Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Compulsion of Infection

Today I want to write about infection. More specifically a Zombie virus infection which as most geeks have one time or another thought about has the potential to destroy life as we know it.

As some of you may know who read this I’m a programmer who is slowly but surely improving his skills and always looking for something to interest me and extend my skills. I recently came to this idea after watching The Walking Dead a series currently showing on FXUK.

Ignoring the series (it’s about Zombies and the fall of society), the thing that interested me the most is that it follows the rules of Zombification or the more specifically the Zombie infection. The majority of these rules were pioneered by George A. Romero who has written some of the most famous zombie films on earth such as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead (the original) all the way to the more recent films such as Diary of the Dead.

The rules for his zombies and the infection can be found online but what I'm most interested in is the idea that these rules can be written into code and simulated over a timeframe.

Romero’s rules encompass the following areas of zombie actions:

  • Process of infection and reanimation
  • Behaviour such as recall of former actions
  • Locomotion and their movement specifics
  • Physical causes and limits of the virus or reason for reanimation (this one isn’t really needed)

However I’m planning to change these rules slightly and go for the sub-set of rules written by Max Brooks in his books World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide due to the fact he goes to close description in their “hunting” methods and tracking process.

The Plan…Batman

As a start I'm planning to program this in Java and to simulate the infection from ground zero outwards in a set area of land. I also hope to have different variables regarding the beginning of infection.

To begin with their will only be two starting states. One will be initial inception where one person will have the virus and the outbreak from their. Another will have a single party (1-3 Zombies) will come from elsewhere into the area and cause the outbreak.

For a starting goal the first area will most likely be around 1km x 1km wide and be simulated at 1 pixel = 1 metre level which will allow for a high degree of detail in movement considering the way zombies track.

I do not plan to model weapons or ways for humanity to repel this virus as that is not my original aim but the infection must be modelled to some degree to allow an un-winnable situation.

To begin with the things that are needed are Zombies and Humans with the ability to move while adhering to basic rules (of humanity and inhumanity).

Both need to know their landscape, the area of land also needs to be simulated most likely through a large expanse of white with red dots for zombies and green for humans. Possibly yellow or orange for the infected.

The working title for this is Infection if anyone has anything to add to this in either ideas or articles to the actual spread of a contagion then please contact me.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Fashion and Zero Knowledge

It’s been awhile since I updated this blog and I decided that now is the perfect time as it’s a sleepy Sunday afternoon and there is no chance of me going out. The last time I updated this blog it was regarding friends with a slightly morbid tone but with a sense of trust regarding mine. I have some good friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world but however today this is not a blog post about me or those around me (at least it’s not focused at that) but let’s see how it goes.

Today I’m going to talk about William Gibson’s books but specifically Zero History, the Fashion industry, the necessity of learning however much we wish not to and my personal opinion of all these things. So grab whatever your poison is and join me in this mystic adventure of swatches and needles.
I think it’s best to start at where this thought chain started which is with William Gibson and more specifically his newest book Zero History. William Gibson is a mainstream and cult writer who has successfully managed to read the pop culture of the time to create some scarily accurate ideas of how technology will evolve in time and what uses it may be put to.

This is not to say that he’s necessarily correct and some of his ideas are truly fantastic (as in fantasy) however, his writing is superb and only getting better with age and his grasp of how language and slag is used is unrivalled. For all you doubters out there and you know who you are, there is one word in common usage that Gibson actually wrote and coined. This word is everywhere in our world and is used daily, this word is Cyberspace. Even MS Word doesn’t complain when you write it! That has to be some kind of seal of approval?

Anyways less about Gibson and more to the point. In his latest book he speaks of Fashion, as an industry, and more specifically the subculture of fashion trends which ebb and flow in the undercurrents of society and business that are not noticed by the average person during their daily lives.

 Have you ever wondered who makes the decision for the entire world to suddenly decide to change trends? Who decides to wear jeans around your hips rather than your waist? People that’s who but this has to start somewhere and Gibson decides to take the idea of viral marketing one step further to actual items  that are viral and moves through society being a known unknown which extends beyond the usual brand such as Levi’s.

Ideas of viral, you place an idea in someone’s head and this can expand to the point where everything they do is defined by it. A good example of this is relationships, you tell someone their partner is cheating and suddenly every action their spouse takes is judged by this idea which continues to grow and spread. Imagine if Fashion is the same, someone comes up with a new kind of jean design and people are wearing this. Manufacturers see this and decide to make similar jeans, these dilute from the original design but still hold the essence of what makes them that design and they spread until the idea dies and interest is lost. There is a point where these ideas become critical mass and they must either die or continue as an accepted tradition or design in its own right.

Fashion is a strange business which has a strange set of strictures around it. My girlfriend is studying Fashion and Dress History at Brighton University which is about the legacy of fashion through all classes’ boundaries and historical eras.

Fashion is big business due to the fact the design is where the real money is made. Clothing is made and sold with normally over 100% mark-up on the original materials. If you’re buying a pair of jeans for £70 then they’ve been made for around £35. This is at odds with how clothing used to be. During World War Two all items were rationed including clothing. The items of clothing that were creating during the war were designed to last and be of high quality so you would not have to buy another. They were designed with the idea that people would know how to take care of their clothing.

A shirt made during the turn of the 20th Century would have cost much, much less than it would have today even with currency changes but it also would have been of much better quality as our society decides that clothing should be discarded if it’s damaged rather than fixed and used again so quality is not at the fore.

Does this seem mad to anyone else? That this can be allowed to happen? Clothing should be of high quality to last and be maintained through its lifecycle. However there is a problem with this which is that it would come at the cost of progress within the industry and maybe even outside it.

Fashion is a very quick industry which has continual cycles of new and old showing in different guises. Gibson recently said in an interview with the BBC: 
"In the 1960s I think that in some sense the present was actually about three or four years long," he said, "because in three or four years relatively little would change."… "Now the present is the length of a news cycle some days," [LINK]

Because of this we have a problem which is that if people no longer have to buy clothing why would they? The business has sped up to the point that there is no longer a timescale of life for a certain item of any kind. The newest iPod may last for only a week until the next big thing hits the same is with fashion which is why I feel that we cannot move back to the old ways and from now you will always have to pay for quality and maybe it’s a social change that needs to happen to make people to feel okay about repairing clothing rather than discarding them.

Now on to the part that talks about learning even though you wish not to. Most of this is things that I have picked up from my girlfriend and through general reading of Gibson and other sources. I’m sure some of this is incorrect and I would be more than happy to learn of my ignorance so please feel free to contact me if you find any.

As Always I’d be interested to hear from anyone out there about my ideas.