Sims 4: More human than me?

Screenshot sims 4, two sims playing chess and talking

I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing.

Since the original “The Sims” game in 2000, the little computer people have become more and more like normal humans. With me, however, it seems to be the other way around. This fall it seems that they have become more human than I, in some ways.

Obviously I don’t mean the body. Mine is still flesh and blood, while theirs is pixels on the screen. What I talk about is how well they emulate human behavior, whereas I have my own style that is pretty unusual in some ways where the sims are not.

Specifically, this is about social interactions, social needs, even social wants. As mentioned before, the sims now have a lot of social interactions and they love to use them. Even a sim with the Loner trait rolls around a fourth of his wants about social interactions, like talk to someone, tell a joke, compliment someone, practice talking, use a pick-up line (!) and more. Strangely, these wants cannot be satisfied over the Internet, so the sims need to actually go out (or have others come over) to fulfill their wants.

The social need is borked, if I may say so. In The Sims 3, Loner sims would experience their social need meter go down fairly slowly. Eventually it would go in the red, but it would take its sweet time. This may be simply lazy coding, but in The Sims 4 the meter goes down seemingly as fast as for everyone else, it is just that they don’t suffer any negative effects of it, quite the opposite. But the meter still takes on the orange and eventually red color of impending desperation, and a quick look at the screen will make it seem like the Sim is in danger. Only when you look more closely you see that it is just the social need that is bottoming out.

Of course, I have had this problem with my journal too. When I innocently mention that I don’t have any friends except invisible friends, people get worried as if I was about to jump from the nearest bridge, while I feel quite happy this way. Even when I mention that my last kiss was some 30 years ago (and even that was rather a surprise) people worry about me. Now if they were just worrying about my genes, I would understand it, for they are overall pretty amazing genes. It would almost be too bad to dilute them. Someone should deep freeze some of my blood so I can be cloned when that becomes more trivial. Unfortunately, genes don’t guarantee the same personality, as you can see with identical twins:  Identical twins that grow up together are more different than identical twins that grow up apart. (In the real world, that is. I haven’t tried that in the game yet.)

There is another reason this is on my mind: A MOOC (massive open online course) from BerkeleyX, the electronic arm of Berkeley University, distributed through the EdX platform. Yes, I am MOOCing this year again, and more successfully. But anyway, The Science of Happiness spends an inordinate amount of time elaborating and belaboring how absolutely necessary a rich social life is for human happiness. And I am like WTH you people, but then I think to myself: At least this may be useful for playing The Sims 4, if nothing else.  Actually I guess both the course and The Sims 4 may be useful for understanding ordinary humans, of which I am clearly not one. More about that next time, probably.

Only of myself

 (Screenshot anime Chuu-Ren

The foe I face is inside of me…

I grew up in the age of the gramophone (also called phonograph, in America perhaps). Kids today may not know exactly what that was, but it was the thing before the audio CD, which I think most people in 2014 remember, even though music is now a download or streaming thing from the Internet. The music cassette also came (and went) during my lifetime, but this too was crushed by the Internet. Everything is crushed by the Internet, is it not? Even television now merges with the Internet the way the lamb merges with the wolf. In the case of television, good riddance. In the case of the gramophone…

There was a vinyl disc with literal physical grooves etched into it in a spiral pattern. A motor made the disc spin at a constant speed. A tiny needle, called a pickup needle, picked up the vibrations from the bottom of the groove which varied marginally in height. These vibrations were basically sound, it only needed to be amplified. (The grooves were made in the reverse process, etching the pattern into a soft master disk with a needle that vibrated with sound.) It was a fairly robust technology, in that it did not really need electronics at all to work, although the sound would be rather weak without an amplifier.

The gramophone was almost exclusively used for music, but only almost. We also had one or two disks with fairy tales for children. (I was not a fan of fairy tales, generally. My mother told me that when I was little, she tried to tell me fairy tales and I looked at her and asked: Is this true? And when she admitted it was not literally true, I asked her to tell me something from her childhood instead. Evidently I was a lot more mature as a toddler than I am now! ^_^) I liked technology, though, so I would listen to the fairy tales on the gramophone. And one in particular, about Snow White.

