Power of Myth" related the interesting role culture plays in forming this archetype with a category of creature known as "the dragon".  

In Western European culture, the dragon embodies the sin of greed: amassing treasure and virgins through violence, yet neither of which he is able to use.  In contrast, the Asian dragon is an embodiment of such vital life energy that various legends include dragons' visitation/protection/contact/breath as the cause of a woman conceiving the Buddha and/or Confucius.  

While our individual archetypes vary, we all seem to use them as guides to determining whether what is immediately before us belongs in one category or another.  While amazingly efficient for categorization, its reliability drops when our scope of perception increases.

I recall lying on the grass as a child trying to reconcile the idea that the Earth rotates when deep in my bones, I seemed completely at rest.  Years later, I learned hyenas were cats, not dogs as I had always believed.  Pineapples don't look like berries, and polar bear fur looks opaque white. 

Daston & Galison define atlases as "systematic compilations of working objects" which "train the eye to pick out certain kinds of objects...and to regard them in a certain way".  To the right, we see an atlas reproduction which uses "figures as genuine illustrations", as opposed to later works where the images contained in atlases rule science as "the alpha and omega of the genre", according to Objectivity.

Derivable from the work of Mary Hesse and dovetailing nicely with the "imagistic reasoning" process identified in Nancy Nersessian's very important Creating Scientific Concepts, images "make the science".  Atlases "must begin with an explanation of why the old ones are no longer adequate for the task", mapping the "territory of the sciences they serve".

They are also large, expensive, and tend to take a significant portion of the authors' lives.  Now, we even have an atlas of scientific atlases of sorts.  Note the size of Katy Borner's "Atlas of Science" relative to the hardcover textbook "Cognitive Structures of Scientific Revolutions", although Atlas of Science does not have the gargantuan proportions of many others, it is big, packed with illustrations that take center stage, and is lovingly printed on beautifully thick, expensive paper.

Atlases function not only to mark and define group knowledge, they form the cognitive framework used by practitioners.  Scientists, through their atlases, have left an amazing amount of evidence behind, exposing their deepest unconscious beliefs to scrutiny by others who want to pry into secrets even they would not have known.  One of those beliefs is "Objectivity is a scientific virtue", but that was not always the case, as we will examine in our next section: Objectivity is New.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Objectivity 1.1 - Blind Sight

Chapter 1, Epistemologies of the Eye & Blind Sight opens with the claim that "Scientific objectivity has a history" and the authors proceed to distinguish this concept from the far more ancient virtues of "truth" and "certainty".  

Fascinated with the processes of thinking and understanding by which I might not just learn more, but ways to learn better and understand things otherwise unobtainable, this kind of material is irresistibly sexy.  Also, I hate to be wrong in a degree that used to be called "scrupulosity" or "obsessive concern with one's own sins and compulsive performance of religious devotion."  In my case, this means ethical science. 

Although the 3 values interact and overlap somewhat, each is distinct, different, and is an important tool for understanding.  Also, they represent evolutionary stages of collective cognitive development in scientific research. 

Daston & Galison provide historical illustrations developed in pursuit of each scientific value.  Googling "Hortus Cliffortianus 1737" brings up this plant illustration which result from efforts dedicated "Truth to Nature" within botany.  This virtue was an all-but universal foundation of such illustrations from that era, and still so useful that these beautiful works of art live on in textbooks today.  This, despite the fact that everyone knows this particular illustration does not show any real plant that has ever existed.

The authors attribute the rise of each scientific code of behavior as the result of developments in previous science.  They claim "Truth-to-Nature was a precondition for mechanical objectivity, just as mechanical objectivity was a precondition for trained judgment.  They also contrast these developments against succession of political regime change, such as one paradigm overthrowing another in Kuhnian revolution.  Rather, they posit "a far messier situation in which all the elements continue in play", IMO much like evolution within an ecosystem where new species are added, perhaps at the expense of a few previous varieties of another species.

This micrograph is similar to that in the book, where a camera is used to capture real snowflakes, including "peculiarities and assymmetries" without human interference.  This is what Daston & Galison term "mechanical objectivity" which arose out of truth to nature in an effort to prevent errors like those pointed out in Section 0.1.

While searching for the third and final illustration of this section, I encountered this blog, featuring a similar review of "Objectivity".  Clearly this book has lots of fans - and based on the small amount I've read, rightfully so.

 Finally, we have an example illustration which is the result of "trained judgment", where researchers deliberately interfered in representation of the data to remove defects in instrumentation.  

Scientific atlases are Objectivity's focus, a selection for which the authors argue at some length and with success we will examine in our next segment: Objectivity 1.2 - Collective Empiricism.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Objectivity 0.1 - Prologue, Objectivity Shock

Objectivity by Lorraine J. Daston and Peter Galison opens with a man alone in a dark room, obsessing for years over drops of mercury and milk liquids hitting a pane of glass laid on a table.  With the strobed light from a spark, he was able to temporarily "burn" a frozen image of drops' impact on his retina and using this image, he would sketch the and later write extensively on the "perfect symmetry" produced by these splashes, the beauty of such a symmetrical form, and so on.  This was perhaps the first effort of its kind to capture instantaneous measure of a dynamic process, and use the technology to elaborate categories of outcomes, or "simplification through a pictorial taxonomy".  Trouble arose when cameras replaced eyes, and that perfect symmetry which had made such sense emotionally and mathematically, NEVER occurred in reality.  All the sketches, drawings, and text referred to something that did not exist and after 20 years, Arthur Worthington later admitted seeing, studying, and unintentionally expounding the virtues of something "which may never actually be realized."

On one hand we may consider this an example of a sort of delusion as Worthington did: an aberration due to perceptual limits of the eye and the psyche.  The authors state here that Worthington's "conversion to the 'objective view' is emblematic of a sea change in the observational sciences."  Depending on one's philosophy of science background, this may be called a paradigm shift, replacement of a cognitive frame, revolution in science, or transformative research. 

On the other hand, the Critical Reality philosophy of Bhaskar might treat this "delusion" as a virtue of "counter-phenomenality", where underlying principles can in fact, be demonstrated by a set of examples evidencing a real principle, even as individual examples provide prima facie refutation.  Here, the non-existent perfection and symmetry conform to real tendencies of fluid dynamics and other physical principles which can inform, explain, and predict.

The authors cite this example as one milestone among many of the rise of a new scientific virtue: "scientific objectivity" which as we will see in later chapters, is not a Copernican refutation of previous models according to Dastin & Galison, but rather a new pillar in the foundation of science, or: a new star in the constellations by which exploring scientists navigate.

This navigation proceeds in part via a process for which the authors provide context in our next post: "Objectivity 1.1 - Blind Sight".