Archive for April 2016

Future Imperfect – Virtual Transhumanism

So I was talking with a co-worker during some downtime recently, and the speculation it led to was quite interesting I feel.  It started with discussing how we’re in the future already that was talked about back in the 80s and 90s, but we just don’t recognize it(which is a topic I plan to go into seperately), and ended up with some discussion on how things may look in the near future, if we take current trends and run them out to a possible logical conclusion.

To start off with, let’s take a look at Shadowrun – take away the magic and D&D aspects, and it’s fairly standard cyberpunk.  In the original version, the Matrix was this world in virtual reality – VR and you could look like anything you wanted there.  Think Second Life, but with a full body VR, usually via direct neural interface.

As we worked on that tech in the real world, pure VR fell more to the side, partly due to the challenges of such tech versus the demand for such.  Instead, what grew up was a compromise; augmented reality.  Products like Google Glass and the holodisplay that Microsoft has demonstrated mix the virtual right over top of the real.  There are even games using similar tech now, such as the upcoming Pokemon Go.

As the developers of the Shadowrun system and universe updated it, they had to work in modern developments that were not expected back when it was created, such as AR and wireless, that people today might take for granted or see as near-future, and they had to do it in a way that made sense in-universe.  Thus came the wireless Matrix being available anywhere, after a fashion, and overlaid on the real world via AR to interact with.

Well, jumping off that idea, with AR you can overlay images to change how something looks.  What this means, is that fashion may take a sudden dive to the left, as the clothes no longer matter.

For purposes of this thought experiment, let’s assume that computational power is not an issue – cloud computing, etc tied into your visor/glasses/monocle/implants.  In much the same way that the studio was able to replace Arnold or his double in the later Terminator movie with his younger self, in AR your device could edit out a person’s appearance and modify it in real-time. Want some expensive, fancy clothes, but without risk of damaging or soiling them?  Let AR overwrite them onto your body for anyone tied into the network who looks at you.

The fashion world would be rocked, but adapt, and clothes would lose most of their appearance aspects.  Instead of wearing something to look good, you’d wear(or not wear) what was comfortable and affordable.  Most instances of clothes would become drab and utilitarian, while to the everyday folks they would be surrounded by a cavalcade of color and whimsy, full of outfits that are not physically possible.  In warmer weather, to a person not tied into the AR network, it might even seem as if he or she had walked into a nudist colony!

The capability does not stop there, however.  If clothes can be overlaid, so can full appearances.  While flying may not be possible on a personal level, you might end up with a scene looking like a high-resolution realistic Second Life, as the only limits would be those set by the system.  Furries, otherkin, cosplayers, and many others would be drooling over such a capability to truly become their character, or their true self, depending on perspective.

There would have to be limits of course, as their physical bodies still exist, so likely there would be few taurs or other four-leggers running around, or tinies or macro beings for that matter. That aside, on one level this would appear to be a gateway to transhumanism – to become more than human.  Setting aside any social stigma such as exists now for furries and others of a kindred nature, you could be walking down a street and pass a wolf, a faerie, a sumo wrestler, just to enter McDonalds and be served by a tigress whose outfit barely covers her and a robot with visible gears and pistons. People could effectively be anything humanoid they wanted to be.

On the other hand, it’s all virtual.  Turn off the implant, take off the glasses, and you’ll find the boring, mundane, drab grey world still exists behind the glitzy facade, much like Las Vegas.  For some, that may be enough, and with less push behind it from the semi-human quarter, progress and research in that direction may slow or even halt entirely in some aspects.

With less need to take care of themselves physically, there may be increased health issues as well, though possibly less than some would think, as smell is not included in our little thought experiment.  Sound could be, however, providing voice-changers to all and sundry.

This idea however I could easily see being reachable in our lifetime, given the strides networking, parallel processing, and cloud computing has made in the past decade.  Safely gene-splicing to phsycially modify our bodies is much, much further away, I feel.  But with being able to gain the “perfect” body via AR, whatever your definition of perfect, may dis-incentivize  research into actually gaining that body, which may push the end result out even farther.  Then again, there’s no reason that VR couldn’t take off again, allowing people to move in VR and interact with people in the real world via AR, while in the comfort of their home, or maybe even in a computer if anyone manages to solve the problem of how to upload our minds and souls into our creations.

I guess overall I see it as a blind alley that we could easily head into. There may be a door that leads us to someplace unexpected, or we may end up having to turn around and start from zero once more.  Then again, the rumored singularity may happen and we just hop the alley wall into the unknown.

