Here are 50 ideas for games.

I've been making board games for quite a while now. I've made, to a stage of playability, three games. But I've had many more ideas for ones than that, maybe about ten times as many ideas for games. Some I've tried, and they haven't worked out, some are just waiting for elaboration.

Honestly, coming up with ideas for games is not the hard part about making games. The hard part is the design, the execution, the rules, the drawing, and so on. 

If coming up with ideas seem hard, it is most often because one tries to stick with just one, and it feels a little dangerous to come up with more. But here's the thing; ideas combine and multiply! And to prove this; here are fifty game ideas I've just made up, created in preparation for the upcoming game making game Dreams, by media molecule. You are all welcome to copy and make these games, without asking me for permission, or being inspired to make something similar? Why? Because I can easily make 50 more.

Gameplay is in cursive script. Some games are conceived as VR experiences, and are marked VR.

Vignettes and Single Player
1. A man is shot into space for a 1 year mission. Immediately when he is on the way up, earth is hit with a huge meteor, turning it into a huge ball of lava. Gameplay: You take up a piece a paper, and have to compose a poem as an elegy for the world, using stock phrases you get to choose from.

2. You are a camper sleeping in a tent. You are woken up by a forest fire, and need to escape to a river. You are running, and jumping over/ under logs  on fire. On the way you see a deer. Then you reach the river and dive in. You are dragged under, and wake up on the bank. You need to drag yourself up onto the shore. Your leg is horribly mangled and broken, but the deer comes, shows himself to be a god, and mends your wound. 

3. You are on the inside of a plain crash. You must put on the mask and life west with smoke in your eyes, screaming kids, crying parents and lack of air. VR

4. You play a lady living with her husband on the outskirts of a small fishing village in Iceland. There is a horrible winter storm, and the lights go out. Your husband asks you to go into the cellar to get the candles. When you open the door, you see that the cellar is flooded with freezing water. Just then your husband pushes you in. He laughs in your face, and says that this is finally the accident that will free him of you, and closes the door. Your task now is to escape. Through a puzzly combination, you manage to open the cellar window. You are now in a winter storm, and understand that you won't make it to the next house without freezing to death. Your only option is to sneak in and kill your husband, or it's back in the cellar again. You must now sneak into the house, get a kitchen knife, and slit his throat while he is watching tv.

5. You play a man that shoots a house robber in the middle of the night. He starts screaming in agony, and begging you to help him. You must call 911, and provide emergency services until the ambulance arrives.

6. You play a woman having a psychotic break. The room is disintegrating around her. She sees her angst nemesis in the mirror, and when it shatters she is in it's world. She must defeat it with the sword of hope.

7. You play a mouse sneaking home in the night while being hunted by an owl. You need to sneak in the shadows and avoid noise objects. Or else the owl is coming for you!

8. You are a bird learning to fly. You must flap your wings in unison to gain lift, and angle them well to fly.

9. You are an undertaker preparing a body for burial. The disco music is blaring, and your only way to move is dance moves. Points for style.

10. You are in a cafe scene with many guests. By possessing everyone you can hear what they are thinking.

11. A spelling bee competition where you must face the pride or disappointment of your parents afterwards.

12. You play as Archimedes as he get's his eureka idea, while in the bath. Unfortunately he is old an senile, and need to run home as fast as he can before he forgets it. He is only wearing a barrel.

13. A small video from the epic of Gilgamesh, when Enkidu is dead, and Gilgamesh discovers a worm that drops out of his nose, and is stricken with fear of death. VR

14. A cooperative recreation of the whole of "The Phantom of the Opera."

15. A race to the bottom. You are a cloud. To proceed you possess the elefant on the ground. Then you must find and possess a mouse. Then you must find and possess a louse, then a bacterium, then a virus, then a molecule and an atom. VR.

16. You play a murder robot the size of a gnat. You are crawling inside your victims nose, through his sinuses and towards his brain through where the nerves from the eye are entering the skul. As you crawl, you get to listen to his last conversations with his secretary, planning on cheating on his wife. "My god, If she finds out, she'll kill me - haha!" When you reach his frontal lobe, you self detonate. VR

17. You investigate a murder mystery on a fishing boat just come in. You must search, interrogate and do paper work.

18. You must avoid the lazer beams to get the treasure. You only have five poses to creep under, sideways and so on. so it's a bit like tetris where you are the piece.

19. You play as the weather over a farm. Your mind is really slow, so you are always lagging behind; but you must, to the best of your ability, change your weather to help the crop grow below. VR

20. You play as the Pied Piper through the story.

21. You play a bowman on the stage during a piano recital. You job is to shoot anyone who coughs, farts or snivels. VR

22. You are driving through a sweedish forest trying not to fall asleep. You weak up as you crash into a moose. You must now crawl out of the car, and over to the moose, and the two of you share your dying breaths. VR.

23. You play as a ghost in your own funeral. You'r task is to tickle the congregation happy, and fill them with good memories.

24. For context; at one point of his life Sartre had taken some acid, and for a time was chased around by crabs. Game; You play as Sartre in Paris, trying to order a coffee while kicking away the crabs with your feet. If they get to close, they pinch you, and Sartre howls OOO, like a wolf. The waitress thinks you are making a rude advance and blows you off. Three tries or you lose!

25. You crawl out of the grave as a skeleton. The devil is here, and he says that if you only do as he says, you will get your life back. You are working in and around a church. As you complete small menial tasks, your body gets replenished. Muscles, kidneys and other body parts come back to you from the beyond. At last you are in the church by the altar, and a priest steps in to pray. He does not see you. Finally, the devil asks you to drop the chandelier, or something like this, to kill the priest. You must then choose to kill, or choose to live.

26. You are a giant towering over the trees in a forest. Trying to pick up animals to eat. VR.

27. You are in a prison cell. What do you write on the wall for the next prisoner to see? VR.

28. You are walking home in London in 1430. You are robbed and fatally stabbed. You drag yourself to a tavern, where you are surrounded by guests. They ask you who did it, and you must choose between a few dialogue options that describe the person that robbed you. Succeed, and you get to see him hang. Don't, and it's a lonely grave.

29. You are a chicken, hatching out of the egg. VR

30. You are sailing a raft in an archipelago, discovering different islands. 

31. You are an eagle gliding on updrafts in the alps, trying to spot carrion, or a rabbit. Stamina meeter for good flyingfood refills it.

32. A sequence based on the Adventure Time episode "Food Chain".

33. A "Creature Comforts" kind of illustrated conversation.

Multiplayer games
34. Bat and Moth. One person plays the bat trying to catch the moth. The other person plays the moth trying to escape. A timer is ticking up, and will stop when the moth is eaten. Then the player changes roles, and the one that get's the higher time as a moth wins!

35. A sausage eating competition, complete with chew button mashing and choke meeter. VR

36. You play chess against death. 2 player. When one wins, put the king of the opponent in the box. The player who's king stands on the board get's the power to banish death, or to reap a soul, depending on a side. Death has the black pieces. VR

37. You are playing as a bull in Pamplona, trying to stomp attendants.

38. You sit in the living room with a water gun and a smartphone, together with your whole family. The object of the game is to look as much as possible at the smartphone before it is water damaged. Points based scoring. VR

39. Early-bird: You each play a bird, staring in a nest with chicks. Who can catch worms the fastest in the field to feed the young?

40. Four player game. You are all playing white blood cells in the bloodstream, eating bacteria. 10 points each!

41. Multiplayer rolle playing. You are playing through a Shakespeare scene with your buddies. You don't get to see the dialogue, only the emotions angry, happy, disappointed and surprised. You must select the appropriate response, based on the dialogue coming before you. Points for the best choices!

42. Shark- Rafting: Sit inside a shark-canoe. Race down the stream, and eat your friends!

43. Dart trowing. You are standing opposite your opponent. Each of you is wearing a target t-shirt, and you have a hundred health points. You must frantically throw darts on the other persons target t-shirt to reduce his health to zero, before he does the same to you. 