We kids replayed the Snow White story so often that eventually the cheap plastic disk got a scratch in it. This scratch, as sometimes happened with gramophones, made the needle jump back. Remember that the sound groove followed a spiral pattern inwards, so a strategically placed scratch could let the needle slip back out one or two rounds. As it happened, this took place at the exact spot where the narrator intoned:
The evil queen thought only of herself
and the needle then jumped back:
only of herself
only of herself
only of herself
infinitely until we gave the pickup a push to get it past the damaged part.

My earthly father – a much better man than I – had the insight to point out to us kids that this was exactly how it worked in real life as well. Evil people are stuck in the same groove of thinking only of themselves, only of themselves, only of themselves, only of themselves, without limit. That is what makes them evil in the first place.

I still found it hilarious though, and would put on the record just to sit and listen to the evil queen thinking only of herself, only of herself while I laughed my little ass off. Little did I know that I was the same type of person myself.

Decades have passed. I am 55 years now, and looking back on a life where I have, for the most part, been thinking only of myself, only of myself, only of myself, except for the few times when someone or something briefly pushed me through. But I would soon return to concentrating on the one person in my life that I have truly loved: Myself! I love me so much, I cannot imagine a life without me. ^_^

Some day however, that’s what’s going to happen – life will go on without me. The record of my life will grind to a halt, having never been able to tell the story it could have told, because of the scratch that made me stuck in this groove – thinking only of myself
only of myself
only of myself

But I hope there’s someone out there who has been entertained, at least!

I don’t really care for music

Screenshot anime ChuuRen

Growing older brings many changes. Some quite unexpected, even at my age, it seems?

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord
-but you don’t really care for music, do ya?

-Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah.

When Opera Software introduced a built in server feature in their web browser, I was one of the early adopters, ripping the music from my several shopping bags of CDs to put it on my hard disk, so I could listen to any of my songs from work or wherever else I had Internet access. This is some years ago, and the feature became less and less reliable and was eventually abandoned. I got a home server (NAS – Network Attached Storage) which also promised to let me access my music, photos and video via the Internet. It is usually able to stream music without downloading it, although it does take a little time to buffer it in advance.

Then last month Google Music opened in Norway, and among its more attractive features was the ability to upload my entire music collection to their “cloud” of servers. There is a limit of 20 000 tracks, but I was never that much of a collector. After discarding a few albums I feel sure I never want to listen to again, I uploaded 2644 tracks. That seems kind of paltry compared to the limit. I get the same feeling as when rolling a huge cart through the supermarket with four boxes of yogurt and two bottles of soda. ^_^

Up until that point, I have felt like I actually bought a lot of music. After I got my first CD player, I bought CDs regularly for a while. Sometimes I just passed a shop and heard some likable music so I stopped and bought it. This was how I came across Chris de Burgh for instance, whose lyrics have featured heavily on these pages. Leonard Cohen, however, has been with me longer: I happened to record his song “If It Be Your Will” from radio back in the age of cassette tape, although this was the only song by him I knew for many years. The age of the CD fixed this as well.

Despite the crazy prices (even higher here in Norway than elsewhere), I continued to buy CDs for many years. Sometimes I guess I just took a chance. Often there was only one or two good tracks on a whole CD, but I did not give it much thought. I did not have much money back then – not that I have now, by Norwegian standards, but it was rather pitiful back then and I did not know how to manage it – so the CDs made a noticeable drain on my budget. After the turn of the century, I have almost exclusively bought Japanese pop, and less and less of that too. I don’t download music unless I have already bought it (the mail from Japan takes weeks). But a quiet dislike for the major recording companies and their behavior has grown to the point that I sincerely want them all dismantled and outlawed, so there is that too.

In any case, I uploaded these 2644 tracks eagerly. Now I can listen to them all, anywhere, and in any order. I set about testing the “radio” feature at Google Play Music. Basically I start with a song I like, and the software tries to find other songs that follow naturally. It was during these experiments, which lasted for several days, that I realized something I would not have believed if you told me:  I don’t really care for music.

