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A proposal to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 in Ireland
This is a long one. There is no TL;DR, but Google tells me it should take about 10 minutes to read. Or, you can skip to The Plan - Summary if you want the bullet points. But why should you give this any time at all? My background is in data analysis. Making sense of numbers is what I do for a living. I have been studying COVID-19 since I was locked down in March and the experience has been frustrating in equal measure. The difference between what was happening on the ground, and the story that the media told was genuinely alarming. The government / NPHET never even tried to stop the virus getting into the country, and no one held them to account for their (non)decisions. The disastrous consequences are all around us, and much of it was preventable. Six months later, and the country has barely moved on. The ‘experts’ have no goals and little control over the virus. The media frame every issue as a crass binary choice between more or less restrictions and are otherwise happy just to have people to point their fingers at. The government / NPHET has nothing to offer the people, other than admonishments to do better and repeated cycle of restrictions. Meanwhile students, artists, the over 70s, small business owners, the entire events and hospitality industries, and regular people who cannot WFH have been left swinging in the wind. Some have been evicted, others are relying on drugs to get by. This situation is not just a problem for one or two parts of our society: this is a widespread degradation of our quality of life. If I can do anything to help, I feel obliged to try. Context As I see it, we have three choices:
Give up = ‘herd immunity’ / Great Barrington Declaration
Take the path of least resistance = ‘Living With The Virus’ (living in fear of the virus)
Solve the problem = elimination / eradication
I won’t argue over technocratic definitions like ‘elimination’, ‘eradication’ or ‘suppression’. These distinctions are semantic in an environment of oppressive civic restrictions, mass unemployment, waves of business closures, and general misery. Whatever gets us to a place where we can live our lives as normal (or close enough), and the public health infrastructure can take care of the virus, that’s what I’m aiming for. This proposal cannot work without public support. No proposal can work without public support. Public adherence is the single most important variable in the equation, yet it is the one that the politicians and the media and the ‘experts’ have ignored. FG burned through a lot of goodwill in the first lockdown (and money, and resources, and lives…). Instead of vilifying people who aren’t adhering to the rules, policymakers need to recognise the sacrifices that the people made (which were subsequently squandered) and they need to earn that trust back. This proposal cannot work without support from the North. That doesn’t mean that we need to convince them to adopt our plan. It means we need to convince them that the goal is worthwhile and achievable. From there we can work together to coordinate our policies. Managing our own affairs with competence, would be a good start. Picking up the phone to talk to them, instead of trying to browbeat them through the media, would also help. Irrespective of your goals or beliefs, some facts are certain: there will be lockdowns, there will be government spending to support the economy, and the virus will demand public health resources. All of that will happen in the coming months and years, whether we have a plan or not. The question is whether those resources are used to solve the problem, or whether they are wasted on a plan that keeps us going around in circles. So yes, there will be lockdowns in this proposal, but they will not be FG lockdowns i.e. lock them down and throw away the key. Through intelligent policies and a greater mobilisation of resources, we can do so much more with our lockdowns to reduce the burden on the people and make their experience more tolerable. Indeed, that trade-off always exists in public policy: better policymaking = happier people. Which is why the politicians usually get the blame, and rightly so. We need to move to a more ‘war time’ mindset. Not because we need a shared enemy to unite us, but because we need to mobilise every possible resource at our disposal and focus it on the single most important issue affecting us all. We need more tests, we need vehicles for mobile testing units, we need facilities for quarantines. Wherever there is spare capacity, we need to find a way to put it to good use. We need to take most of the power away from the narrow-minded medics, and get the rest of our society and our civic infrastructure involved in planning e.g. community representatives, legal experts, business leaders, An Garda, the army etc. People want to invest in their communities, they want to help their friends and neighbours. There are people all over the country who would rather be volunteering as part of a national plan to get rid of COVID-19, than to be sitting at home on the PUP, going crazy listening to the ‘experts’ – who failed to prevent this – talk about more lockdowns. We need to harness that latent