44. Asteroid racing. You play one of four astronauts jumping from astroid to astroid. You are a multinational team on a space walk as WWIII breaks out. First one home gets to close the vacuum door.

45. A race to mow the lawn! You play against your neighbour.

46. Fly swatting competition. VR

47. Fruit is coming down the conveyor belt. You must stack it in a crate. First piece of fruit that falls to the ground looses you the game. You can play against up to four players.

48. Object hiding. You take turns hiding a golden mushroom in a forest, and then play competitively to find each other's thing first!

49. A points based version of tag.

50. Sheep herding. You either play as the dog, or the person. As a dog your sight is bad, so you need the calls of the person to call the shots of where to chase.

51. Toss-a-nuke. You play as one of two human colonies on Europa or Ganymede. You have a nuke and a missile defence system. The task is you catch the opponents nukes and throw them back. The player who misses dies. A bit like tennis.

52. You play as a prison guard in a guard tower with a search light swooping around in the night. The other players are trying to escape and hide from the search light. If they are seen they are shot. First one out gets three point, second one two, and last person one. Rolle switches four times until the final score is tallied.

53. Chicken race towards a canyon. VR.

Game collections
54. Insect collection: Play a louse dodging the louse comb in someone's hair. Play a fly looking for ham, dodging the news paper swooshing around. 

55. TinyTown Kids Games. There is a small toy house like town, with small streets, and tiny trees. You play a series of mini games in which you either; A. Drive a fire truck and put out fires. B. Run after a bank robber. C. Drive an ambulance to pick someone up.

The potential of Dreams by Media Molecule

This post is written for those who are already familiar with Dreams by Media Molecule. It is meant to give a bit of a new perspective on the potential of this game. But first a small preface.

The arts have developed in stages, morphing together in history. From the time of the anicent greeks, first came storytelling. Storytelling like the epics of Homer, which were really communally shared stories, shaped by Raphsodes. Then came decoration, which involved into painting and sculpture, and then proper stagecraft and music, which eventually combined to form the greek theatre with two actors and a chorus. 

The arts then melded together in the seveneenth century to form the opera. Ah, the pinacle of art! A place where music and drama were melded into one. Over the next century a lively amateur scene in music and cherades would form, and they became participatory forms of art.

Then, photography, and stagecraft melded to become the movie. Which took into itself music, and sculpting too, when intricate world were formed. But only with the creation of video games did this evolution of the arts come to it's current pinacle. 

Yes, games are the only medium which incorporates sculpture, painting, theatre, writing, film and music. And has besides this added the art of gameplay. But there has been a massive drawback. Games have not been participatory on the creation side. Unlike a paintbrush or a flute, the interface of the art of games has been technical and hidden behind a massive barrier. And because of this, outsider art has been very limited. But this is about to change.

Enter Dreams; the game that as much as possible removes the barriers to creation, and in such a revolutionary way, that I foresee an entirelly new future within games as an activity. Now let me write about what I think Dreams will usher in in gaming:

1. A storytelling revolution
 With such easy access to scenery and puppets, I believe more authors will chose to tell their stories via interactive scenes that can be filmed and published to youtube or other such sharing platforms. These stories need not be grand or complicated, or concrete. They can even be poems acted out and performed as abstract lines, or as dolls performing.

2. A musicians tool.
    Wether you record everything, and then import it into dreams, or you make the music in dreams. Dreams will afford a way of sharing your music, both in the game, but also as a creation tools with natural exporting possibilities. 

3. A new way of sculpting
   Digital sculpting is of course an important artistic form today, but it has rarely been recognized as it has only ever been presented as part of another medium. But now, with Dreams, there are posibilities for artists to create both the sculptures themselves in a free and intuitive manner, but also to build a context for those sculptures that will let us view them as art objects. An artist can build a custom gallery in dreams, and present the pieces as art objects. Via Ps Vr it will also lend an extra dimentionality to the peices. New more abstract forms of dynmaic and living scultures can also be made by a skilled artist.

4. An innovation platform for VR.
Though the current crop of VR games has been interesting, the whole field has been characterized by the fact that we are currently taking baby steps. We are lacking in the share volume of experiences needed to find what games work best for VR. With dreams, we are now about to get hundreds of thousands of potential game makers, that will all benefit from each other's experience. This will culturally be a huge boost for VR enthusiasts, because the costs of testing new experiences will go drastically down.

5. A graphics revolution.
We have for a long time poo pooed voxel engines for being bad with textures and animation. It is true that there is a lot of innovation yet to be done in voxel engines. But, when it comes to textures, I think the critique is somewhat misplaced. VR affords one to paint the models directly, which is a much more intuitive process than wrapping a model in 3d art. From there one can innovate to let artists get more freedom in their painting process.

Now I want to highlight something different; A view to how Dreams is different and similiar to Lego.

Why are lego bricks such a good creative tool? Because they are steady units of space, that combine in predictable ways. And they are sticky. Unlike kapla blocks, their application is easy and durable.
Now what are the drawbacks? They are good for architecture, but famously bad for organic forms. They are also limited in number. Now what happens if we remove this last limitation? We get Minecraft.

The blocks of Minecraft most resemble lego bricks, except to make more is practically free. And look what differences in creativity we can get from that fact alone. Instead of a limited set, we get large scale buildings and space ships. Then, when we ad the concept and reality of cooperation, we get large scale cities.

The creations in Minecraft are stunning, but, there is a huge problem. It is not possible to make compilations of objects, and group these into yet large object. It is like we have every letter, but as soon as anyone makes a word, one cannot share that as a unit.

In dreams, you can share and edit more than letters, you can share books. Let me tell you a story.

One person makes a leaf. Another takes the leaf and makes a branch. Another takes the branch and makes a tree. Another takes the tree and makes a forest. Another plants the forest on an island. Another makes an archipelago.

In a few steps, we have added and multiplied the elements to become a world of activity. A world where any amount of plays can go on, where any amount of gameplay can happen, where music can live. And everything can be copied in as a collaborative effort.

Another example. Let us say that we want a medieval city. The question we need to ask is; have a hundred people made medieval houses? The probable answer is yes. And what are these houses filled with? Probably furniture from a thousand different dreams. And do you need a landscape to place your houses? I bet it is there. And just through that compositional effort, you will get more variety in your medieval city than any game developer has ever had. And through the style tool, you will be able to make a unity through it. Now, imagine what you can do with a little help from your friends?

Sonatina in the style of Haydn

Thanks to all the wonderful comments the last time, I was able to step up my game a bit and write a sonatine. Ever since I learned a little sonatine by Haydn in F major, I wanted to write something similar. His sonatine is so simple I could not even find a youtube video of a child willing to show it off, so what I've written below is a little bit more below. It even has a teeny tiny developement-like section with modulation in the b section.

Thank you to all those who helped me the last time. And, I hope that you will play through this to find many interesting possibilities for improvements. As this is my first original work, I expect there are many of those.

Arrangement of Swedish folk song; "Who can sail without wind?"

The text of this song is as wonderful as it is simple:

Who can sail without wind?
Who can row without oars?
Who can part from their friend,
without felling tears?

I can sail without wind.
I can row without oars.
But I can't part from my friend,
without felling tears.

The first stanza poses the question; Who can do two impossible things and one possible thing? And then a person boasts, I can do what is most difficult, but to leave a friend without sorrow that is the heaviest thing of all, harder than anything impossible.

The text moved me so much I wanted to learn it for the piano, and before long I found I had made my own special twist to it.

Rather than keeping it to myself, I thought that this was a great opportunity for learning to write music in a music program. So this melody is set in musescore 2, and is then exported as a vector graphics file, added as such to a file library in adobe illustrator, then typeset in inDesign.

