Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Citizen entrapment

As I understand it, people who break the law cannot be prosecuted if the police set up the situation in which they break the law. Is the same true if the general public rather than the police set up the situation? What if, a group of citizens leave a briefcase in the back on an unlocked car, but hide video cameras and put a tracker in the briefcase. Once someone steals the briefcase, it is reported to the police and the tapes and tracker handed over. Is this allowed? Is it acceptable?

Online banking

Online banking would be greatly improved if the organisations that you spend money with send the information on what you have bought to the bank. For example, if you shopped at a supermarket, the supermarket sends the receipt information to the bank. On the bank statement, people could click on the payment to get more detail on what they have bought. This would make it easy for people to manage their money, identify mistakes and fraud, and, with consistent item description/code would enable me to easily identify how much I spend on chocolate per year!

Truism of the day

Before you can write, you must read.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Oral/Computer RPG

Although I've not played Dungeons and Dragons since the age of 15, I have always been fond of the idea of people creating their own fantasy escapism. The advantage over computer RPG is of course the flexibility of having the world's creator (i.e. the DM) at hand to respond to the player. But how to bring computer games' advantages (graphics, computational complexity) to the tabletop player?

A hybrid system would use computers to model aspects of the games, but not the entire world.
Ideally this would use a laptop with accessory screen/projector allowing the DM to switch of the main screen to edit the world and see character stats.

For example, the DM narates the story of the characters travelling. He then clicks a button on the computer (a random encounter test). If the party meets the encounter, the DM loads the encounter with pre-designed scenery and monsters. The players can then see what they're fighting and the environment they're fighting in.

Another advantage of this system is that stats could be modelled as numbers without the player knowing the exact number. Each stat would have description brackets so the DM can communicate with the PCs without letting them know the numbers. e.g. Strength 1-5 => pitifully low.

Are we learning as a society?

It seems to be that there is so much information out there, too much for us to process. As a result we tend to base out decisions on anecdotal experience rather than rational/scientific method. There are no firms answers to the most significant questions:

What is more efficient, private sector or public sector, centralised or decentralised?
What is better, the carrot or the stick?

Society swings from one side to another: after witnessing the inefficiencies of public sector bureaucracy it cries out for competition. Then, after experiencing the corruption of the private sector it remembers the fond old days of the honest civil servant.

Perhaps it is appropriate to swing: change is good. But is change not inefficient?