I kind of knew already that most of the songs I had paid good money for, were just noise. There used to only be a couple good songs on each CD, unless it was Irish. Well, Cohen also had a higher rate, but I still only liked perhaps half his songs. But now I notice that many of the songs I used to like, no longer appeal to me. And those which do, that is not necessarily a good thing either.

The voices in my head, as I playfully call it, in this case the earworms, have a tendency to sing catchy tunes ALL DAY LONG. I am sure you are familiar with this phenomenon, of songs playing and replaying in your head and probably also trying to make you sing along. (That is certainly how it works for me.) It disturbs my other mental processes. I want an off switch. Well, unlike untrained minds, I do have a pause button, but it always comes back on. This is not a bug, it is a feature. After all, I am the one who feeds my soul this music, so it is perfectly natural that the soul takes it and runs with it. But when it does this with songs that are just catchy, without any depth, I kind of regret having listened to them in the first place.

I also rarely, if ever, feel the intense joy from some music like I used to. I am not sure if this is some spiritual development on my part (and if so, whether it is progress or backslide), or just my brain losing capabilities as I slowly transition into old age. I guess it is natural with the path I take that I can not lose myself in beauty the way I did? But given how easily I get distracted in daily life, how easily my thoughts stray, it seems a bit preposterous to think that I have become deeper than the music or some such.

***

Google Music is quite impressive, by the way. It took a few days for it to get used to me, and in the beginning it fed me some songs that really disagreed with me. But after a while it got quite good. For instance I use a Japanese song called “Coloring” as seed for a “radio” function, a random playlist of related tracks. At first it was quite random, but after a while it found out that it could give me Japanese songs with English titles (something that is quite popular in J-pop) and I would accept that. That is further than Spotify came, and I’ve had that since it was fairly new, long before it came to America.

I guess they deserve a better customer than me. Who would have thought I would ever say that. But I don’t really care for music, do I?

Like a light that grows

Screenshot anime The Golden Laws

I made a trip back to 1986, aided by the mysterious powers of my diary (which at that time was printed on paper). It was kind of embarrassing, partly because back then it was less of a day-ary and more of a night-ary, kind of dark and angsty even compared to how I felt at the time. I remember that much. But also, I turned 28 at the end of that year, and I was still painfully stupid.  Probably still am, but I mean compared to now.

I was already recognizable myself, and I was rather more pious than now, it seems, at least emotionally. But somehow I continued to rack up consumer debt. Credit cards, shop loans, that kind of stuff. It may be argued that at the time, I earned rather less than I do now. We’ve had a phenomenal economic growth here in Norway over the last 20 years, not just the rich but common people, unlike in America and parts of Europe. But it was not dire need that mired me in debt. Although I didn’t write much details about how I got the debt (only about how bad it was), I remember buying various stuff that was not survival-related, to put it mildly. A big electronic organ (which admittedly brought me quite a bit of joy for some years, but which cost me several months’ pay). And then later (or was it first? I think later) an electronic accordion. Because I could, seeing how I got shop credit and all. Various computer related stuff (computers were invented back then, actually, just not the Internet as we know it). I bought the cutting edge stuff, of course. Buy now, pay later!

Taking that trip back to the past, I realize that I wasn’t really that different from ordinary humans. Lots of them still do this. I think most outgrow it, but I am not sure. As I said, here in Norway people have a lot more money now so any debt they have acquired is steadily erased by their rising affluence. But in America, debt still seems to be a big problem.

There were other typical human behaviors too, like in interpersonal relationships. (Not intimate relationships, I had my last kiss in 1984 after all, and even that was pretty accidental as such things go.) But what strikes me is how poorly I understood not just others, but also my own emotions. It probably seemed perfectly normal at the time, though. I don’t recall going around constantly thinking to myself: “You’re an idiot, you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t understand other people and you don’t understand yourself.” Well, I did think that, but mostly late at night when writing my diary, reflecting on myself. But I did not think it in advance, preventing or at least mitigating the dumbness.