“You can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometime…
You just might find…
That you get what you need~”

My Two Cents on Dollars

So, first post I’ve written on my tablet, but bed’s too comfy to leave and I got thoughts to chew on before I go to sleep.

It started by thinking about my current “entertainment” budget, then recalling how some friends of mine were scraping by, and how they think about money, and then how I treat money and what I’d found out recently about where I stand.

Maybe it’s best if I start with my situation.  My current job is salaried, and I honestly probably pay less attention to the amount than I should.  For example, there’s a bonus program going on for completing some training that we need to do anyways, but it had to be done on our own time.  I wanted to do it because it needed to be done anyways, and I had some art in mind I wanted to spend it on, but I almost missed the deadline because the money wasn’t that important – and it was half of a single paycheck in total!

Currently my life us fairly comfortable, though not extravagent.  Thanks to my current arrangements, bills are mostly covered, so most of my paychecks go into savings.  These are relatively temporary arrangenents though, so I still treat that money as if it was already spent, and ignore the total amount sitting in savings unless I need to move money. This keeps me from getting used to overspending and having issues later due to that.

My perspective on money is informed by this treatment of pay as well.  I still feel $200 is a lot to spend on anything, and spending $100-ish on single optional purchases still makes me internally cringe a bit. When I’m  using anything that’s triple digits in price, I usually go over it several times before pressing “buy.”  I still try to pay cash for most small offline purchases even!

Well I was looking at some statistics the other day about salary ranges and was surprised at the ranges.  I had thought I was in the lower-middle class range, but apparently I’m solidly middle class?  My dad before retirement was actually upper-middle, but it never felt like it growing up.  We never really lived like it either.

My friends on the other hand are in a worse situation, though it’s partly of their own making – they have too many dogs and cats to feed and care for, and at least one of them doesn’t really want to get rid of any.  They’be got 4 dogs, 9 cats I can think of, plus 2 more kittens, and then 4-6 people, depending on if either of those last two are covering their own stuff or not.

They’re basically running off two incomes at the moment, with a third partially contributing via rent. Money is tight, and even $3 can seem like a lot at times I think.  They still manage to squeeze in some “entertainment” purchases, it doesn’t feel like they really budget well in advance.  They’re basically going paycheck-to-paycheck right now from my perspective.

Now I’m wondering if I should see if I can help with some electronic budgeting.  At a basic level anyways.

Now I’m not sure where I was going with this.  I try to treat money as if I don’t have it, track my monthly spending on “toys,” balk at big purchases, but a meal out every now and then or an occasional $3-$10 purchase doesn’t seem excessive.  My dad on the other hand will buy a 6-month sub to an MMO he hasn’t even tried yet and think nothing of it.  I’ve got a co-worker who has been subbed to WoW since Vanilla, even though he hasn’t played in years.  And then for the people I mentioned earlier even a month of WoW is a significant cost.

When you don’t have it, money is precious.  If you have a lot and start to use it, your mental scale for what is and isn’t expensive can change, which can then lead to trouble later if your supply dries up, which I guess is all about lifestyle.  Find the lowest lifestyle you’re comfortable at, then put all the extra away in case you ever actually need it. Even if you don’t follow a hard budget, at least track it so you can catch yourself if you start overspending.  At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

After all, there’s two tips I’ve heard in the past. First, is that to have a comfortable retirement, you want to have around one million in the bank these days.  With inflation that will only go up.

Second, is that you want to aim for putting about half your post-tax paycheck into savings.  Right now that’she not a concern for me, but once my circumstances change as I expect them to, I’ll be using that as one of my budgeting guidelines to aim for.

It just feels odd that despite having the lowest need to be responsible with budgeting currently of those I’ve discussed, I seem to be being the most responsible.  And yet, I still seem to care less about it than others.

Speaking about being responsible, one last tip: credit cards shouldn’t be used as small change loan sharks, but as condoms for your wallet.  If you don’t spend more than you have and pay it off in full, it’s no different than a debit card in convienience.  However, if someone steals you debit card number, that money is gone until you convince the bank to reimburse you.  If they steal a CC number, you still have all your money while you work with the bank to cancel the fraudulent charges.  Finally, if you don’t pay it off, interest rates can lead to you digging a hole for yourself that you can’t get out of. I was headed that direction once, but used my current money-handling methodology to free myself from that trap.

Don’t really have anything else to add to this rambling now I guess, so I’ll call it here and see if I can actually get some sleep now!

Home Sweet Home

Welcome!

So between sufficient amounts of boredom accumulating and a lack of things to do in my various games, I decided to make a return to SL as I was feeling decidedly draconic recently.   When I got back in, I was reminded that one of the projects I had kept putting off was a renovation of my home there.