energy and build it into the plan. One of the most important factors that is within our control, is the degree to which policymakers communicate with the people. And I mean real communication, not press releases or attention-seeking speeches from the other side of the world. We need to talk to the people, listen to them, answer their questions, take their feedback on board. The people aren’t stupid. They know a good plan when they see it – which is why few are paying attention to the ‘Living With The Virus’ stuff – and they have valuable information that can help make that plan work. Underlying these points is a need to create intelligent rules, and to enforce them strictly. Strict does not mean harsh. Strict enforcement is not authoritarianism, and it is not an invitation to a fight; it is simply administrative competence. In the context of a contagious outbreak, administrative competence is the difference between life and death. I’ll finish this section with the caveat that all parameters are suggestions or placeholders. The exact numbers will depend on resources, on more data and further analysis, and on input from communities and other stakeholders – all of which is within our control. The Plan – Summary Like any problem in life, if you can’t solve it directly, you break it down into smaller, less complex parts. Instead of putting the whole country into lockdown and trying to eradicate the virus from the whole island at the same time – a miserable experience for all – we should go county by county until the job is done. We seal off a county, flood it with resources, clear it of COVID-19, and then let it reopen as normal. We repeat the process for neighbouring counties and then combine them when they are cleared, to create a larger ‘Cleared Zone’. The process continues and the Cleared Zone keeps growing until it covers the whole island. This approach allows us to focus our resources on one area at a time (nurses, doctors, tests, volunteers etc) instead of spreading them over the whole country. We can be more comprehensive in our testing and quarantining measures, and more confident in our plans. Short, sharp, strict lockdowns work best. By maximising the ratio of resources to population, we also lower the burden on the people. In particular, we minimise the amount of time that people spend in lockdown, and the less time they spend in lockdown, the more likely the plan is to work. This structured approach also makes it easier for us to measure our progress and make reliable forecasts. We can allocate our resources more efficiently and plan our responses more effectively. Observers can watch our progress and judge for themselves whether it is a good idea (i.e. politicians in the North and / or protestors in Dublin). Perhaps most important of all, the structure makes it easier to explain the idea to the people and get buy-in before anything happens. We can outline the plan, explain how it works, explain how it compares to the alternatives, and then give them realistic estimates of what would be required and how long it would take. Then we can hear their feedback and take the conversation and planning from there. I have heard any people talking about elimination and ZeroCovid, but do any of them have a plan for getting to zero? Or a plan to get the people on board? Step 1: More structure and responsibility from leaders Step 2: Less uncertainty, easier decisions, better outcomes, less stress for everyone Step 3: Profit. Elimination. The Plan – Implementation We isolate a county and lock it down for an initial 3 weeks. An Garda man the county borders. They are supported by the army, who provide boots on the ground so that An Garda aren’t stretched. Most routes are closed off so that all essential travel goes through a few well-manned checkpoints. If we do a good job with planning and communication, there won’t be much work to do. We test systemically high-risk households and high-risk individuals early and often i.e. large households and essential workers. With help from local volunteers, medics screen as many people as possible every day. We use multiple measures and repeated applications to improve the quality of our results. We want to identify and remove cases at the earliest possible point, both to reduce the chance of further infection, and to protect the individual’s health. Low risk confirmed cases (young / healthy) go to a safe and comfortable quarantine. Local hotels and guest houses could be used, ideally before we invest in building quarantine facilities. Local taxis, kitted out with extra protective equipment, could take them there. High risk confirmed cases (older / comorbidities) go by ambulance to local medical facilities as required. During this period, we work with local politicians, community leaders, residence associations etc to ensure that everyone is looked after (in reality, these conversations will have started weeks before). We get our neighbourhoods communicating, looking out for each other, making sure they’ve got enough food or heating or whatever else they need. Local volunteers and taxi drivers can do odd jobs like sending packages, collecting prescriptions, lifting heavy stuff, or just checking in on people. If it is feasible, we can even invite local artists to play gigs for people in