Observing myself at half my current age, I am more convinced than ever that the current me is not simply a result of my half-Aspie heritage or Neanderthal genes or some such. I mean, yes, I was never entirely neurotypical, but that didn’t really make me who I am today. Rather it is the light of timeless wisdom that has kept shining relentlessly on me, showing me a little more now and a little more then. I may close my eyes and pretend that I did not see, but in the long run it cannot be unseen as long as the light remains on. Whenever I open my eyes, there it is again.

For me, this light is a religious thing. After all, this experience is foretold in Proverbs 4, verse 18: “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” The Norwegian translation, which was often quoted in the Church when I was young, translates it slightly differently (as is often the case with poetic elements of the ancient language): “The path of the righteous is like a radiant light, that becomes clearer and clearer until the full light of day.”

Now, “righteous” may not quite be the best description of me, if I must say so myself. And that is one reason why I think I am probably still an idiot, just less so than I used to be. But I’ve learned some lessons. Like “consumer credit really is a gift – from you, to them”. Or “don’t mix girls and money unless you are ready to lose both”. ^_^ Both of these are prefigured in Ecclesiastes and  the Proverbs of Solomon, by the way, although I should probably leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Although I am a Christian of sorts, I’ll readily admit that I have found timeless wisdom in the Scriptures of other religions and a few works that are not generally considered religious as well. That is great, I think, and perhaps Frithjof Schuon and friends are right about the transcendental unity of religions. But also over time I have found that although I have found wisdom in other religions, I had not really needed to. There is in the religion of my youth a spirit that keeps unpacking the deeper meanings of the Scriptures, so that they would be more than adequate for whatever one were to run into. I won’t deny that the same may well be true for the other great world religions. Those who have dedicated themselves to them would know, I guess. I can only speak for myself. And even then I haven’t earned this. It was given to me, for some reason.

But this is at the core of things, that this Light is alive. It grows, given the chance, becoming brighter and brighter as we admit it is right. Perhaps it is in that sense that “righteousness” is meant in the text I cited. When we admit that the judgment of the Light is right and we were wrong, the judgment turns to brightness. As long as we stand against it, it is like walking along a dark road where the headlights of the meeting cars shining in our face is more blinding than the darkness. But when we turn around and accepts its judgment, the same light brightly lights up the road. Well, that’s just an illustration, but one I know from experience.

So there it is. Looking back across half my life so far, that is the image that comes to mind: A radiant light, starting as the faint light heralding dawn, shining more and more brightly into wonderful daylight, where an entire world opens up around me. Well, it is not full daylight yet,  but so much brighter than in 1986! I wish I could show even one of you this brilliant road to tomorrow.  But judging from my results so far, it may be safer for y’all if I keep writing about The Sims…

Endlessly alone

Screenshot anime Yahari Ore no Seishun...

“Maybe your finger muscles are just shriveling up because you don’t have anyone to text?” I can do better than that, Yui: My throat is actually shriveled up because I have barely talked for so many years. And it still isn’t enough, it seems:

“Not alone as in single, or alone as in lonely, but alone as if my life in this world is a single-player game” was how I put it in my imaginary diary.

Yes, I have written imaginary diaries about my daydreams with dice. The dice, as long-time readers might have remembered, are supposed to cause a certain level of randomness in the story. By and large, I strive for realism except for the few (sometimes just one) specific change that separates the story in my mind from real life. The current reboot has basically just one change: In it, I have the ability of mental time travel, to send my mind back in time to an earlier point in time. The length of how far back I can go increases with practice. The balancing force is that the past is not really altered: Once the past catches up with the present, it disappears and I find myself in Real Time again, the altered past simply a pocket dimension leaving no trace except in my own mind.

So yeah, I am kind of daydreaming about daydreaming, I guess? Only more elaborately.

Having traveled back in time to late 2009, it is now early 2011 and my imaginary self has mainly been studying Go (the Asian board game). And that is when my imaginary self wakes up one day and asks: “Have you noticed something weird about this story? I am alone. Not alone as in single, or alone as in lonely, but alone as if my life in this world  is a single-player game”.