Feel free to download and distribute this file as you please.

Flash Fiction: The Pill

The light was blooming through the open the kitchen window. It was the only light on that kitchen, white and calm. Gertrude smelled the spring through wide nostrils. She had lived so long. She had become 92 years old just a few days ago; the same age as her husband was, when he died, three years ago.

She thought a lot about Peter. They had met at band camp. He had played the trumpet for the Red Creek Brass Band, and she had been a flutist on W. West High School Brass. All evening they had cast glances, and when they eventually spoke, they had fallen into a senseless argument over state ranks and stupid traditions. But, the glances won in the end.

She had gone on to teach flute and musicology at Pentwood College, and he had taken a degree in technical drawing, and become a sort of architect of suburban housing. 

No kids, they just hadn't come. But she had seen so many grow; pupils, nieces and nephews... they even had John in foster care for those two years, before he moved for work as a taxi driver a the neighbouring city. He was killed four years later in a head to head collision with a family father, "under the influence". She had not asked who was under the influence, but she had guessed.

"At 92", she told me, "many of the people you once knew, have died." "I know," I said, and put my pen down on my notepad. "You see, without kids... We who grow to become this old," she was very eloquent, "get used to life's passing. To it's growing, blooming and wilting. It's not a mystery anymore."
    A slight southern drawl betrayed a four year stay in Jacksonville as a teenager. Her mother had worked a textile mill. It was cotton white dress shirts, fake ivory buttons, and a red seam on the sleeve for the special "Millhouse Dresswear" style.
    "Mrs. Hanson", I said. "Gertrude," she corrected. "Gertrude. It sounds like you have lived a full life. I need you to tell me, why you wish to be given the death pill."
    Mrs. Hanson sat back. Her eyes went to the ceiling as she was drawing herself up, into herself. "Do you know any philosophy, John?" "Yes, I do." "Good, I do to. I don't believe in a god, and, Peter didn't either. But, there is still a world beyond." "How do you imagine it, Gertrude?".
    "No, I'm... I'm thinking of Kant. For him there was the world as it appears to us, and then there was the world in itself; without us. It was the phenomenal world, and the noumenal. And no matter how we tried, we could not know the noumenal, not really; we were forever phenomenological beings; trapped here, in our body.
    She fiddled with the teaspoon. It is now three years since Peter passed from the realm of the living to the realm of the dead. He transcended into the noumenal. He... shed his mortality."
    She sat up in the chair, and leaned on the kitchen table.
    "I cannot explain it exactly, but... we are all made from atoms and void, as Lucretius taught us, but some of these atoms constitute a phenomenal, conscious world. But, for my Peter, these fiery atoms lost their spark, and became.... a thing. And, so he is gone."
    The upward inflection at "gone" made it all seem matter of fact. "I had never thought of it quite that way, Gertrude." "Peter, passed three years ago. But when it happened, do you know what?" "No." "I... I... I wasn't sad, I wasn't. I... understood, him. I... lived with... I... I knew that he had passed from the phenomenal to the noumenal, but he wasn't dead. Well, he was, but he wasn't gone. You see, nothing really goes away; all energy stays here, on earth, and, I envied him."
    Mrs. Hanson took a breath. "I want to follow him, Peter. I want to cross. Look at me for chrissakes, I'm like a raisin!" At this he started laughing, and she laughed so long, and so heartily that I started to smile, and then I laughed a little as well.
    I was filled with a fatherly compassion for her, and I wasn't afraid that she would die. Even though, she would, but, it was somehow okay.
    "Okay," I said. "I'll have to fix some paperwork, and then I'll come by your house early next week, with the pill."

The Theaetetus by Plato

Today, during the course of some studies, I wanted to have a look at the Theatetus by Plato. However, the only thing I found online was an ugly html version; so I did the only sensible thing and typeset it in indesign. Feel free to read it online, download it, or use it however you wish. The translation is from an 18th century translation by Jowett.

The design process of a playing piece.

Now that summer is here, and I've got some more free time on my hands, I decided it was time to make some headway on my board game Politeia again. What I really needed now was to make some pieces to represent the Poleis or city states that the players were to control.

Each faction needs a unique building that they will feel the urge to defend. My design process started with a few principles; I needed a good silhouette to distinguish the pieces at a glance; then I needed something striking and unique to capture the player's imagination.

The first step was to set up some tiles and start making multiple forms to get a sense of what the scale would do to the forms, and to see what kinds of shapes would be permissible at all. The conclusion from this exercise was that a bigger bulkier form made more sense. It seemed more stationary and imposing, and achievement to take down.

After this was done I had some sketching and thinking to do. To make the forms as distinguishable as possible, I wanted one form based on a cylinder, one on a pyramid and the last one on a square.

I happened to have some time during church service, as I had to take care of my son, and while sitting with the other children, drawing, came to think of the minaret of Samarra, a circular spire stretching far into the air, and inspiration to Doré's interpretation of the tower of babel. I sketched it from memory in the lower left corner. The next step would be to work on the idea to get a feel for it.

At home, that same evening, I sat down to paint and draw the form. I found that the angle of the envelopes would have to be shallow - but that I liked the overall shape. I decided to try to make a clay model of it.

The following day I made this new clay model. This exact one is too big for the game, but I think the overall shape is where I want it to be. The idea stage of this process is important; swift iteration and an overall approach; but now I have come to the stage where the process shifts to one of refinement. But that will be for part two of this post.


Can we fix the problem of Superman?

Superman has three main characteristics; He is invulnerable, he is honourable and just, and he loves Lois Lane. Now how do you make a story out of that? What challenges can a man have who is incorruptible, and invulnerable? 

There have been two main ways of doing this; Either you take away his immortality by using a magic rock; cryptonite, or you attack his girlfriend at the same time as you do the evil thing. Which has the nice side effect of having superman think about his morals a bit, but, this has all been done to death, and anyway, how do you change the morals of a perfect moral being? You can't. Any attempt at challenging his morals comes down to challenging his strength, because, as I said, he will always do his best. Superman is not corrupted, so he will sit in jail until he thinks he can no longer morally do so.

There is also this problem: If you want to use Lois Lane in this way, you are doing what is called "damseling". You are taking your only interesting female character and pressing her into the role of victim. If she could fend for herself, she wouldn't need rescuing, and so superman would not come. Which is a sad state of narrative logic to be trapped in as an independant woman. (PS: All women are, in principle, independent.)

Then what can we do? The answer is to break open each of these characteristics, to make them more flexible, and also to change some of the contexts within which his superheroing happens. Let us look at each of them in turn, starting with the last point.

The world of Superman is a very magic place. Superman flies in a magick kind of way, and the laser out of his eyes is also very magical. How about we put him into the real world of physics and biology? How about we put him in the world of hard science fiction?

This would put Superman under some interesting constraints. First off, he would no longer be able to fly at the speed of light. If you are approaching light speed, you are also approaching becoming light. The faster he flies, the more stress his body would take; so why don't we limit his speed of flight to something like 10% the speed of light, and make it really hard for him to get there; a true struggle. And let us also give him some acceleration, subject to the laws of inertia. Let us say he accelerated at 20mps(2). That would still give him superhuman speed, but he would be much more limited in how to navigate in tighter spaces, which would make the fighting sequences more interesting. He would also be subject to friction; so we could limit his speed in atmosphere to something like five times mach speed, which would explain why he goes to space to circumnavigate the earth; which would still only take him minutes by the way.

From a biological standpoint too, it would not make sense that his laser vision should be infinite. It takes a lot of energy to produce lazer, and his eyes could get tired. Making it a limited resource would mean that he would have to use it strategically in a fight. As it is now, he could easily have burned his way out of any situation if he so wished.