their streets or apartments. Towards the end of the second week, we begin a mass testing program with the ultimate goal of testing every person in the county (scale depends on resources). Once we have completed the tests and cleared the confirmed cases into quarantine, we can begin a slow, staggered opening process. We must be especially conservative at this point to ensure no slippage. When one county is clear, we move to the next one, and repeat the process. When we have cleared two bordering counties, we can join them together in a bigger Cleared Zone and the process continues from there. Eventually the Cleared Zone covers the whole country, except Dublin (or more realistically, the Pale). What would the other counties do while they wait for their turn? I’m assuming that, they would be doing whatever the ‘Living With The Virus’ plan dictates. This proposal succeeds in line with what happens in the sealed off zones, so I am more concerned with them. However, it would speed up the process if the bordering counties could be encouraged to get a head start. If the plan is going successfully, I’m confident they would. With its population density and its complexity, Dublin / the Pale will be the last county to be cleared. However, given that every other county would be cleared by that point, and with so much effort having been put in, it might make more sense just to burn Dublin down. We could go with a concrete mausoleum as per Chernobyl, but it might be easier and quicker if we just raised the city and started from scratch. The country needs to rebalance, so it’d be two birds with one stone. Or maybe we call that plan B. Dublin’s plan A would follow the same principles as for the rest of the country. Break it into smaller parts, focus resources on one area at a time, use layers of risk measures where precision isn’t an option, and get cases as early as possible, using whatever resources available. By that stage the rest of the country would be clear and the demand for medical resources low. We would have learned a lot along the way, and we would have plenty of ammo to throw at the problem. In general, the more resources we have, the faster we can move. The county by county approach that I have outlined above is too slow. With greater resources, we can increase the number of counties that are being cleared at any one time. One option is to work by province. Another would be to define the zones with respect to observed travel routes, in order to reduce the risk of leakage and reduce the inconvenience on local communities. At the end of the day, lines have to be drawn somewhere, and some people will inevitably lose out. The better we communicate with people in advance, the lower the burden on the people and the more of these problems we can avoid. Following on from that, one of the skills we need to take from this crisis is the ability to isolate and quarantine regions. Whether it is a city, a town, a county, a specific building, or even the entire country, we need to be able to seal it off and control movement in and out. This is an essential tool for outbreak management – whatever the outbreak and whatever the disease. The same goes for individuals. We need to be able to create and operate safe, comfortable, and effective quarantines, and to do so at short notice. It should be a matter of national embarrassment that FG and NPHET couldn’t even organise a quarantine in a pandemic. The whole process might take 3 to 4 months. That means we would have cut off all non-essential air travel for that time, but it doesn’t mean the whole country is in lockdown for 3 or 4 months. The lockdown is staggered, and the individual’s experience will depend on their location and their place in the ‘queue’. The first group of counties to go into lockdown will also be the first to come out. Once they have eliminated the spread of the virus, they will return to a normal, although somewhat isolated, society. The experience steadily improves as more and more counties join them in the Cleared Zone (or steadily deteriorates, depending on your county pride). While the first group is in lockdown, the rest of the country continues as normal i.e. living with the virus. Everyone watches as the first group goes through its lockdown (just think of the #banter). Several weeks later, as the first group is opening up, the second group is preparing to go in to lockdown. As the second group comes out, the third group goes in etc etc and the staggered lockdowns roll like a wave across the country. Every county goes from Living With The Virus -> intelligent lockdown (needs a better name) -> Cleared Zone. The earlier you are in the queue, the less time you spend Living With The Virus and the more time you spend in the Cleared Zone. The individual would only be in a strict lockdown for a matter of weeks, maybe 3-6 depending on the complexity of the region and the resources available. For counties with smaller populations that have shown that they can do a good lockdown, it will be quicker. For Dublin, it will be slower. Strengths I think this proposal has a lot of strengths. It’s a plan, for a start. We haven’t had a plan since this thing began (the FG lockdown wasn’t a plan – it was the inevitable consequence of not having a plan). The leaders take more responsibility to lower the burden on the people, it mobilises idle resources, and it fosters communication and community across the country. These are three strengths that I want to emphasise. 