So I am sitting here alone and daydreaming about being alone all over again, a kind of near unlimited groundhog years. (I refer of course to the movie “Groundhog Day”, which is one of the few movies I can watch repeatedly, although not every day!) If I had unlimited time, it seems I would spend it reading books, playing games, learning new skills. Alone. The more I am freed from my constraints, the more I seek solitude. Year after year of being alone, is what I dream of.

I have a feeling that this is not exactly normal. Or even a good thing, as such. But it is not a suffering. It is, as I just stated, something I daydream about, something that feels relaxing and natural to me. I’ve never heard of anything like this before, but I bet it is more common that I have thought. Perhaps it is just that most who feel that way, eventually disappear from view and live out their lives outside our horizon of attention.

We say that humans are social animals, but perhaps we only see those who are. We are necessarily the children of those who did not prefer to live and die alone. Well, even I would perhaps not go that far. I feel a moral obligation to pay back to humanity or civilization for the benefits that have been given to me. But I’d love to take a few years vacation from people now and then, if that had been possible … but it only is in my dreams.

Be crazy so we can be sane

Screenshot anime Sakurasou Pet

“Love is simply an electrical bug in the human neural circuit.” Now if only we had a forum where we could get together and assure each other that it is the rest of the people in the world who are crazy…

The trigger for this entry came from another absurd question on Quora. This time: Should religious belief be classified as a mental illness?

It is kind of disturbing that people even ask this, but there are in fact a disproportionate number of the mentally ill who manifest their illness in terms of religion. That is perhaps not so strange, since religion is already the domain in which we have the most unusual experiences and traditions, and insanity is pretty unusual for most of us. It is hard to manifest insanity in the form of accounting, for instance.

Science comes somewhere in between, I guess – I see some pseudoscience that looks nothing like sanity to me, but still has some few but vocal supporters. Like “Venus was a comet which passed Earth during historical times before entering its current orbit.” But enough about that. But then again, ten years ago we weren’t a result of interbreeding with Neanderthals, now we are. (That would explain me, to some degree…) So science is pretty crazy even when it is true.

Given that almost everyone is religious, the notion that “religion is insanity” sounds more like a projection if anything. Like people worry in the dark corners of their mind that something may be wrong with them when they are so different from other people; therefore all the other people must be crazy, that would explain it!

The truth is, as I have said before, that almost all modern atheists are really half-a-theist: They tend toward Socialism, which gives them the option to serve a powerful, invisible, mostly benevolent invisible being that already has an established caste of servants dedicated to bettering the world on behalf of the otherwise invisible Greater Power, which in this case is called the State. True, the State does not offer an afterlife, but neither did Moses. Read the Pentateuch – the original Torah – and you will see that the question of the afterlife was left open. God promised them that their cows would have calves and their enemies would flee. Socialism is on that level now.

But atheists don’t know how similar they are to other believers, so they need to fabricate this vast gulf between them, with the believers being crazy. Luckily this is still a minority position among atheists, it seems. But the fact that some seem to really think so, made me think back to another small group of people who were Different.

For many years, I was part of a church (or sect, as pretty much everyone else called us) which was very pious. We took the Bible very seriously, although not always literally. If you think Jesus was literally a door and Christians are literally sheep, I guess some suspicion is in order regarding your mental health. This was not a congregation where you just went to church on Sunday and otherwise went on with your life as if nothing had happened. The founders and early adopters, in particular, were men and women of heroic virtue. They set aside even the usual “harmless” cravings of human nature: Entertainment, tasty food, pretty clothes, sightseeing … stuff that no one else would consider sinful, but they set it aside so they could use their time and money and thoughts to serve God and help their fellow man.

But by generation three and four, most of their descendants were not like that. They were still good people who stayed away from crime, drugs, drunkenness and fornication, by all means. But they had hobbies (much like me), they had tastes and interests and wants and wishes that were their own and not those of God. They were by and large human, although very good humans, loved by employers for their loyalty, honesty and hard work.