Superman is also much faster than us cognitively. He is able to catch a speeding bullet he himself shot. Mmm... With these kinds of powers, there is really nothing that would be able to hinder him in any way. He could sit in a chair for several milliseconds, thinking about a strategy that would take us a couple of hours, and then execute it with perfect dexterity. No, make him more like us. It'll make for a more interesting hero. Or, even if you want him to be much faster than us, let us highlight how that would be a problem for him. To him, we would all be very slow, and probably boring. It would help alienate him from our world, to make him feel like an outsider, which is an obvious theme for superman to explore.

What about Superman as an ethical being? Superman has very good intentions, and always does his best. How can one thwart that? Well, there are several ways. There are many ethical systems; some look at what kind of person makes a choice, some look at the intention behind the choices, and some look at the consequences of a choice to see if it was good. To make superman ethically interesting, we should let him meander a bit between these things. We should let him feel bad about doing something he intended to be a good thing, but had either bad consequences or sullied his character. Or we should have him do something he is uncomfortable with, because it is clearly the right thing to do. Or, we could have him live by steady principles, but discover that these principles have both good and bad consequences. Should superman save a person who is trying to kill themselves? Why not give him that choice?

A second thing to remember is that, there was a superman before superman, and that was Nietzsche's superman in "Thus spake Zarathustra". This person was not superior because of anything supernatural; but simply from having recognized that he or she must make their own choices in life of what is good an bad. Clark Kent, the superman, is after all an alien, and it would be interesting to see him fashion his own way ahead as to what is good and bad. That would be a comic worth reading!

Then about loving Louis Lane. I actually think this is one of the better things about Superman as a character. Many other superheroes do not have any real ties to this world, and if anything, the connection could be strengthened by having them have a child. That would give them both something outside of their relationship to consider, and it would also put a strain on their lifestyles. Should Louis Lane give up her job because superman can potentially do more good than she can through her journalism?

But the main problem is that there are not enough strong relationships. Superman should have some more human allies, some really good friends. She should have something else to do besides, something materially important to him. In other words, Superman should have a maximum of things he cares about and is willing to protect, because that makes him more interesting as a character, he also has more to lose, and at some point he may be forced to make a choice between many of the good things he cherish. Superman could end up having to confront himself, to say; This is who I am, where my allegiances lie. Maybe he'll say "Yes, I love my friend; but at this moment I can't be there for her because I have obligations at home, or maybe I need to save someone."

These are only some of the things we can do for Superman. By far the most important thing is to put effort into telling a good story. Those of us who have liked Superman for so long are really tired of seeing him save Lois Lane in spite of being shot with a kryptonite bullet. It is predictable and boring. Give superman some character, something to believe in, some flaws, some challenges, some restrictions; in other words, some life!

Non-linguistic arguments

I feel more of an affinity with the linguistic tradition of philosophy. And, I think that is mainly because they write better. Philosophical arguments need to be as clear as possible, because that is when rebuttal becomes the easiest; and the thing we want the most is for a result to stand tall even against good attacks.

Maybe this is why linguistic philosophy has had such success. It wraps philosophical arguments into language, where an internal consistency in the language provides the force or arguments - the bare bones mapping neatly onto propositional logic.

But, when one takes this approach, language also becomes the limiting factor in your philosophy. You can't break out of it to really bring the whole world into your philosophical reasoning. And that, is a problem.

We don't think in language; though, I'll admit, language plays a huge role in thinking. What do you think goes on in your thinking when you reflect on it? It is hard to do, but for myself I see a combination of swift images passing before my inner eye, I hear a little of words, and there are som abstract shapes involved. Always when I'm writing, the audio of what I'm writing is playing inside of me at the same time, and I can feel the tactility of pushing the keyboard telling me whether I'm spelling things correctly. In addition, when I'm doing other kinds of thinking, whole scenarios are opened up in my mind, and things happen, as on a stage.

And, importantly, philosophical reasoning is like this for me too. A room opens up in my mind where I do my thinking, and I'm trying to do it as accurately as possible. When I'm thinking philosophically on a thing, I'm trying to imagine the scenario as accurately as possible. I'm taking into account all the information I have learned until then, and I'm following the physical material doing the action around as best as I can. I call this technique "thinking in reals." And, I think it helps.

But what happens, then, when I want to translate this philosophical thinking into writing? First of all, it really is a translation; or more of a description of what is going on in my mind. Secondly, the force of the argument can be obscure; because rarely do I have the luxury of presenting all the detail that went into the argument - especially all of the background assumption.

And this is important; the simulations I run in my head, thought experiments in philosophical jargon; obey all the laws of physics I know, take into account all the biology and psychology I know, and also is constrained and enabled by the laws of literature and rhetoric that I possess. But doing a simulation of reality is what the brain was made for; and so it is an intuitive and good method of doing thinking.

Some times soon, I ought to do preparatory essays for any longer philosophical work that really deals with some of these issues. So far, I can only try to adapt to the styles of doing philosophy that are currently relevant.

A theory of philosopher, punching through the world.

I was working on my master thesis in sociology, trying for the life of me to understand Max Weber's writings on epistemology and objectivity. I remember almost nothing; but I remember this: A mental image of Weber, sitting in his study, observing himself.

His great insight was that the researcher himself is situated in a social context, subject to the social pressures of his time, from which he ought to strive to relinquish himself. To do this he argued fervently for "value free social science", in which the economist, historian or sociologist should strive to say "what is" in stead of "what ought to be." And he  had a good reason to do so. His native germany was moving towards war, and social science was not neutral in the war effort. Students were infused from the lectern with a sense of national pride that would send them out into the killing fields. Weber wanted a theory of that would cover the domain of social science that would rob the lecturer with his mystical powers to proclaim the future; and instead put him down to earth, where he would admit that he was a fumbling idiot like the rest of us; albeit with the self knowledge that he was so.

And that is why I keep this image of Weber in my mind. It is Weber observing himself, having a theory of himself that will help him overcome his cultural biases. The result of this effort was a theory of sociological induction from empirical facts that I will not go into today; because today my quarry is philosophers.

The classical image of the philosopher is of a white man smoking a pipe in a study. And we know what the pipe means, it means thinking. After all, as Rene Magritte said this pipe is not a pipe. The philosopher is turning within himself to see what treasures lay there, which he can then gift the world. It is the closest activity to divine revelation we can get; a famously disastrous method of inquiry into the nature of reality.

Unlike sociology, philosophy, as a discipline, does not have a strong theory of the philosopher. At least, not commonly. Two philosophers, that I know, have this in mind when they write, or wrote; and that is Wittgenstein and John. Searle. They are united in this and little else; but that they have good theories of action in social life; and also the inaccessibility of each of us to each other. And that they seem to turn this gaze back at themselves and infuse it into their writing; Wittgenstein does this through his literary style in which we are forced outside of the common practice of word decoding to really see the world; and Searle does this by connecting his philosophy to the scientific endeavour, which is notoriously connected to the outside world.

Still, they lack the certain refinement of Weber, who's very thinking is infused with the knowledge that these thoughts are part of a contingent social context.

I'm being abstract, aren't I? Avoiding the difficulty of providing an example. Very well.

Lately I've been participating in discussions on the nature of metaphysics. There I find that there is a strong tendency to appeal to intuitions on a certain subject. The texts are also full of language guided by formal logic, where distinctions are laid along the possibility of expressing it formally. 

In both cases, the criteria of acceptance for any given proposition lies within a closed system of values. In contrast to the philosophies of Searle of Wittgenstein, they do not keep in mind that any theory postulated must square with the type of reality in which a philosopher might live. That is, any theory of reality must take into account the many layers of things that have to be true for that activity to take place. In the next paragraph I will make a list. Each of the things in succession will be prior to the next, in the sense that the next thing could not be, without the prior in the list.

The universe, rocky planets, biological life, cells, multicelled creatures, complex animals, mammals, apes, humans, human brains, language, human culture, written language, intellectual culture, philosophy, philosophers, philosophical remarks on any prior part of this list meta remarks on the possibility of such a list being made in a philosophical context without the existence of the prior points.