1 It provides clarity This might be the most important point. Uncertainty is painful. Uncertainty is a cost. Even if the bad thing is unlikely to happen, just the fact that it is a risk, or that it could happen means that you live with a cloud over your head. Suffering is bad enough on its own, but suffering for an unknown length of time is torture. And if that period is determined at the whim of a politician or an ‘expert’, that is a recipe for society-wide anger and even civil disorder. With this proposal, we can forecast the length of the period of lockdown with greater accuracy. The people will be able to understand what is being asked of them. We can make plans around resources required versus those available. The economists can make forecasts. Businesses can plan their finances. The people can plan their weddings, book their holidays, get back to training, sign up for courses, and have things to look forward to. At the end of the day, any successful proposal must remove the uncertainty and provide meaningful clarity to households and businesses. 2 Never let a crisis go to waste This plan will require tools and capabilities like rapid local testing, safe quarantines, rapid isolation of towns and regions, emergency decision-making frameworks etc. If we don’t have a capability, then we need to build it. When people say ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ this is what they mean: you build the tools in the crisis that will help you protect yourself from the next one. Nature works the same way. You lift weights until the muscle fibres tear, then they grow back stronger. We build aerobic endurance by pushing ourselves to a limit, then our body naturally reacts to increase the limit. A vaccine works similarly by stimulating antibodies for the disease. Well, we need a civic emergency vaccine for Ireland. These tools are the antibodies that will protect us next time. The sooner we build them, the better. Now is the time, not later. 3 It's the only way we can protect the economy The risk to the economy isn’t the next few months of revenue. We can borrow to cover lost income in the short run. The real risk is a wave of defaults that precipitates a financial crisis. As more individuals and businesses are put under financial pressure, more borrowers will default on their debts. But one man’s debt is another man’s asset, so as the borrowers default, the lender’s financial situation also deteriorates. Defaults are contagious, and if a wave of defaults threatens a major lender, the entire financial system will be at risk. Only an elimination plan can protect the economy. Along with the virus and the uncertainty it creates, we need to eliminate the risk of financial contagion. Weaknesses Could ya be arsed The End Goal Think about what’s on the other side of this… This is a massive challenge – the kind that defines a nation. However you think of your community, this would give you something to be proud of for generations. It would be like Italia ’90, except 10 times bigger, because we would be the players, we would be the ones making it happen. We’d become the first country in Europe to eliminate the virus. And of all the countries in the world, we’d be doing it from the largest deficit too. Those Taiwanese and Kiwis made it easy for themselves with their preparation and their travel restrictions and their competent leaders. Our challenge is much greater than theirs, but they show us what is possible. Have you ever wanted to scoff at the Germans for being disorganised? Wouldn’t you love to have a reason to mock the Danes? Aren’t you sick of hearing about New Zealand? Let’s make the Kiwis sick of hearing about the Irish! If we take this challenge on, the world’s media will be on us. The FT, the Economist, the NYT, the Guardian, Monacle, Wired, the New Scientist, China Daily, RT, Good Housekeeping, Horse and Hound, PornHub… all of these international media empires would be tracking our progress, interviewing key people, reporting daily, willing us on. The world is desperate for good news, and we can be the ones to give it to them. We would become a model for other nations to follow. They would take the Irish model and adapt it to their own situation. Instead of us copying other nations, they would be copying us. Instead of a pat on the head for the diddy little Irish fellas, we would be literally LEADING THE WORLD. Back at home, we get our lives back, and society can breathe again, free of restrictions. The over 70s come out of hibernation. The students go back to university. The protests stop because people go back to work and we announce an inquiry into what exactly happened in February and March. The pubs go back to being pubs. Our hospitality industry is taken off life support. The tidal wave of bankruptcies is avoided. We can play sport and celebrate the wins. We stop talking about things we can or can't do. Just imagine that first session... And imagine how good it would feel knowing that you had worked for it, and knowing that you had set the nation on a better path for generations to come... I think it’s worth a lash! Don’t you?