The problem was that they were really good people with a doctrine saying that they were far more than that. The chosen ones, the bride of Christ, the saints, the overcomers. They should be exceptional, rather than just good. And so, subtly and softly like the slow falling of night, rumors spread. Not rumors about anyone in particular, friend or foe. But rumors about The World and those who lived there, those who had not been saved. This is indeed a motley crew, as life will show us, but the attention became steadily more selective, until The World was a cesspool of depravity, an ongoing parade of drug abuse, divorce and drunken gay sex. All of which certainly happen in The World and not in the Church, but … you see the point, I hope. Because they could not get better, others had to become worse to keep the distance.

And that, I think, is where the more sectarian atheists are today. Because they aren’t all that different from believers, the believers need to become worse. Crazy, evil, or at the very least amazingly stupid. Because the need to feel superior is very strong, particularly in those who are average.

Daydreaming with spreadsheet

Screenshot anime Ore no Kanojo

“Not to brag, but I’ve got a talent for fantasizing.” As a neurotypical human, you probably don’t need meticulous text files, spreadsheets and dice to maintain the integrity of your fantasies. Wait, do human fantasies even have integrity? And why don’t I know for sure?

If I have been failing to update my journal regularly, it is not because I have been lost in prayer, alas, but quite the opposite: Because I have been lost in unusually intricate daydreams.

I have come to understand that a favorite brain activity of neurotypical humans is to daydream of what could have been if they were able to change some event of the past. I am led to believe that this happens spontaneously, or very nearly so. But I am not a purebred neurotypical, I come from a family where autistic genes have run for at least three generations now. Judging from self-observation, I probably have a few of them myself, although I am not a purebred Aspie either. More of a half-breed, I guess. But daydreaming is one of the things that is probably different. I strongly doubt there are many neurotypical humans who use spreadsheets or dice in their daydreaming.

I am told that autists don’t daydream, but I do. Sort of. Lately, I have done a great deal of time traveling in my mind, branching off from various times in my past, creating alternate time lines with various differences from the original. I have written down summaries of a number of these in text files, one file for each major timeline. I have a spreadsheet in which I track a parameter of divergence. I roll three 6-sided dice to simulate randomness in some of the outcomes. That’s just the way I roll! ^_^

In the online superhero comic Mindmistress, my old acquaintance Al Schroeder wrote about a mentally challenged young woman who became super-intelligent through a technology developed by her late mother. After the heroine learned about role-playing games, her super-intellect created an interior world into which she disappeared and almost didn’t escape alive. As a father of two full-scale autistic sons, Schroeder probably had an idea of what he was talking about. One theory of autism is that it is not a lack, but a superabundance of brain activity, amplifying normal stimuli beyond what ordinary people experience. In favor of this theory is the fact that the brains of autistic infants grow faster than those of neurotypicals of the same age.

Luckily, I too survived my immersion in my elaborate daydream, although I was at some risk, and may still be. There are still timelines I would wish to revisit, if I think I can do so safely. And I still have my spreadsheet and my dice at hand. But for now, I write this entry.

Thank you for clicking

Screenshot Sims 3 (gardening)

I myself, like my sim, is unlikely to do things like this without being clicked on.

On The Hungersite (which does not actually try to promote hunger, but alleviate it) you may sometimes notice the text “Thank you for clicking.” But to me this has a different meaning as well. It is for my guardian angel, or whoever it is who is watching over me.

When I play The Sims 3, my small electronic people have a will of their own, but it is pretty basic. They can keep themselves alive and employed, usually. If they are hungry, they make food and eat it. If they are sleepy, they go to sleep (especially in the night) or take a nap. If they are lonely, they speak to someone in the house. If they don’t have anything else to do, they seek fun. Computer games, musical instruments, books or painting. (If made in my image, usually computer games.)

But by themselves, they don’t achieve their wants, except by accident. Perhaps they wake up with a want to make a meal, and eventually at some time during the day they get hungry and make a meal. But more advanced goals, not to mention their lifetime aspiration, is beyond them. They need me to click on them or on some object they can use to work toward their goals. And often they need me to click on their action queue to cancel something useless they intend to do.

It’s much the same way with me. I have this tendency too, to just live in the moment and do whatever seems pressing at the time. Which may be fine if it is the bladder that seems pressing, but not if I spend the whole day playing The Sims 3. There are other things I want to do with my life while it lasts. So that is where my player clicks on me to remind me to change my plans.