Weber, as a sociologist, only had to write on the existence of the social for him in order to talk with sufficient epistemological humility about that subject, because that was one of the last layers in this complex list of ontological dependence.  But what task had the metaphysician then set himself? It is an incomprehensibly more difficult task. His theories on reality must punch back through all these levels, and ensure that there are no major hurdles to saying true things, about, say, the atom.

Ah, the atom. At first envision simply an an undividable thing. Then, as a microscale solar system with the protons and neutrons at the core, orbited by electrons like planets around the sun. Then, quantum theory entered, in which the nice, cozy, familiar metaphors ended, and the quantum strangeness overtook reality's "bottom layer." 

Within this last paragraph is embedded two long standing superstitions of the philosopher; the continued belief in a common sense physical substratum, and the belief in strata at all. Yet, had they seen reality through the lense of the theory of the philosopher, bound in his mortal coil to observe reality, he would have looked at this image of reality with suspicion. 

The idea of strata is identified by George Lakoff as one of the fundamental metaphors of langue, the idea of directionality applied to concepts of transitive relationships. And indeed I could not even contrive to write this sentence without resorting to the very same metaphors, so deep are they. There are no levels of up and down in reality, things simply are. A cup is not made from, ultimately, clay, which is again ultimate made from atoms. A cup is clay is atoms. There is no stratification, only a simple fact of cupness.

And why the propensity to attribute classical newtonian mechanics to subatomic particles? This bit of insight comes from biology, which reveals that in terms of natural selection, it is beneficial for us to understand things in terms of their possibility to harm our bodies. We have a natural propensity for understanding physical phenomena as they behave at "our level", where they are most likely to harm us. Black holes and subatomic particles have, by themselves, killed very few people.

For each point of the list, we must crush the intuitive understanding to reveal the real structure of reality. Even something as mundane as rocky planets will cloud our vision. Most matter in the universe is not rocky; it is not even gaseous; it is in the state of plasma; which is what our sun is made of. I, am not typical of the universe; a fact that any theory of the ultimate reality of everything should take into account.

Sadly, the ultimate difficulty comes not from these comparatively lower levels, where complexity is low, and things are easy. The most problems comes at the levels of minds, language and institutions. The fact is that our theories of reality are heavily shaped by institute politics, trends in philosophical journals, current discourses, and simple mental limitations in what it is possible to think; at a psychological level. Most people who believe in God do not believe it because it is the most rational thing to do, but because historical factors of human history and their own lives have primed them for it; they have emotional attachments, and belief is rooted in institutions of which they are an insolvable part.

Similar institutional boundaries hinder us from peering into reality in an effective manner. We are bound hand and foot by the facts of the lives of ourselves as philosophers when we try to do philosophy that punches through our prejudices to produce an idea of reality worth listening to.

What can we then do to remedy this, and to liberate truth in philosophy? We can bring in two mottoes, two moral decrees from high point in our culture. The first is the delphic decree "Know thyself." The production of philosophical knowledge is rooted in the philosopher, which is a causal product of reality and time. When we write of reality, we cannot by "write ourselves", as our thought on reality stand there and then. To write then, is to write the best version of ourselves as we can fashion through the haze of historical and causal accident. 

The second motto is Kant's motto from the age of enlightenment; "Dare to know!" Sapere aude. This is the motto that will help us "value truth above our friends", as Aristotle put it. We must be able to set our own knowledge of our whole selves to the test, by feeling the theories on the collected knowledge of what we know about who we are and what the world is, to see if the theories hold up. We must put our lives, as we know it, on the line. To punch, through the world - into reality.

Philosophical mindscapes and characters

Ever heard of a thought palace? It is a memory technique. Do do it, you would think of a familiar place, and then populate it with outlandish things that are reminders of what you were really to remember. It is a fantasy land, riding on our super good ability to remember places. And I believe in this technique.

I still remember pretty exactly how many places look in books. The words are gone forever; but in the scene in "Hills like white elephants", by Hemingway, I still remember that the train station entrance had bead curtains, and that, at the foot of the table was a suitcase filled with stickers. That is now... 11 years since I read that story.

And, some of the most famous philosophical pieces of writing are thought experiments, even elaborate ones, and often set in rooms, where there are plenty of variables to change. Think of the "chinese room", by Searle, the "ontology room", or the fictitious room where a poor girl grows up without ever seeing the colour red.

And somehow, the same goes for characters; which, while not as numerous, figure prominently in some examples; like Munchausen pulling himself out of the river by his own hair, or even the interlocutors of Plato; stock characters representing some crucial positions.

Places and people seem to stick with us, like words cannot do. And we seem to be better at thinking when we are thinking about them, than when we don't. So, what I want to do, is to introduce some general philosophical characters, some stock characters that are vivid enough, and that can take on different positions; argue against one another.

Just, let me blow a little life into them.

Image; yes, hear the magic word; Image - a cathedral like structure, pillars stretching 30 meters high, rising straight out of a floor made from raked sand. The walls are a square 100x100 meters, and light is streaming in from fissures in the wall all around. A suitable place to think. 

In the middle of the room, there is a young man, all clad in black, and he is holding a long black cane, which he uses to draw in the sand with. His name is Ecks. And now, walking in from the side is a woman, all dressed in red. Her name, is Oai. Then, for good measure, a spunky young girl comes in, all dressed in white slacks, and looking outrageously confident. She is Zed.

Oai: "Welcome to our mind palace."
Ecks and Zed nods, make a pile for themselves and sit.
Oai: "Into this palace we can bring in any object we wish, inhabit any perspective we wish, and bring in any example we wish. When writing down our conversations feel free to use the short versions of our names; X, Y and Z, we won't be offended, because we are self conscious as conditions..."
Ecks: "Which Doesn't mean we aren't real!"
Zed popped a poignant bubblegum- bubble, possibly meaning this was a discussion for a later time. 
Oai walked a little ways from the other.
Oai: "Let me introduce the first object in our reportoire."
And out from the sand, she pulled, an arrow.
Oai: "This is the conditional relation; if we are talking about entropy it is the arrow of time, or it can be cupid's arrow, or a part of one of Zeno's paradoxes. Feel free to use it as you want."
Ecks came over and picked it out of her hands, put it in the sand, then picked it up again, and simply, hung it in the air.
Ecks: "It can stay there, I'll remember it."

Now we kind of have a place to think, and to argue, though it would probably be better if they changed location every time. It would be more memorable. Before each discussion, we could define which positions they were to defend. I think there would be some didactic sense in this.

We should also not be afraid to interrupt them with a prose part, or get them in there for only a few short lines. Characters, dialogue and places engage the imagination in an entirelly different way from the kind of language that you are now reading; and I think we should use this to our determination.

Personality traits and Ethics

Part 1

The philosopher and the psychologist are at a cafe. One person has written about how we ought to behave without any reference to how we are - the other person has written about how we are without trying to say anything about how we ought to behave. Doesn't this seem strange to you? It does to me. So let me try to help.

Let us start with the are's before we go into the oughts. The dominant model of personality right now is the "Five point personality trait" model; but we are going to use a slightly updated version of six traits. This model was established by doing a statistical analysis on the collective vocabulary, and sort of finding out which words that more or less described the same thing.
       The six different traits are: 1. Honesty/humility 2. Emotionality 3. Extraversion 4. Agreeableness. 5. Conscientiousness and 6. Openness to experience.

These are helpfully arranged along a single dimension. 


To me, this list is provocative. My inner being resists being reduced to six different dimensions of personality. Should it? Yes and no. This list of traits does not reduce who we are. It does not try to describe all of who we are, or what is interesting about us. It is simply a tool for understanding facets of a personality. And with that caveat, let us have a close look at it to see if it can be used as a tool for right conduct.

