Tekkit Sucks

There is a set of Minecraft mod packs that includes Tekkit and Technic. You may have seen these showcased in a number of venues, including a popular Yogscast series. Let me just get this straight. Tekkit is stupid. It was obviously designed by someone who looked at Minecraft and said, “I’m going to make this the best game ever.” Unfortunately, they merely succeeded in creating a hodge-podge of mods which take away from the core of Minecraft.

The gluttony of blocks in Tekkit.

The gluttony of blocks in Tekkit.



But what is the core of Minecraft, really? Ultimately, Minecraft is what you make it. I say that unironically, even though I’m about to tell you how it should be. Minecraft has always been a great source of surprise. Legions of Youtube videos outline hundreds of crazy contraptions and structures that use the basic mechanics of the Minecraft universe to form impressive and surprising constructions.

Nearly every feature in Minecraft has a way of being exploited to perform tasks that the creators never even fathomed. Beyond the basic mechanics such as crafting and smelting, the use of a feature is mostly left up to the user. Fluids, redstone, minecarts, TNT, signs- must I go on? But really that was the appeal to begin with. You can create completely new contraptions within a very simple set of game rules.

This is why I think many of the features Notch added in later updates- wolves, potions, dragons, the End- run contrary to the spirit of the game. It’s OK to add elements to expand the exploratory, adventuring parts of the game. But when that threatens to push the creative, inventive part of the game into the shadows, I think the developers need to re-evaluate their priorities. Minecraft was never prized for its combat, or adventure. It became popular because the game allowed players to invent their own set of rules and develop the world how they liked. When the developer takes the reigns and decides the end-goal FOR the player, something has gone awry.

For the same reasons, I absolutely despise Tekkit. I can see the good intentions behind it, but it completely fails at its mission. A group of people, perhaps, with no sense for the game, were intrigued by how much could be done in Minecraft. But they thirsted for more. So they set out and gathered mods which let them do what they wanted. Pipes let them transport items, tanks let them store fluid, pumps let them suck it up, engines and solar panels gave them electricity, quarries let them automate mining, and energy condensers let them get any material they needed. To make it more “balanced”, they added a larger set of materials needed to build these contraptions, including rubber, and tons of new ores. Furthermore, a control system was needed, so they put a programmable computer in. A computer that ran Lisp scripts. And you loaded the scripts from outside Minecraft. They needed more power, so they added uranium and a nuclear reactor.

Suddenly, it wasn’t Minecraft anymore. It was a horrifying maze of features that was no longer surprising. Sure, people could build fascinating things that were intricate and took enormous amounts of time. But it wasn’t really surprising anymore. A nerd with a computer and a huge set of physical actuators can obviously accomplish a lot, whether the computer is in a videogame or not. The appeal of Minecraft was that nobody thought building a ALU was really possible when it started out. Half the crazy contraptions were for accumulating resources: automated farms ranging from chickens to monsters to reeds to cobblestone to snow. With the energy condenser, nobody needed ice pipelines or chicken friers. Sure, you could still build them. But there was no point. Oh, you built an automated oil refinery? All it takes is pipes, pumps, and refineries. The blocks are all there. That’s the only thing a refinery is used for.

Blocks only have one purpose, even if that is a broad purpose. Engines power pipes and quarries and pumps. Fuel goes into combustion engines. Refineries make fuel. Pumps suck up liquid. Quarries dig. Seriously, you make a single block, which then automatically digs. You can also add a pump to it if you want it to suck up water and lava. But there is no design for you to modify. You can’t make it more efficient, or irregular, or spray water on lava. You can’t build a giant engine room which is twice as efficient due to interlocking designs. You can’t build a computer, since there is already one built. Want to spray some construction foam over everything to make it blast-resistant? Boom, done. Need a nuclear reactor? There’s a block for that. Want to make it bigger? Sorry, you can add on extra chambers, but only up to six. It outputs a high-voltage. You need to make a very specific set of blocks, each of which steps the voltage down one level.

Again, this violates the very essence of Minecraft. That’s why I developed a plan for a comprehensive mod that allows most of the same functionality of Tekkit, but goes much, much further. I will cover this mod in a future post, or probably multiple posts.

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The Parabola of Technology

Today I completed the February USA Computing Olympiad. If you have any coding interest, you should check it out. It has three divisions: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. If you do well enough in Bronze, then you are promoted to Silver for the following competitions, and then similarly to Gold. You have 3 hours to complete 3 problems; the Gold problems require pretty advanced knowledge of algorithms and a quick coding skills. Contests are held monthly.


The Growth

I’ve always thought of human progress as a parabola or exponential curve. That is certainly true for population:
graph of world population
The human race has made so much technological progress recently, especially taking off after the Industrial Revolution. Starting in the 17th century, the intense competition between Western countries (and then all industrialized countries) has advanced knowledge and created an infrastructure in which that knowledge can be used. Every piece of knowledge allows us to learn more, every invention allows us to learn faster. Then, in the 19th century, politics was overturned and industrialization began. Near the turn of the 21st century, technology has taken off. We are looking at an unprecedented age ahead of us. Today, some of the things we can do seem like science fiction. Yet we are still using 19th and 20th century frameworks. This restricts our ability to use the new technologies.