It could be very subtle, just an impulse in my mind. If I am not too absorbed in something, that can be enough. Like a reminder really. I am sure all people have this, they suddenly remember that there was something else they were supposed to do, even without anyone saying it. I have grown used to this, so that I do very little planning and very little to remind myself. To-do lists are alien to me, and even post-it notes are rare and only at work.

But sometimes I need a stronger push. Sometimes a sudden physical sense experience, like a jolt of pain or a moment of dizziness, makes me wake up and reset my action queue. That’s usually if I am playing a game or watching a movie, and there is something else that needs to take priority.

I am sure many people experience something like this, but they don’t frame it in the same way. Because they haven’t played those particular games (Sims 2 and Sims 3), they don’t imagine it as if someone one dimension up is clicking on them. But strangely, this image is not so different from what religious people through the ages have imagined, that a guardian angel or guiding spirit living is keeping watch over us from outside the limited realm where we live, and occasionally nudges us (or pushes us, in an emergency) to lead us to the good stuff.

It may be that it is this ancient imagery that eventually caused Will Wright to create The Sims that way. I am not even sure whether he was aware of that or not, but it is a strange correlation. But in any case, thanks to him there are now millions of people who will be familiar with being on the clicking end, and perhaps at least some of them will recognize this feeling when they are on the receiving end of the click. Or, occasionally, the kick, when needed…

Viewpoint character

Screenshot anime Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT

“Because I’m chosen by God!” Yes, but to be a viewpoint character, not the main character!

I have been left less than impressed by the MMORPG Champions Online, which I started subscribing to soon after City of Heroes shut down. The two were made by the same company, Cryptic Studios, and Champions was the newer of them. It sure has a lot of options, but it just does not engage me. There is something lacking. Or perhaps that’s just me growing up.

In any case, I came across an entry from early 2010, in which I fretted about the possible negative influence on my soul by all the fighting in City of Heroes (although at least it was heroic fighting – to protect the innocents and chastise the wrongdoers, I descended time after time). Less than two years later, the game closed down. Problem solved! but not by me.

(Incidentally, there are already RPGs where you can level up by healing and blessing people. I just don’t play them.)

Seen from my point of view, as the Very Important Person, I could say that God closed down CoH in order to help me focus on less violent activities. There is nothing wrong with that point of view, as long as one retains enough sanity to realize that this was not the only and hopefully not the main reason why the game closed down. (I believe the main reason was that it stuck out like a sore thumb in NCSoft’s new profile, where they focused on their Asian RPGs. Even though the game was profitable in itself, it might turn off potential customers with its America-centrism. America is no longer cool in Asia, where NCSoft has its headquarters and core audience.)

A bad leader focuses on micro goals instead of macro goals, a good leader focuses on macro goals instead of micro goals, but a great leader is aware of opportunities to combine them. God is a great leader, so it makes sense that he would throw me a boon while taking care of more important business.

The problem arises when the Viewpoint Character mistakenly thinks that he is the Main Character. I attended a Christian meeting here in Norway shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, where an until then rather unassuming elderly member of the congregation informed us that he had prayed for Soviet Union to fall, and now it had happened. Yes, I am sure he had, and it had undeniably happened. Good for him! He had prayed according to God’s will, evidently, which is a comforting thought. But the moment you think God is your hammer that you can wield to bring down empires, you have a problem. Oh yes.

During the last frenzied month of America’s economic bubble, gas prices reached new heights (although they never reached European levels). Faith-filled believers gathered to pray down the prices. Behold! From out of Heaven! The gas prices plummeted. All it took was the crash of the banking system and millions and millions of people losing their jobs, no longer needing to drive to work or affording to drive elsewhere. There we go! Problem solved! Good job, guys! When God is your hammer, anything is breakable.

In reality, of course, God is not our hammer. I am not the Main Character. What I am is a Viewpoint Character. I think it is great that there are viewpoint characters. Sometimes our goals are aligned with the greater good, sometimes the opposite (although hopefully we don’t do that on purpose), and sometimes not really related. The role of the Viewpoint Character, I feel, is quite valuable. As long as neither the Viewpoint Character or others confuse this with being the Main Character.