What immediately jumps out at me are three traits that are more directly moral than the others; Conscientiousness, Agreeableness and Honesty/Humility. The words within these categories are judgemental words; they imply if we like a person or not based on if we assign them these qualities. So, for instance, on the Agreeableness-scale; on the one sinister side we find ill-temperedness, and on the right side we find patience. 

How do we know that these are moral ideas? We can find it in our emotional response to the idea of meeting such a person. If given a choice, and you knew nothing else about this person; would you rather meet the patient person or the ill-tempered one? I think most of us would go for patience.

In the other categories; openness to experience, emotionality and extroversion, it is not so clear to me that one is morally better than the other. Do we pass more of a judgement on someone who is passive and reserved, versus someone who is talkative and cheerful? Maybe we do, maybe we don't - I think that is an empirical question. Either way my intuition does not give me any preference, and in this instance I will trust it.

These scales are social, because these words are used to describe relations among people. Honesty and conscientiousness are character traits which only gain saliency when other people are forced to relate to us a such. 

For these three dimensions, then; conscientiousness, honesty/humility, and agreeableness; I think one would overall be a more moral person if one aspired to be conscientious, honest and agreeable, in many of the facets which are described.

This scale is not perfect, it does not cover all morality, and the values are socially determined, to a degree; not perhaps so much in what they are, but what the ideals of a society are. Non thesless, I think learning about these scales can be an important way to look at a facet of morality. And why do I think this? Because I myself have learned something.

I am an agreeable person, and I try my best to be an honest person. But where I am not, to the extent I wish to be, a conscientious person. I have been, and must be careful not to be negligent, irresponsible and absent minded. And I  need practice in being diligent, disciplined and through - which makes me sad to even think about. It is something I have known about for some time, and is striving to rectify, even little by little - but learning of this psychological characterisation has made me more aware that some of these traits of mine have been part of a similar phenomenon. 

Changing one's personality takes a lot of hard work, but I don't think it is impossible. And, things are also not clear cut always. My absent-mindedness has not meant that I have not been thinking, it as more often meant that my interests have been pulled in many directions; and as a result, I have learned a lot from many different fields. But too often, this has come at the cost of something else that was important.

Part 2

Many years ago I wrote a blog post about some small rules for moral conduct. I now want to look at the six part scale versus the rules I came up with then to see how they compare. This is the sextette ruleset I made back then:

1: Try to know the difference between doing good and doing bad. Try to do good.
2: Try to know the difference between truthfulness and deceitfulness. Try to be truthful.
3: Try to find out what is valuable, and what isn't. Cherish that which is valuable.

4: Respect the personal integrity of others. The different kinds are; of feelings, of opinion, of wishes, of promises and of identity. Respect someones lack of integrity enough to tell them.
5: Hold that a disagreement is not an opportunity to engage in verbal warfare, but a chance to learn the thoughts and arguments of others - from which you can revise your opinion.
6: Treat others as you think they wish to be treated, let them respectfully know how you'd like them to treat you.

It is interesting to see that these rules so closely follow my own personality. The things that are emphasized here are honesty, humility, and agreeableness. There is only one point here that has to do with conscientiousness, and that is that we should respect the integrity of someone's promises. That is, we should treat them as responsible to their word, and hold them accountable on what they promise to do.

In retrospect I like the idea of "trying to do" these things. It respects the fact that we are all fallible. 

There is also point number three about value. That point is absent from the personality test, and that is because value is not defined by our personality, but by our appreciation. That is, our ability to set the value of things. This rules says that, when something is of value, we should respect it. If someone has written a book, for instance, we ought to evaluate it to see if it is a book that contributes to the welfare of people as a whole, and if it does, accord it some measure of value, so that we keep adding value to our society, make us all richer. This value accretion must then be in relation to our society, all society in general or nature, or at least some higher goal. Destructive behavior and devaluing of important things degrade the wealth of our society, which I think is a bad thing to do.

The reason I think this dimension is not covered by the personality trait is that it springs from a socio economic understanding of society, which I think is not part of common parlance. I think we can still find it here and there, but then as moral attitude which, when taken together and in their consequence will achieve some of the same result; such as carefulness, modesty and activeness.

If I were to revise the rules as stated above, I would include one or two around the conscientiousness dimension - but it's not easy. One cannot simply write "Try to keep your promises." What if you promise to do something bad to someone? Or what if your promises compete with something else that is equally important? There are two aspects of conscientiousness that make it more difficult to implement. Firstly, one cannot know what the future will bring; so any promise will have to be given with the caveat "to the best of my ability, and not exceeding normal expectations for what is sound in my concurrent dealings..."which sounds a bit cumbersome. And secondly, at any point, you will most likely have many different duties, and it will be your task to choose among them. 

Maybe I feel bad about my ability to be conscientious has to do with some of these types of issues, or maybe I have these kinds of issues because I am not very good at it. Either way, I don't feel ready to say much more about it now. These things, I've understood, take time.

Important Materialism

My friend was surprised to be called a materialist. She wasn't greedy, yearned for things all the time, or associated status with wealth. But she had just told about a love for stuff of high quality, of caring make, of elegance and authenticity. "You're a materialist!", her friend exclaimed; but not of the greedy kind, but of the caring kind - apparently.

She told me this story as I was admiring her salad bowl, inherited from her great grandmother. It was sturdy, hand made, with a simple pattern, a wide ring around the bottom for stability, and a lip for pouring. "I love hand made pottery," I said, and then said she; "You're a materialist." It came as a surprise to me too.

Economic materialist show up in psychological studies right next to narcissism and depression. The equation of the ownership of things with merit is a recipe for unhappiness. There is always someone more wealthy than you, forever. You'll be climbing that ladder, forever. Yet, I didn't feel me and my friend was there. This wasn't a pathological materialism.

And sure, everyone needs to be able to provide for themselves. I think Alain de Botton was inspired by Epicurus when he said that material stability was an important factor in who one should choose as a spouse. Poverty is a burden on a relationship.

Epicurus himself chose to live among his friends; so economic independence for him was a strategy to protect his circle of friends from the tribulations of the economic system. Sadly, no one is safe in this regard. Nonetheless, it is safety that is at stake here, not status. But this is not the kind of materialism we found in that kitchen. Not economic materialism then, but rather, perhaps, an aesthetic materialism.

Closer and closer. I bend down to study the japanese bowl at the museum of industrial design. "A shape" the plaque said, "was practised by the individual potter at least a thousand times before it was said to be learned." I let that sink in. A thousand times. But I can't make that shape thousand times. I can't even hold it once.

Later, at home, I pour both hands into the cupboard to bring out a hefty blue stoneware bowl for baked potatoes. It is cold to the touch. "I haven't even handled this a thousand times," I think as I start cutting the potatoes. But I will. The bowl is an heirloom too, but only in its first generation.
I've thought about throwing it out a dozen times, but now I'm having doubts. What if I can't know the bowl before I've lived with it for many more years? That can't be right.

This new version of materialism turned not to be that easy. What do the things demand of me? If I can't throw the bowl out... does it own me? I look at my phone, which I've surely done a million times, and this idea of reverse ownership starts creeping in under my skin. I feel owned by all these things; like they are freeloading in my brain, living there to make themselves known, and cared for. Which turn on a special kind of anger in me, and I tell those things in my head; "If you're going to stay there, you better be important...", and as soon as it drops, it pours out of me like the light of day falls on the earth, first on the snowy tops, then into the deepest valleys. They better be important.

I come to myself again after being deep in thought, and look around my living room. Some things are important, some things have been important, and some things will become important. Probably ought to do something about those last two. Then I think about my friends salat bowl. That, will always be important. And I try to think about how many things I can have in my life that are and always will be important, and about how many things I want to be that important, and no conclusion is apparent, or even in sight. This is just one of them things which turns out to be truly difficult.

