Machine Learning, Game Design and Headaches

Oh man I need to get this posting schedule down better, I really have been slacking off.  I guess I only have so much brainpower to go around.  I was going to say “bandwidth” instead of “brainpower” but that’s one of those corporate buzzwords I hate.  Anyway the title of this post basically explains why there have been so many long gaps between posts.  Here is a bit on a few things I’ve been struggling through lately.

Machine Learning

This one, oh geeze this one.  Machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, it has all been blowing my mind lately and really captivating my interest.  I think I might have some kind of attention disorder because my attention gets captured by different things so often.

This is a fascinating area of computer science right now and it is only growing.  There is a kind of gold rush when it comes to data, the results of which we are starting to see in our daily lives through digital assistants (google apple and amazon), photo recognition (think google photos) and even the new on the fly translation offered by google through their new headset.

With machine learning data is king, the company with access to the most data will end up the one on top in this space.  It’s no coincidence that google is leading the way in machine learning.  The more I learn about how it works the more I want to get involved.

This area of computer science also raises fascinating philosophical questions around what really constitutes “intelligence” and how to know if we ever replicate it artificially?  The coolest thing about machine learning for me is that when you train a program to do something (say recognize a face) and then it does that thing no one knows how it did that.  Sure we know how it was trained and the math behind it, but there is no line of code to point to and say “here is where I knew”.  This is much like how brains work.

We can see neurons light up and map areas of the brain responsible for specific things but we really can’t break down the process of facial recognition and say “this is exactly how you knew that face was your mom”.  It’s what we don’t know about how these things work that I find most interesting.

I’ve seen charts and graphs comparing the abilities of machine learning computational power today to the intelligence of a mouse.  The question is how do you measure that intelligence, how do you quantify something like that?  Sure a computer can solve a maze faster than a mouse can, but is that really intelligence?  Sure a computer can recognize animal images with more accuracy than zoologist’s but does that mean the machine is as intelligent as they are?

With the rise of this area I think these questions start to matter more and more.  If a program was built that could hold a conversation with you, that could navigate the world, that could respond to emotions and modulate itself accordingly would you call this intelligence?  Or is there something more to it?  We already have programs that can do all of the above, depending on how you define the “intelligence” part of “artificial intelligence” one could argue that we have already created an AI.

One thing I am fairly certain of though is that when and if we do create a self-aware AI it will be like nothing we have ever seen before and most likely we won’t be able to understand it.  We may be in the early stages of building our own Gods.

All I know for sure though is that this is a fascinating area of study and I plan to keep learning all I can about it.

Game Design

Game design is hard.  That’s really all I need to say here.  Like most other things all I feel that I’m really learning is that there is so much to learn.  I never thought I would regret dropping Math in grade 12, but here we are.

It’s funny, talk to me five years ago and I would have laughed at the idea of entering the video game development world.  Crazy how things change.  I’ve said before that I think this art form is a perfect blend of story, visual art and digital design.  So maybe it was inevitable that I would end up here.  I only wish I had started sooner because there is just so much to learn.

I am gaining ground (slowly) and starting to feel more and more confident, which is good.  Designing a quality game will take lots of time and effort on my part but that’s why I’m doing it.  Without a consistent challenge in my life I end up depressed, bored and anxious.  Maybe I thrive on stress, or maybe I’m just always stressed anyway so might as well be productive with it.  Who knows.

It is going well though.  I have two ideas floating around in the old brain bone, one that I’m working on and one that I will start on after I finish the first one.  The one I’m working on now is much more ambitious so I figure it will force me to learn a lot and then I can apply those skills to the second idea.  Or maybe build a foundation with the second idea and go from there, time will tell.

They are totally different game ideas though, one is a kind of sandbox style game and the other is a total narrative style adventure game.  The sandbox one might be too ambitious but requires less art skill on my part which is part of the reason I’m doing it first.  I need to build my visual art skills up.

I’m hoping I can have a kind of proof of concept build done in the next six months but it’s hard to tell.  The only thing I know for sure is that if I keep plugging away on this with enough time I’ll be able to get something done.  The benefit of doing this stuff as a side project is that, while it doesn’t generate income, I am at least only beholden to my own schedule.

Headaches

I have one today.  I get one most every day.  If I pretend the brain is a muscle I can tell myself that the headaches are from working my brain out too hard.  Really they are probably due to sinus and back trouble.  Not complaining, just wanted to include a third thing.

Brings up a quick random topic though, the idea of working through pain, working through fatigue and when does the value of the work become less than the value of your own health and sanity?  For me it’s almost never.  I find my purpose in these projects, I fine my passion in them, these things are where I find my drive.  Sometimes that might take a toll but I’m thankful I have that.

I’ve realized that I truly am lucky to have a passion.  Sure it would be nice if my passion could overlap with how I pay the bills, but I’m lucky enough to at least have found a passion.  It would be a betrayal to myself to not pursue my passion even if it sometimes has a cost associated with it.

That’s about what’s been going on.  Lots of personal life developments too and they are all positive ones which is always nice.  Thanks for checking in, keep on keeping on.

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