Since Bitcoin was created back in 2008, there have been numerous shady individuals and companies for that matter that have used the hype to their advantage to facilitate cryptocurrency scams. These shrewd schemes conned thousands upon thousands of people who knew virtually nothing about cryptocurrency but wanted to invest in this alluring venture. 2018 is underway but here is this year’s top cryptocurrency scam thus far:
Just a little over two weeks ago BTC Global collapsed and Broker Complaint Registry has received numerous complaints pertaining to this fraudulent broker. The company claimed to be an exclusive platform providing unparalleled earnings through valid binary trading services, but that was unfortunately not the case. Here are excerpts from there website: “We are backed by our founding trader at Steven Twain.” This “Steven Twain” character is not a real individual. “Steven has 6 years of experience trading binary options with consistent success, over the last 3 years he has started providing trading services for other large account holders ($10,000+ only).” I have not come across any trading history pertaining to Steven Twain. “Through our partnership with Steven, BTC Global have secured access to guaranteed 14% WEEKLY returns from as little as $1,000 in your account. We have also secured extra returns to pay out as referral commissions should you decide to share this opportunity with others! There are very few legitimate opportunities to get the kind of returns on investment BTC Global is offering so we encourage you to get involved as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.” How can a legitimate company guarantee any sort of returns? In BTC Global there were two ways one could earn:
Return on investment, which was 14% of the dollar amount that was invested, paid weekly in BTC.
Team shares or commissions on the people that the investor recruited or referred (think of a pyramid scheme).
BTC Global – a textbook Ponzi scheme.
The definition of a Ponzi scheme is as follows: A deceitful investing scam guaranteeing high rates of return with little to no risk to investors. The Ponzi scheme produces returns for earlier investors by procuring new investors. BTC Global certainly fits the bill Investment values generally go up and down over a duration of time, especially the ones that offer potentially high yields. If an investment consistently generates the same returns despite the market conditions or guarantees these high returns that is cause for pause. Additionally, Ponzi schemes usually involve investments that have not been registered with the SEC, FSB or any other regulatory agency. Obviously, registration is pivotal as enables investors to access pivotal information pertaining to the firm’s management, services, products and most importantly finances. Lastly and most importantly if you do not receive a “scheduled” payment or incur difficulty when trying to cash out your investment that is the biggest red flag. Those who promote Ponzi schemes regularly ask investors to “roll over” investments and often promise returns in excess of the amount that was rolled over.
How to protect yourself from a cryptocurrency scam
Although we have just talked about the BTC Global scam, this is not the only one. The very best way to ensure your funds are safe is to know how to identify and avoid ponzi schemes like BTC Global. Stay far away from ICOs, unidentified companies and companies that do not provide suitable information. Be sure that creator’s names and all team members are publicly listed and verified and, if reviews give consistent negative feedback it best to avoid that cryptocurrency broker. If you have fallen victim to a cryptocurrency scam, send a complaint to at [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]), and we will do our very best to get into contact with you as soon as we can to initiate your funds recovery process. Visit www.fundsrecovery247.com for more information or Contact - [email protected] com.
Last updated: 11:35PM EDT April 29 Figured since no one else started one, and since I'm so active here, I'd do it. Magyst is looking for bugs the team can look into. This is a work in progress list, so feel free to post about your bugs (preferably with video/picture proof where necessary) and I will add it to the list. Issues already listed on the Trello will not be included. I'm listing issues in order of my personal perceived importance (based off of how frequent and how impactful the bug is), with cosmetic issues as lowest on the totem pole. I realize some of you may not agree, and that's ok. Also, just because I list one bug higher than another, it doesn't mean Epic will be able to squash it before something lower on the list. Major Issues
Deathbomb Modifier damages objective - Even with a fully intact defense, the objective can be damaged by deathbombs. https://streamable.com/9kfct4
Damage Pulse Miniboss damages objective - Similar to the Deathbomb modifier above, Damage Pulse minibosses can damage the objective, even with intact defenses. (Credit u/Thrawntheambitious)
Lobber Projectiles can damage objective through builds - Again, similar to the two above, lobbers can damage the objective even with defenses intact. (Credit u/Binary_Trifecta)
Crossplay - Admittedly, not necessarily a bug. But for the health of this game going forward, we need complete crossplay in all mission types. It's getting harder and harder to find people to play with, even with server hopping.