Why it's good to know a little about a lot.

E: You're sitting on a buss. The air outside is cold, and you're just enjoying the warmth when, suddenly, you become aware that two people behind you are talking animatedly in a language you can't understand. And not only can't you understand it, you don't know a single thin about it; you don't have any reference at all for picking out the meaning of a single word.

What would you say If I told you that the world is absolutely filled to the brim with such intrigues?

Q: Where?
E. Everywhere! Only, they aren't people. They are designs, lettering, ceramics, liquids, temperatures...
Q: I think I see where you're going.
E: That's great! Now let me tell you why you don't notice it.
Q. ...
E: Because these things are not people; and we don't care as much about things as we do about people.
Q: I'm not learning new languages all the time either though...
E: Maybe not, but you should. When you meet someone from another culture, and you know just a bit about their culture; you'll gain a lot more respect, and make them happy that you took the time to learn. And crucially; you'll then be in a position to ask all the interesting questions, instead of all the dumb ones.

Q: Okay, I get that, for people, but...things?
E: So, for things, the situation is a little different but not much. Look around you. (...) I mean it Q, look around. What do you see? And now; if you knew a little more about what was around you, what would you see then?
Okay, so from where I'm sitting I can, for instance, have a look at the floor; which is made from red tiling with mortar in between. And, If I didn't care about things generally, my observations would stop there. Instead I can think about the long tradition of brickmaking, stretching at least as far back as 1700bc mesopotamia, where I read that Etemenanki, the tower of babylon was made from fired bricks. That the red in the clay most likely comes from iron, and, I suppose that a great part of the bricks are silicon.
Now, the story of the bricks are enriched, their place their has gained a new meaning, and I have gained a little more knowledge about this building; I know something about the kinds of things that compose it.

Then there is a second aspect. Such knowledge builds itself on top of itself. From being able to name things a little more carefully, I can observe some of the covariations. So, let us see; when I open a modern book I can have a look at it's fonts to see what style the printer thought the book should be set in; with reference to the content I can therefore make some crude observations.
Taken together with knowledge of colour theory and composition, the manufacture and choice of paper and typesetting; I can judge the handywork on display, which helps me judge the seriousness of the institution producing the book, making me able to make some assumptions about the editors; letting me make some assumptions about the author; which can never be sure, but only in the way that nothing is "sure." 

Knowledge is a curious thing. Knowing one thing is knowing one thing, knowing two things is knowing three things.
Q: Now come one, that sounds like prophetic mumbo jumbo.
E: No, it's true. If you ask me if I can bring you milk, and I know that a have a cup, but I don't know if I have milk, then I don't know if I can bring you milk. To know the third element, if I can bring it to to you; I need to know that I have both the components. 
Q. Yea, that makes sense... for milk.
E: Yes, but don't you see how that goes for anything? Don't you know how much you can tell of a country by milk? If you can drink fresh cold milk, I am pretty sure you live in a well functioning society.
Q: Now come on, that is stretching it a bit far.
E: No! Milk does not keep well, and refrigeration takes power. The organisational skills of the society needed for stable electricity, both at state level and personal level ensures a kind of wealth only found in somewhat functioning states. To in addition be able to  milk cows, store and pasteurize, and bring to the story, and from there to you house; requires a network of logistics, trust, economics and knowledge that I can be quite sure that whoever drinks fresh milk lives in a well functioning society.
A little knowledge becomes a powerful thing, when you learn to connect all those bits of little knowledge to each other. And it's a multiplication thing, not an addition thing. For every new thing you learn, you learn at least three things.
Q: What can I say...
E: You don't really have to say anything; you're a litreary device...

Sky Burial

Sweat became floating pearls around his head, as Marco maneuvered around the drive umbrella. At the far side he hooked his arm around one of the supports, and swung around to cover the expanse towards the small experimental craft. He laughed from the excitement of endless floating, as he bumped into the tin can he called “Poppins”. And from this can, six hair-thin wires stretched back up to what he called the umbrella - two bands of five coniclet fractal foam em-drives, painted with solar panel circuitry, pouring energy into the transistor/battery at the base - and he had invented it.
    Marco fidgeted with the lock, fingers stuck in oversized gloves, and only relaxed when the air pressure started to build again. He felt that he was ready, that the speed record around the moon was his, that no one could stop him.    He flipped up the yellow cover on the retro steel pin. “You only live once.” Snap.

     Marco didn’t know it himself, but it took only a fifth of a second for him to become a brownish red smear at the back of his vessel; then the tethers snapped, asymmetrically, and the rotational energy spit into the coniclets tore them apart; a thousand particulates to feed the churn of space junk already covering the lowest orbits around earth.
    Marco was destined for a reentry cremation. Talk about sky burial.

There was no mission control, but NASA had Marco in their sights. Anderson stood wide eyed and stared at the screen, where bits of aluminum alloy where blinking as they made their small rotations and collisions. He turned to look at Jenkins. “Now the space age begins.”

The Transcription Factor

Yes, this is Dr. Ramachandran.
Yes, it’s me.

Yes, the result of your blood test is in. I’d like to get you in for a consultation - can you please accept my planning request?
Okay, let’s see - see you tuesday morning then. Goodbye Ms. Pierce.

Good day Ms. Pierce, good of you to come in.
At this, Ms. Pierce actually didn’t say anything, but only sat down and waited.
Ms. Pierce, do you know what a transcription factor is?
No. Well, yes I do, but, not that well.
Ramachandran looked irked at timidity, it was not a modern quality.
You have a high lipid content in your blood Ms. Pierce, and it has made you fat.
Obesity is no joke Dr.
Neither is being fat.
Ramachandran pushed off with his legs so that his office chair sailed backwards to a rack of small plastic bags. His hand was already outstretched to fetch the one that was hers. When he returned he held up a small zip lock bag with exactly one little pink capsule in it.
What’s that?
Immediately after asking she looked down into her lap - and, with delicate and practiced motion opened the zipper on ther purse, took out a pink lipstick, and started applying it. The whole while he talked, she didn’t look up from the small makeup mirror.
It is a methylation pattern corrector, Ms. Pierce. It’s to change the expression of your DNA, make a few changes. It’ll make you slim again, Ms. Pierce.
But, Dr. Ramachandran, I have a few questions.
At this, the good Dr. held up his wrist to look at it, but in the absence of any glock remembered his impoliteness, and stared Ms. Pierce directly in the eyes, which he found a little intense; so that the Dr. was already a little on his heels when Ms. Pierce asked:
But I thought the DNA expression made me who I am. Surely you are not trying to make you someone else Dr. Ramachandran?
Not someone e...
Because I rather like who I am.
No, not someone else, Ms. Pierce, simply slimmer, less lipids...
At this Ms. Pierce actually took a small packed of malt candy, fished one out between index and long finger, and gently put it on her tongue. Then she extended the bag towards Dr. Ramachandran.
He looked at it as if someone was trying to hand him a turd, which she took as a no.
The Dr. let out a small sigh, and leaned forward onto his elbows.
Look, I can’t force you. It’ll just be better for you. But, if you don’t want it...
He held his palms flat out in front of him in a mixed gesture of resignation and surrender.
At this Ms. Pierce lifted her right foot over her right one.
What will it do, exactly?
Ramachandran looked at the bag.
It’s designed to do two things. It’ll slightly increase the rate at which you feel like using energy, and you’ll be wanting that sugar a little less. I suspect, but this is not sure,that you will like hard fats a little less, like, you’ll find yourself cutting the rinds off chops. Not drastic.
Ms. Pierce looked down and put her hands on her waist, and unsaddled her legs.
Tell me, Mr. Ramachandran. Do you like me?
She did not look shocked when he was very silent.
It was not contempt, exactly, he thought. Or pity. Not pity. Not resignation, not completely - or sadness. She was not pensive, or angry.
Her hand reached for the little pill, and when she rose she picked it up. Then she threw it in the trash, and walked out.