Snapshot_018

The OG Dragon’s Song, with a few of my touches.

Originally, before Kaitlyn passed on, we stayed in a small castle on the small corner of the Isle of Gazoo that we called our own.  It was a cozy little place more fitting to our tiny-sized selves, and home to many virtual pets that she kept there.  It had been there a while before we got together and once I “moved in” with her, I added a few things of my own, such as a Stargate, an art panel, and the stained glass window from the original Isle of Wyrms’ Cathedral, before it was bulldozed for the current version.

Now we’d discussed rebuilding it to better suit the both of us a few times in the past, but not much came of it.  I’d suggested having the building adjusted so it appeared to be built out of the side of the mountain, and maybe make it a three level tower, but between time we spent doing other stuff, prim allotments and such, nothing ever came of it.

Once it became solely mine however, I was torn between doing something with Standing stones that teleported to a skybox above, or a dragon cave built into the mountain itself.  I got as far as locating a cave building kit and trying to prototype a cave before, but the pieces did not have external textures so I had to build an outside wall, and I didn’t like how it was turning out so I trashed the work, and never got back to it until recently.

With time to kill and nothing better to do, I took measurements again and took another stab at building the mountain and cave.  I threw a ice plain about level with the top of the next plot over, followed by another ice wall angled down to match the slope of the ridge next to it, ending at the rock wall.  With that in place, I added some boulders to make a wall of rock, leaving a place for the cave, which I started on after that.

The cave came together better this time, but I found out due to the size of the plot and the cave pieces that if I made it big enough to accommodate my full size form, it wouldn’t be able to be as large around as I wished.  I also found another issue with it, relating to the former castle.

You see, I wanted to leave some of Kaitlyn’s stuff as a memorial, and among the things i inherited were some of her virtual cats.  They were basically confined to the second floor of the castle(which had been our living room of sorts) and I didn’t want to just remove the castle completely, as I couldn’t move any of the objects she had left, such as the bed for the cats. So the first thing I had done before returning the castle was build a room around the room, so that the cats wouldn’t escape and so everything I couldn’t move could stay where it was.

Anyways, once I placed the cave in, I found it was tall enough it was poking through the floor of the new lounge area, which means I would have to dig it out.  Suffice it to say, that terraforming in Second Life with the in-world tools is a royal pain.

The last major addition was the observation balcony, and a third room to go with it.  Since we had a great view from our part of the Isle, I had wanted to have a observation balcony to take advantage of it.  That went in fairly easily, and everything else after that was furnishings and fine-tuning.  But why describe when I can show?

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And we’re back!

So I didn’t get around to writing for a while, and of course when I go to go write, I find out that a technical issue has had it offline since early February.  That’s been corrected now.

I still have a couple post ideas, but I want to give them their own posts. In the meantime?  More art!

The latest piece I won’t share here, as it’s of an adult nature.  I finally found an appropriate YCH I liked from an artist I liked and jumped on it.  It looks good in and of itself, so much that it’s almost a shame it’s explicit as it means it won’t end up on any walls in the future.  Well, except maybe bedroom walls, assuming I could find a way to get it printed properly.

Being Face-itious

Next, another set of stickers for Telegram.  I’ve only got to use about half of them so far, but these were lower priority before because they had less general applicability.  I do like having the ability to post mood pictures of “me” instead of generic smileys though or ASCII ones.

I did have someone ask about using them, which actually feels odd for me.  On the one hand, it’s a compliment in that someone liked the ideas I gave the artist(and her art too!), but on the other, it is “me,” an expression of myself.  There’s nothing that says others can’t use them though, so if they find them, more power to them I suppose!

Why, hello there!

This was from the Giraffle that @FeFairy ran on Twitter!  Entered as a “Hail Mary” attempt, and to my surprise got it!

I’ve also got two more pieces I’m going to commission once the artists I have earmarked open for commissions.  One will be related to one of my upcoming posts, and feature cyberpunk!me, while the other will be more fo an, ahem, risque nature, and will feature a kind of scene I’ve wanted for a long while too.  The only reason I held off on that one was because I didn’t know what lovely female might be interested to be in it, and I didn’t feel right using an existing character for it that was of the right type.

I finally got inspiration however, and in fact the subject I had in mind has become an actual vague character of sorts!  One of the artists on my short list for this pic should be opening up this month too, so if things work out I should be able to get both pictures.

That should about wrap things up for now.  There should be more posts in the near future, this time sooner rather than later!