Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I was reading an interview with John Carmack yesterday. It seems the DoomMaster has decided to spend his game millions playing a real life and death game: he wanted to compete for the Ansari X-Prize. Of course, Burt Rutan has that now. Some games require significant practice and despite Carmack's prodigious self-learning capability, aeronautics is more than knowing how to build a Newtonian propulsion system. Rocket science is something rocket scientists do best.

The interesting comment he made was that he was reading mostly papers written in the Fifties and Sixties because he disliked the acronym-filled papers written from the 1970s forward. As someone who worked for NASA in the early eighties as a technical writer for the Marshall Space Flight Center where Saturn V and Shuttle engine development was done and later for DoD contractors, I commiserate with Carmack. Acronyms become the magic spell words of technological social networks. Having mastery of the latest acronyms is the precise equivalent of the now short phrases and acronyms of chat, instant messaging, and yes, the gaming community. They determine who is in, who is out, who is hot and who is not.

In other words, they not only determine what you know, they are used to rank membership in the social network of a technology, and of course, Carmack resents that. It is as if he is being denied access to the cheat codes in a game and as a result, he will lose consistently to better connected players. In a technology such as manned space flight, when that happens, your avatar gets removed permanently usually in a big noisy fireball a few feet above the ground.

One should know when one isn't ranked to play certain games and when the network is telling one not to play. Acronymphobia is nature's way of telling you that you may not be up to a game.

"On finding the sign, apply your mind. Thus you will not sleep."

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