From "I play video games full-time!" to "that gigantic sucking feeling" to "index parties" to "mega-problems"

by phil on Sunday Jun 18, 2006 6:24 PM

This past week was my second week at Aspyr, testing video games. I've been relishing the cocktail-party storyline about my job. "What do you do Phil?" "I play video games, full-time." And indeed, it's hard to not enjoy that aspect of my job. However, toward the end of the week, I felt this gigantic sucking feeling.

I knew I didn't hate my job. At the same time, "not hating" wasn't grounds for me to "love" my job either. I kept asking myself, "If I like my job, it should be natural to tell people, 'yes, I like my job,' but rather all I can eek out is, 'it's not bad.'" At the same time, I couldn't articulate to myself what it is that I had a problem with as far as my job.

My method for solving "The work-problem" has been with a text document called "What is success.txt" I've defined success in life being "getting what you want." So, therefore, success at the highest levels is "getting what you want at the highest levels." Which brings us to the question, "what do you want?" In the "What is success.txt" I've been trying to come up with a tight list of things I truly want out of life. I've been cooking the list for three weeks now, and the number of changes are becoming slight now.

The theory behind "What is success.txt" is that, if I am ever dissatisfied with something at my job, there should be at least one line in that text file that is being violated. If there isn't a line, either of the following has occurred: a) I haven't articulated to myself what I want or b) I'm not really that dissatisfied. The stand I take in "What is success.txt" is to strive to articulate what I fundamentally want out of work.

So, toward the end of last week, I had trouble pinning down what was being violated. What was causing this apathy? And it was an strange feeling. For three days, I simultaneously felt like there was a gigantic burden on my shoulders, and yet I couldn't explain exactly what that burden was. Toward the end, I think I pinned it down, which involved some refinement to my "What is success.txt."


I went out on Friday night, hoping to crawl 6th street in Austin and bump into a good place to go chill. It's becoming my goal to become a successful weekender, which means being good at making every Friday and saturday night a good night out. The ideal solution, is to become a regular at Cheers or be part of some sort of scene that you really belong at. I thought I found that in the famous club Emo's in Austin, but then when I went there Friday night, it was sparsely populated and the music sucked. So I wandered around for a bit and came up with nothing.

Saturday night was fortuitous because my neighbor threw a party. The group that showed up were what I felt was an "index" of Austin. This is not the same as a "cross-section" of Austin. Because if you took a cross-section of Austin, you would have 30% Hispanic people. And that's not really significant, unless those 30% Hispanic people are somehow uniquely Austin. There was a Hispanic woman there, though, who was self-professed polyamorous, a teacher, and kind of lackadaisical. So that was interesting.


Today, I read a little bit of Wittgenstein's "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus." Which got me thinking again about a "mega-problem." Mega-problems are unsolved riddles that I imagine I can solve with a stroke of genius. For example, you can win a million dollars if you can figure out NP = P in Computer Science. Every now and then, I approach a mega-problem and get really into it. This time, I was thinking about the origins of life. The mega-problem: create a simulation in which life emerges. Can it be done?!? Who knows.

This post was written with the following perspective in mind: Just tell people about your week, speak in an authentic voice, only report what's significant


alex said on June 18, 2006 7:56 PM:

Here is the big question: did life emerge on our planet once or multiple times? Are various forms of fleeting life, possibly non-DNA, emerging constantly out of our sight and then fizzling before self-replicating enough that we can observe them?

If life only emerged once or a very small number of times, creating a simulation where life would emerge in a reasonable amount of time would need a LOT of computing power, probably more than we currently have available. Moore's law to the rescue? If life emerges constantly, then such a simulation might be successful even today.

All of these simulations assume a starting state that's more or less similiar to what earth was like 3.5 billion years ago - simulated gases, simulated water, simulated rock, simulated lightning strikes. If you have lower expectations and just want a simulation where any sort of self-replication emerges, you can look at something like Conway's Game of Life.

Philip Dhingra said on June 18, 2006 9:14 PM:

I'm of the camp that certain primitive features of life have occured in abundance. And that the advanced features, such as consciousness, are truly rare events for the universe.

I would not be surprised if Mars at least had bacteria. The conditions necessary for it are so ripe there. And we may now be getting proof for it. I remember reading some article suggesting that certain levels of methane on Mars could only be achieved through some sort of organic methane sink.

Sentience said on June 20, 2006 10:24 AM:

organic chemistry simplifies the philosophy behind life systems: hydrogen bonds and carbon rings.

PHIL said on June 20, 2006 9:36 PM:

"organic chemistry simplifies the philosophy behind life systems: hydrogen bonds and carbon rings." (SCIENCE!)

life is a cycle that resists disruption (MATH!)

philipkd said on June 20, 2006 9:37 PM:

you place too much trust in science. Study: Digital Physics. Underneath it all, it's just information.

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