Weapons stealing ammo - Weapons with AND without magazine size perks are sucking up a full magazine worth of ammo the first time they are pulled out in a mission. This is causing people who grind missions to lose ammo fast. https://streamable.com/s9zgws
Failed to lock profile - Not sure exactly what causes this, and while a restart usually fixes it, it is annoying nonetheless.
Bows not shooting properly - Arrow will fall at your feet instead of going to their intended target. (I admittedly don't use bows, so if there's more info about this, let me know. Looking for video evidence)
Husks spawning in terrain - Husks can spawn in terrain and damage structures placed against that terrain, a big issue in SSDs/Endurance. (Credit u/johanril) When doing encampments, somewhat frequently a husk will spawn inside terrain, making it a pain unless you have a weapon like the Neon sniper or want to reset your progress on the encampment.
Guardian's Will sometimes causes a Ninja's double jump to stop working - Current workaround is to jump off the map and respawn. (Credit u/CaptainIrreverence)
Anti-Air Trap Perks - The 5th perk on the anti-air trap does not work when it's set to "Increased Building Health". I had "Heals 4.8% of max health every 10 seconds" as my 4th perk. The health of the floor piece did not change when the increased building health perk was on or off. (Credit u/icecoldcoke319)
Some husks ignore the objective and/or player to attack environmental objects that they could easily go around - (Credit u/CaptainIrreverence)
Mimic spawns - Mimics seemingly aren't spawning like they used to, they're much harder to find. Makes the "What's in the box" main story quest a pain for players to complete. (Credit u/card_collect)
Some missions occasionally wont start - Retrieve the Data, Eliminate and Collect, and Resupply sometimes wont have the countdown timer and mission objectives appear, even with everyone connected and loaded in. Can be fixed by someone leaving, but doesn't always work. (Credit u/BlackGunsMagee)
When placing any structure (wall, ramp, floor, roof) when a trap is selected, it places the trap instead of the structure. - Possibly related to the turbo building option. In the first clip, the bug happens when trying to place a floor piece but instead it places the broadsides that was selected. Same thing with the second clip but this time wooden floor spikes are selected and it places this trap instead of the wall piece. Both times only the floowall button are being pressed, nothing else. (Credit u/FaufiffonFec) 1. https://1drv.ms/v/s!At7DUcCwK-dygQXEW6KnR0YI0CBu 2. https://1drv.ms/v/s!At7DUcCwK-dygQYAruMn4CZ8zu7U
Blockbuster Quests "You Are Overpowered" - Some players are facing issues doing the quests in The Crater zone, the game is telling them they are overpowered. This can be circumvented by removing survivors, but the normal person wouldn't know this. (Credit u/Card_Collect)
Players below PL122 still able to get Mythic weapons - Debated on where/whether I should put this, but I figured it belongs here. Players invest a lot of time to reach end game content and secure mythic weapons. Only to have little billy in Plankerton, who traded for a bunch of 130s he doesn't actually need, also get the same mythic weapons.
High impact weapons and abilities (seismic smash) are causing counterintuitive reactions on impact. - Rather than husks being pushed in the opposite direction of the damage, sometimes they are pulled towards it. (Credit u/CaptainIrreverence)
Players getting kicked for AFK in private and friend's only matches (Credit u/BlackGunsMagee)
Occasionally the Freedom's Herald won't reload - Need to swap weapons before being able to successfully reload the Freedom's Herald (Credit u/Card_Collect)
Occasionally survivors won't spawn when visiting a blue - Used to be 1 per non rescue the survivors mission, though it seems to be more rare now. However, last week I built a survivor relay in a rescue the survivors mission and a survivor did not spawn.