How it feels to get a higher IQ

Screenshot anime Chuunibyou demo Koi (Yuuta thinks back)

“I’d love to go back (in time) and hit myself!” One of the less pleasant effects. Overall it is worth it, though!

A question from Quora again. I cannot answer it in its current form: “What does it feel like to transition from having a low IQ to having a high IQ?” The ingress also specifies that the IQ should increase by at least 40, and either be obvious or measured by official IQ tests. I doubt this has ever happened, and may never happen unless there is some new dramatic breakthrough in medicine. It is hard to imagine what that would be: Even if you cure a condition that causes mental retardation, you have to do so early in life, or the damage is already done. At that point, IQ tests are not very precise, if possible at all, and people’s memories will be hazy at best.

The brain follows a fairly specific path of development. It is true that there is plasticity, and that parts of the brain can continue to develop through life. But there are severe limits on what can develop and in what order, after the first months of life. It is not like a supermarket where you can come back and buy what you forgot, or pick things in any order you like. What is not done at a certain stage of development cannot simply be inserted. (We are talking about the hardware here mostly. For software there is some more leeway.)

Therefore, if you want an example of a person getting a noticeably higher IQ, you would look for someone who developed slowly but continued to develop for longer. As it happens, this is me. Or at least to some degree.

I come from a highly intelligent family, but one with a long natural lifespan and slow maturation. In primary school and middle school, I was always smaller and weaker and less mature than my classmates, and indeed the class below me as well. I got along the best with the class below there again. When I ended middle school, I was just getting past puberty. My voice was still high and I was not near my adult height. And my grades were not particularly impressive. I don’t have them around, but they were largely just above average.

Over the course of high school, my body and brain continued to grow at a brisk clip. Those of my fellow students slowed down. From just above average, I became a top student without really trying. At the time, I was most interested in learning the Truth from the Christian Church. I read their books and transcripts of their speeches, and just skimmed the school books. My ever rising grades I attributed to wisdom from God. This is not necessarily wrong: Software certainly plays a role, and having a good framework for thinking and good values and habits can make a big difference. Studying books of timeless wisdom is certainly better for your academic progress than alcohol, weed, and days and nights spent in pursuit of random sexual experiences.

But looking back across the great expanse of time, I realize that my brain also continued to develop after most others stopped, because my internal clock was slower than those around me. If I had been compared to those of the same physical development as me, or even the same height and body weight, I would have been smart all the time. But because I was constantly running two years behind my classmates, I barely managed to keep up mentally, and not at all physically and socially. Now that I caught up with them, I became a genius.

So how did it feel? It felt amazing. It felt miraculous. I had moved away from home when I was 15, as there was no high school nearby. I lived with my aunt and her husband and daughter, who did not really know me well enough to realize what was happening. The only way I could conceive of what was happening to me was in religious terms, which was my reference point in the world at the time. With all due respect for my aunt and her family, I was increasingly “alone with Jesus” (as the actual members of that particular church lived several towns away). So to me, it was a miracle. God had given me wisdom, as he promised, so that I now could see things that other men could not. The scripture was fulfilled which said: “I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119, 99.)

Looking back, I realize that “wisdom” may be a bit of an exaggeration, but then it is for most adults, alas. But it was true that I now felt more on a par with teachers than with fellow students, and it continued that way for the duration of my education. Only when I started looking for work, did I gradually begin to realize that I wasn’t as awesome as I had begun to feel. I could not understand that I was rejected for two hundred jobs in a row despite having top grades or nearly so all over the place. (This was before grade inflation – top grades was for geniuses.) I was not intelligent (or wise) enough to realize that many of those rejections might be because of those grades rather than despite them.

But the transition itself was glorious, apart from the confusion that comes with being a teen. To go from being at the bottom of the pecking order to being a natural winner? It was like going from larva to butterfly. I suppose I ought to write a novel about it, if I live long enough. But then, it was only the first of several changes in my life, and there are things more important than raw IQ. It took me years of running against the brick wall to learn that. Still, genius is certainly a wonderful gift or heritage and reason for gratitude.