What would you un-invent?

What would you un-invent?

A New Scientist blog recently asked this delicious question. The blogger’s choice? Google street view, which apparently allows crooks to plan burglary.

What would you uninvent? Apart from obvious things like weapons, or perhaps television. Funnily some thought that a science magazine asking this question was an act of unreason and that the write was a luddite.

Nah, once you get beyond constructivism-determinism and other heavy ideas you can just treat it as fun… so no, don’t uninvent this blog.

I really liked some of the answers, though not all these uninventables have actually been invented as such… so my top 10 will be….

1 war on drugs
2 military industrial complex
3 monotheism
4 goods with built-in obsolescence
5 anti-terrorism and conservative censorship laws
6 leaf blowers
7 reality tv
8 hedge funds
9 bosses
10 spam



While I’m at home recuperating… and having to rest heaps which is boring… I might as well amuse myself.

There’s an interesting new computer game coming onto the market today called Spore in which people design creatures, create ecosystems and biospheres and push their creatures through stages of evolution, civilisation and space age. The setting is a large and complex ‘toy universe’ that took 5 years to design. It bursts with details from galaxies down to the cellular level. SMH article

Sounds fascinating. I hope this will be way more sophisticated than some earlier civilisation games where I can’t help but criticise the parameters that go into the game and the obvious societal values that accompany those (what can a poor sociologist do… also, will leave the chemical and biological and other aspects to chemist and biologists to chew over!)… think limited range of political systems with rigid rules and low number of societal subsystems and institutions with again rigid parameters and built-in assumptions. In any case this game is more biology than society though at the civilisational level the social building blocks are difficult to avoid… unless, gasp, there’s a big whack of sociobilogy built into it… will see.

So far it looks fascinating, complex and wonderful.

Here’s the trailer:

I like that the developer released the ‘creature creator’ ahead of the game (even though this is obviously both PR and free extra utility) so that people can design lots of species and populate the Sporesphere, in effect creating a world in which people’s creatures interact with each other. I wonder how this will actually happen and how the different developmental levels will look like.

Watch Robin Williams go through the ‘creature creator’ here, ending up with a rather weird and hilarious organism! 🙂

Here’s also a more detailed overview video.

Scrabble squabble

Scrabble squabble

Scrabble has just gone through a revival through the Facebook application Scrabulous where some half a million people have taken up playing this time-delayed online version. Trouble is Scrabble is a trademark game and as such the developers of this app are now being sued by Hasbro and Mattel who hold the rights for the game. So Scrabulous has been taken off Facebook and a lawsuit is under way.

Scrabulous dropped from Facebook

The whole sage is of interest to me as I love playing the online version… enriching my Scrabble-infused relationships across time and space.

The stubborn developers have re-jigged the game in the meantime and launched it under the name WordScraper which is mean to be sufficiently different from Scrabble to pass without another lawsuit. It’ll be interesting to see if it survives both on a legal level and in terms of enjoyable features that gamers will enjoy. Hasbro itself has a Scrabble app on Facebook but it seems greatly inferior to Scrabulous and so far unpopular.

Scrabulous resurrected as Wordscraper

Funnily Scrabulous has sparked its own debates about online cheating which the digital version seems to facilitate by allowing time for turns. More obviously being online and having lots of cheating software on hand increase the alluring of ‘cheating’. I myself found that as long as cheating only happens on the word search level and both parties use the same tools this kinds of ‘cheating’ just elevates the game to another level altogether. Despite this I now enjoy traditional ‘non-cheating’ games more 🙂

Here’s a funny article on the ins and outs of online Scrabble cheating: I am rubbish at Scrabble – but playing it online has taught me how to be really good at cheating

The whole Scrabble kerfuffle led me to the interesting history of the game itself. It was invented by Alfred Butts, an architect who lost his job in the Great Depression and turned to his invention which became a passion and obsession eventually shared by his wife and friends. Their handmade games were sold to friends first but didn’t make it big for a long time. After several improved versions and rejections by toy makers Scrabble became a hit in the early 1950s in the hands of an inspired financier and later Selchow & Righter, almost 20 years after its first home version. The original inventor Butts died in a nursing home aged 93 and played his game til the very end when he couldn’t remember people’s names yet he could still play some high-score words that suprised staff. He wasn’t sour about not making much money on the game, instead he was delighted by its later popularity. Quite a nifty story really!

With the Scrabulous and WordScraper versions the history of Scrabble continues! Read more about its history in this great Gurdian article by Oliver Burkeman: Spell bound

Khet & tix

Khet & tix

Nerdy stuff! 😀

Craig and I separately ended up in the Socrates toy shop in Bondi Junction and Craig bought a Khet. This is a rather kooky board game that will take a bit of getting used to… which should be fun 🙂

You have 2 built-in lasers and move pieces around the board a bit like in chess, except some of your pieces have mirrors on them that reflect the beam. The aim is to take off the opponent’s pieces by hitting them with the laser, strategising so that the path of the beam ends up hiting them before your opponent can move the pieces away or change the angle of a mirror!

Khet: the laser game

My brain had a hard and interesting time adjusting to the logic of it all. Now we just need to get together with other afficionados or interested friends and see how far we can take it. Let me know if you want to try it! 🙂

Also booked my flight tickets to Istanbul-Barcelona-London-Sydney for Jul-Aug!! There’s lots more organisation, like side-flights to Budapest and Rotterdam and accommodation, but we are all on our way, all 3 of us in the combined trip: Craig, Tiff and I. Really looking forward to all this!

Craig found a strategy page, I’d better put that here too to remember… khet strategy … and some more

I changed the middle pic here.. it’s now a photo of Craig playing with his Chinese green laser on the Khet board… he blew some smoke on the board to make the laser’s path visible… noyce 🙂