Inviting someone currently in BR to a StW mission in progress, they are unable to load in unless they leave the party and rejoin. - The player is stuck on the world map, unable to even see that there is a mission in progress. (Credit u/BlackGunsMagee)
Kicked for AFK from friend's SSD causes softlock on PS4 - (Credit u/BlackGunsMagee)
Storm Shield Assist sending players to zones way above their level - I like that I don't have to check each zone to see if someone needs help, but there should be something in place to prevent Stonewood players from getting sent to Twine assists. Perhaps adding a PL check, or making it so players can only be sent backwards from the zone they're searching in?
When using a controller, on the mode selection screen, if you go over to StW it will automatically move you back over BR after a second or two. (Credit u/BlackGunsMagee)
Ability charge count not accurate - I'm not sure if this is related to the bug that's listed on the Trello about being swapped to your pickaxe when using an ability on cooldown or not, but picking up charge fragments does not increase the counter, phase shift counter is not always accurate, etc. https://streamable.com/00fizx They temporarily update to the correct numbers after use of the ability, until you earn another charge. https://streamable.com/j4gn6q (Credit u/Baumpaladin)
Emotes continue to play sound for other players after its use is over
Sound wall infinitely continues to play sound after it's set off for the first time in endurance matches (Credit u/Scotty_begood-)
Point it out Emote Leaves a pickaxe in the air while using your pickaxe to emote, which shows two pickaxes on the screen at once. (Credit u/nate_oc)
Peri-areolar top surgery with Dr. Fischer - the pre-op report
Hi everyone – this is a follow-up to a post I made about a month ago, asking if anyone would be interested in the details of my then-upcoming top surgery. I’m officially post-op now (five days!) and working on a ridiculously detailed writeup. This is the first part, which goes right up until the surgery itself. I’m going to wait a few more days to do the post-op one so that I can go up to the process of getting the drains out. Feel free to skip to the end to get to the salient info, and to comment with any questions about stuff I might have left out! So, without further ado, how I got here: First the basics. I'm 31 years old. I live in Maryland. I'm five feet tall and weigh around ninety pounds, give or take a couple in either direction. My chest measurement before surgery was about 28 inches, and about 26 "underbust." I've never been on testosterone or puberty blockers. I've never really had to wear a binder, and avoided it because I knew that I had to be gentle with that tissue if I wanted the results that I'd really hoped were possible. Keep this in mind - I'm hardly an average representation of anything, so my experience is most likely atypical in a lot of ways. But I'm hoping the overall information could be helpful. I came out when I was 25, though I'd known since high school. Top surgery was on my radar, but trans stuff was on the fringe then - I read a lot of "butch lesbian who got top surgery" blogs, which was the only thing that made it seem possible for me, though the thought of paying for it (I was overestimating the cost by almost double, and too scared to actually look it up) seemed unthinkable. I didn't know about anything but double incision surgery, which was pretty horrifying to me. So I put the thought out of my mind for almost ten years. When I aged out of my parents' insurance and got my own, most plans had a line specifying that they did not cover anything meant to "alter the patient's physical sex," or something to that effect. This changed a few years ago, but at the time I didn't qualify for sick leave at work, and I was still paying off my student loans. Along the way things progressed - I started using a new name, then changed it legally, and then my state started allowing "unspecified" gender markers on driver's licenses. I paid off my loans and saved some money, without acknowledging to myself what I was saving it for. And then I got a letter at work, informing me that they were now required to provide medical leave for anyone working over 15 hours weekly. And suddenly a lot of things came together, fast. My mom has always been supportive of me, but she was not very happy to hear about this. After talking it over a lot, we ended up going together to a therapist who worked with both trans people and families - incidentally, our therapist was also nonbinary, and we had to take a break in our visits while they recovered from their own top surgery. We visited them a few times over a few months, and they suggested that I at least look into getting my surgery covered by insurance, and directed me toward the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health. I had done research on several of the big names in top surgery, particularly those who do a lot of peri-areolar surgeries - I was very not into the idea of double incision, and knew that, while I was not the seventeen-year-old kid on T who's a sure thing for peri, I had