Education and Infrastructure

For instance, our education system is archaic. Now, that statement may seem radical and uninformed to you, but bear with me. The education systems of industrialized countries are designed for industrializing agricultural societies. The majority of people (farmers and factory workers) would only go to school through elementary grade levels; they don’t need much education to work, but they do need to be literate. Accountants and other people who are going to work white-collar jobs would continue on to high school. Judges, lawyers, doctors, and professors would go on to a university.

Now, there has been educational inflation. College degrees have gone from rare to necessary. If you want a job which pays even moderately, you need a degree. And they are becoming less valuable even now. With the Computational Revolution, we no longer need a large amount of factory workers or farmers. Most of all, we need people to produce content; we need people with creativity and ideas. Yet the school system still focuses on a core of math and science. It progressively excises creativity and focuses on particular learning conduits. For years, schools have been preparing people for a past that is obsolete in this future. This fundamental failure of the educational system is partially responsible for the huge system failure we have seen over the past few years and will see in the coming years. Even though people have realized that the school system is inadequate, our current social infrastructure lacks the capability to facilitate such a major change.
(Inspired by this TED talk)

Restructuring

Why are we still burning fossil fuels? Why are we still digging up metals from the Earth when we could be sustainably mining them from asteroids? The answer lies in our industrial infrastructure. As much as I hate to say it, the capitalist structure we use right now may not be sufficient in the coming age. Certain technological switches, such as those regarding energy and raw material acquisition, may take time and money to complete which makes them seem immediately unattractive. However, their eventual gain over current methods in regards to sustainability makes them desirable in the long run. It seems that the only way to make the switch is to wait for cheaper technology or to rely on buying power independent of market forces, like a government. Unfortunately, our government is doing the wrong job. It isn’t really doing a bad job, just the wrong one. 19th century political changes have established government obligations those of welfare and public works. Bank regulation is necessary as well. Ensuring a certain level of public education must be necessary. But is the government’s bureaucratic grip slowly suffocating the education system? Probably. The government just isn’t built to deal with things like the Internet, which has decreased communication times so much that ideas are being synthesized faster than ever. The government can’t respond quickly enough to the future. Without even looking at other areas of our infrastructure, we already see problems in the educational set up.

If the government can’t do a good job giving education, should we leave it to private enterprise? Private schools are too expensive for everyone, although they often give quality education. That leaves us with two options: a mass-migration of education onto the Internet, or a fundamental restructuring of the educational system. Let me give you my takes on both of these options.

Online Education

Education on the Internet has seen a small trial with things like the Stanford AI Class, which is exclusively online and open to everyone. The interesting about that and their upcoming follow-up classes is that it took place in a set time, with homeworks and tests. In terms of static lectures, which teach non-interactively, you can look at MIT OCW (open course ware) and Khan Academy. Then of course there are classes which you can pay for (usually a couple hundred), in which you are with a class of other people online, and you periodically read notes, have debates, and turn in homework. Overall, I’m not sure how much online education is going to play into education in the future. Will online courses supplement public education? That is certainly an interesting idea. It would allow schools to focus purely on the most fundamental parts of the education, and people who are further interested in a specific subject could learn more about it online, perhaps within a mini-course, and then get a credit for it. That would allow people to make the most of their education and focus only on things that interest them. Similarly, people could build a “mini-degree” that consists of small courses based on an underlying concept, such as studying human-machine interaction or social networking and its effects on the market.

The Guild System

One idea I’ve been kicking around for a while is that of guilds. Instead of educating people around a core of math and science, we could limit and individual’s education to one field, such as biology, physics, computer science, business management, economics, material engineering, electrical engineering, etc. Which guild you belong to would be determined either by birth or at a young age after essential low-level education. Guilds would control all of the experts in the field, and could lend them out to other guilds or to joint-research projects. They would also have access a large of amount of knowledgeable teachers. They could even make teaching mandatory after retirement. Companies could lease teams of experts.

More over, retirement would be pushed back. Currently, an average person spends half of their life producing. That means the other half is spent passively consuming. Roughly speaking, from 0-20 a person is soaking up resources. From 20-60, they are working. From 60-80, they are retired and again consuming. So unless you can produce enough during your working years to sustain your consumption years, you need to either work longer or die sooner. On the same thread, retirees should not receive welfare from the government. If either a company, foundation, or descendant isn’t willing to pay for an old person, they are a needless burden. While harsh, it is the most logical course of action. Even if this was put in place though, people would adjust. New insurance companies would take the place of government welfare agencies.

Anyways, more to come. Food for thought.

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