• Lucid Dreaming

    I was consistently able to have lucid dreams when I was in high school. Partway through a dream, I would realize that I was dreaming and could then control the rest of the dream to a small extent. As I’ve grown older though, this has become less and less common. Maybe age has changed something about my brain.

    Naturally, I’ve been interested in lucid dreaming and have read a lot about it. Tim Ferriss has a fascinating beginner’s guide on his blog. Different people seem to have different approaches and theories, so I thought I would write about my own experiences.

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  • Universal Basic Income

    I wonder sometimes about what a better society than ours would be. What should our goals be as we try to improve?

    As our society improves and we get more efficient, I like to imagine a future where we don’t have to work as much. That seems like a nice thing to aim for. Universal basic income (UBI) seems like one possible solution. If we could afford to give everybody a fixed minimal income, people could work less and still have a basic amount of wealth needed to survive. But I’m not yet convinced whether UBI is the correct answer to describe an ideal future.

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  • The Value Promise of Subscription Games

    I had been playing World of Warcraft on and off for about 10 years, but I decided to stop playing again about a year ago. I quit because of a series of changes that were made to the game, and it motivated me to think about why I reacted that way as a paying customer.

    A series of recent changes made to WoW were designed to motivate players to play by ensuring they always gain something and grow a little every time they play. Unfortunately, a side effect of these changes was an increased pressure to spend many hours playing. This made me feel like my limited time spent in the game was less valuable, and is what ultimately led to me quitting the game.

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  • How to Cook Popcorn in a Pan

    The best way to cook popcorn in a pan. The secret is to heat up the kernels evenly in hot oil first, before heating them over a flame to pop them quickly all at once.

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  • Picular - Google, but for Colors

    Picular is a site that lets you search for words like “water” or “summer” and see a list of related colors. It seems to work by running a Google image search and extracting the primary color of that image.

    This is the kind of project I love. It’s simple and easy to understand, but fun to play with.

  • Game Idea: PvP Pac-Man

    Concept

    Play Pac-Man online against other players. 1 player plays as Pac-Man and 4 other players play as the ghosts. Pac-Man’s goal is to collect as many dots as possible, and the ghosts’ goal is to work together to catch Pac-Man. Players receive points at the end of the round based on performance, and roles are rotated for the next round.

    Gameplay

    In terms of strategy, the ghosts will need to work together in order to win. Pac-Man will move faster than the ghosts, so the ghosts’ main strategy will be to trap Pac-Man in a corner. To encourage teamwork, all ghosts will receive the same amount of points at the end of round regardless of who actually caught Pac-Man.

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  • The Value of Blockchain Platforms

    I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what benefits there are to building a new product on a blockchain. Blockchains allow an app to be decentralized, and the biggest value they bring is a solid way to handle trust and consensus in an environment with no central authority. I was having a hard time thinking of products that would really benefit from being decentralized, but I came across an idea about decentralized platforms that makes a very strong case for using blockchains.

    The idea, introduced to me by this post by Alex Tabarrok, is that a blockchain-based platform is uniquely able to align its needs with the needs of the users. If a traditional platform wants to create economic value for itself, it often needs to do things at the expense of its users. It can’t maximize value for both the users and the platform at the same time. But a blockchain-based platform can, through its tokens, increase its value directly by increasing value for its users.

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  • Facebook Is No Longer a Communication Platform

    When I started using Facebook in 2005, it was exclusive to college students and was by far the best way to communicate with my classmates. It was the first time I could learn what my friends were up to without asking each one individually. Everything I wanted to know about my friends was in one easily accessible place.

    All recent updates were shown as one long list, but Facebook eventually introduced the News Feed. This was an effort to filter everyone’s updates to show just the most important ones. Facebook made educated guesses about whose updates were most important to you and hid the ones you wouldn’t care about. I think they also kept an option to see all updates in chronological order if you didn’t want to miss out on anything.

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  • Are Video Games Still For Kids?

    I grew up in the 90s, and back then video games were made for kids. Toys were for kids, and video games were just the newest, most exciting toys around.

    But as my generation grew up, we never really stopped playing games. As we became adults, the game companies kept making games for us, and games shifted to targeting an older audience. It makes sense that these would be successful since adults have more money to spend on games than kids do. Video games became a form of entertainment just like movies, and they started using serious storylines and graphic violence in the same ways.

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  • Google's AlphaZero Destroys Stockfish In 100-Game Match

    Google’s AlphaZero program is a machine that plays chess, and it has managed to quickly become the strongest chess AI in the world by implementing machine learning techniques. While existing chess AIs have mostly been massive dictionaries of moves that are put together by humans, AlphaZero learned chess entirely on its own with minimal human input.

    As I understand it, the hardest part of creating an AI that solves problems like chess is finding some way to calculate if you’re winning or not. If that were easy to do, the program could just look at all of its possible moves (which is not very many for a computer) and see which one would leave it winning by more. The trouble is that it’s very hard to tell if you’re winning. You might need to consider all possible outcomes many moves in advance, which quickly becomes too many to calculate.

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