When the rat must be licked between the period of 1 and 6 days after it's birth - because that is the way it knows that it's mother loves it. But what is love?

Love is the continued functioning of a particular gene in nervous cells in the hippocampus of the baby rat. A loved rat will go on through life, leading a self assured existence. And when it has children of it's own, you can be damn sure it'll lick those puppies and pass that love on.

But the neurotic mother, she doesn't give a lick to her children. She neglects them, and does not love them they way a good rat mother should. And what is the absence of love to a rat? It is the methylation of that same genome in the hippocampus of those rats; which, by the way, is a part of the brain common to all mammals.

This rat will go through life like a neurotic wreck, and when her children are born, she will not love them the way she is supposed to, by licking them.

Unreal and Invisible

We are our minds. Chop a leg off? Still you. Chop a part of the brain out? You become someone different. And that is so strange, because, when we talk, we can't say anything else than what we are. After all, if you try to express something you aren't, there is nothing that you are that can express it. But that's so strange, because when you talk, how she understand what you say unless she already is that? Because if you tell her something she isn't, where will the words go to be understood?

When you both talk about what you are, and you perfectly understand each other, you are the same. When someone teaches you something, you become a part of them. When you read this, I become a part of you, and you of me.

I point at a cup, and you look. What do you see? A cup. The question is; can you see that cup without seeing a cup? No you can't. Because there is no part of you that is "not a cup". Not anymore. When you were half a year old, maybe you could, but now you can't. You can only see "a cup."

I point at your friend. Who do you see? Your friend. You don't see "me that sees a woman, and that woman is my friend." We are all transparent to ourselves.

A Sri lankan girl is standing in front of you, a child, barely three. What do you see? A Sri lankan girl. But how does she see herself? Is there any part of her that sees herself like you see her? When you talk to her, is there any part of her that finds a home for your words? And, when you see her as your transparent self, are those parts even her? And when she talks to you, does her words find a home in you? She is both unreal, because there is no you to which she can be, and she is invisible, because even the things in ourself that you cannot see, are not a part of her.

But you can learn. She can become a part of you, and you can become a part of her. And you can see her and think "friend", and so can she.


A possible neural mechanism for determining sameness or difference

A disclaimer. I am not an expert in neurology, though I have some knowledge of it. This post is a philosophical exploration of a mechanism that I believe, with some modification, could work. From this, however, it is encouraged to be inspired, be it as wrong or a right as may be.

John is looking at a lilac. The light is entering his eyes, where it hits his photoreceptors, and goes through the familiar dance. First, already in the optic nerve, some clever computation is being done. Points of difference are enhanced through a dampening effect, applied from all neurons to it's neighbor based on the strength of stimuli. Strong stimuli will dampen even more strongly those neighbouring neurons that receive less, and so a boarder is set between foreground and background. This helps, but, yet the brain has not made that distinction.

Instead, features must be bounced backwards, into the brain. Those neurons which before has answered to the lilac colour, now again fires, more vehemently than all others. Similar stimuli, all the way from the front are enhanced through the mechanism "neurons that fire together wire together," and now the lilac colours of the eye, and the lilacs of the brain are singing together. 

The astute observer of colour has many lilac cells, each responding more or less to the shade. But there are also other factors like shape. Shapes are shown on the eye in certain patterns, and those signals, like a sound wave pattern is routed through that shape sending neuron as far back as differentiation will go. And so on for the distribution of shapes.

You can see the signal rushing to the left. Above, the lilac, then the grape like shape, and at the bottom distribution. Then the return signal comes. It bounces back according to the distance and all the patterns of the neurons firing are exactly the same as they would ever be, only, they come in in a slightly new way. Because John has never seen any lilac flower just that way before, from that angle. But this is not enough.

From this ecco we have a singular waveform that is a like a picture of the features collected. Now the signal needs to hit a neuron on the return side, which will fire according to the number of features that correspond to an earlier impression of lilacs. It will fire weakly for few, and strongly for many. I envision that there must be some division of labour here too, because it would not make sense for the whole brain to review every echo of impressions all the time. But exactly how such differentiation happens, I have no inkling.

What ought to happen, is that the signal of only this neuron firing on the collection of features, reroutes it's "lilac" signal to the conscious part of the brain.

Not everything in the visual field is parsed, only that which falls within our focal vision, abut an inch squared at a meters distance.

Oft seen collection of impressions will get their own neurons, which can later receive names through association. 

All in all this seems like a reasonable mechanism. I can't wait to ask someone if this holds up.

How to structure philosophical writings.

Without structure, there can be no logic. Without logic, there can be no arguments. Without arguments, there can be no philosophy. Therefore, to write philosophy, you need to learn how to structure your text.

Except, was that a valid argument? In fact, it' wasn't. It had the form If P, then Q. Not Q, therefore not P - which is an invalid argument form. But how could I tell so easily? Because my text was structured.

Oh my, we seem to have a liers paradox. The first paragraph has an unsound structure, yet it was structured enough to give weight to the second paragraph, which criticised it. Therefore it had good enough structure to be criticised, and was in that sense philosophical. Only because it worked could it show that it didn't, and framed as "being true", that is then called a liers paradox.

Having now written three paragraphs, we can start to analyse why these actually work to form text we can analyse. In the first two paragraphs, the first sentences are premises, and then comes the conclusion drawn from these. That is very straight forward. But, if we didn't go beyond this, our text would be very flat, and all our paragraphs would only serve to elucidate simple facts. Therefore the third paragraph takes the first two paragraphs as it's premises, and then connects them to show a third thing. Now the essay has gained it's first measure of depth. The current paragraph is again taking all the above under one to prove a point, and we have thus come to the second level of depth. Only by having a clear structure, can one's own writing be easy enough to deal with to make such complex arguments are you are currently reading. The next paragraph will again drop down to the simplest level of complexity, because with the end of this paragraph, this line of reasoning is now finished.

Instead we are now prepared to say something of the lowly sentence. Each sentence is comprised of a collection of concepts. Generally we can divide these into subjects, predicates and connectives. In this sentence "these" was the subject, pointing back to "concepts", "generally" "into" were connectives, and "predicates", "subjects", and "connectives" were predicates.

Philosophical ideas, like "being" and "analysis", have very well defined definitions, consisting of sentences that are reducible, just the way I described just now. They have "inherent depth", and an essay of very often about taking these philosophical concepts, which will then take the form of a "subject", and shepherding them safely through a text, illuminating them with different predicates, and trying out how they look when the connectives change around them. 

A typical philosophical essay will ask you to compare two philosophers. When we do that, it is typically not the philosophers we discuss, but rather the key concepts they have developed.
This can become very complex when each philosopher already has three to five interconnected concepts, and one's job is to see how all these relate with the other philosopher's four concepts.

 Now, think of all these concepts as your base units. Your next job is to build a sentence out of them. Now think of it like this; "One word, one idea." And then "One sentence, one proposition". You typically only want to say one thing per sentence. More than that, and chaos is loose. The third one is; "One paragraph, one argument." But from there, there is no higher place. Why? Because every argument, however large, can become the premise of a new argument.

Listen to this; A. "The bible is a cornerstone in our culture." A. "The works of Plato are a cornerstone in our culture." C. "Let these be the legs you stand on to survey our common heritage." In this argument structure the whole of The Bible and the whole of the corpus of Plato are arguments for C. You can do the same thing to any greater or smaller structure within your text, as long as it is clear.

To make an optimal structure for your essay or writing then, you should remember these things: Only keep arguments that bear on the central question. Make sure that the ideas your bring into your discussions are used according to their internal structure, and also work as intended within your sentences. And, be careful to structure your arguments so that they follow each other, and be clear when you are starting a new chain of arguments.