a chance. But getting it covered would make the financial hit more bearable. I did some research on insurance coverage. When it came time to renew my Medicaid coverage, I switched to an MCO that had a history of working with Johns Hopkins. I contacted them about finding a therapist to write a letter for me, and about getting a consultation - I expected to have a long wait to meet with Dr. Devin O'Brien-Coon, but they suggested that I come in much earlier and meet with Dr. Benny Tan, who had only recently come to work at the Hopkins center, so I got my letter and scheduled my appointment with him. Dr. Tan had just started at the JH center when I had my consultation with him, and while he had a lot of previous experience doing breast cancer mastectomies, he was clearly a lot less familiar with top surgery. He was adamant that I was ineligible for peri-areolar surgery, and would have to have double incision. He seemed to have some weird misconceptions about the details - at one point he said that no one ever regains any nipple sensation after surgery (???), and when I mentioned the concept of the eventual shape of my chest being somewhat dependent on how much muscle I can develop through exercise he sort of laughed and said, "Well, maybe if you decide to become a bodybuilder." When I asked if I could see post-op pictures of some of the previous procedures the center had done, I was told no, that Dr. O'Brien-Coon didn't want to suggest that there was any guarantee of a specific kind of results. He seemed like a nice guy. He answered the questions I had, and my mom's. But I did not feel good about this. At the same time, I was trying fruitlessly to get any information at all about whether I would, in fact, be able to get this covered by insurance. I won't go into the boring details of one million phone transfers, but after several days the question was resolved: because the insurance required a previous twelve-month period of hormone replacement therapy, I was out of luck. At this point I wasn't even upset - it just made it clearer that my original plan was what I was going to go with. Finally, I paid $100 to have a consultation with Dr. Beverly Fischer in Lutherville. Dr. Fischer was one of the surgeons I'd been researching from the beginning - she's been performing surgeries since the 90s, including a lot of peri-areolar surgeries, and she also is the most local of the surgeons I'd looked into. I'd seen pictures online that people had posted of her work on people with body types very much like mine, and I was impressed. Dr. Fischer doesn't take any insurance (you can try to go through a process on your own afterward, and perhaps get at least a partial reimbursement from your insurance, but that's up to them), but I had the money saved, and I felt it was a fair trade to have a greater level of control over the experience. Since Dr. Fischer has her own small facility, the consultation was very smooth and low-key. Again, my mom went with me (this was right before covid started, but even now she allows one visitor to come with a patient). She looked me over and assured me that I was definitely a candidate for peri (they all say "keyhole" there, which confused me, but I'm going to keep saying peri, by which I mean full circular incisions around the areola). We were given a breakdown of the cost ($9,700) and shown into a little room where they gave us a binder of pre- and post-op photos to look at. Again, her work is very impressive - my mom, who was not familiar with the different styles of surgery, was reassured that they did not look as scarred up as she was probably expecting. This was a much better experience than I had at Hopkins, enough to convince me. Then the pandemic hit! Needless to say, things were on hold for a while. The library I work at was closed for over two months. In June, we started working again, but with a very minimal schedule. I'd been doing almost double my baseline hours by filling in for vacant positions, but now I was working fifteen hours per week maximum, meaning I didn't lose any substitute pay for taking sick leave. So I called Dr. Fischer's office and made the soonest appointment I could, for September 16th. I made a 10% payment over the phone ($970) and scheduled my appointments for three weeks prior to surgery. Three weeks before surgery: I went to Dr. Fischer's office for my pre-op appointment. Because I'd already been measured during my consultation, this was mostly a lot of information and question-and-answer sessions with their surgical coordinator Shannon. My mom came with me (all of us wore masks, and we had temperature checks when we came in, as well as standard "have you had any covid symptoms or been out of state" worksheets to fill out). Shannon brought out a set of the drains and showed us how they'd work (they are still stuck in me at the time of this writing, so I'm trying not to think about it too much!), and gave me a folder of pre- and post-op information, plus the sheet to give to my primary care doctor when I went to get my bloodwork done. The instructions were pretty standard - try to eat a lot of protein in the weeks before and after surgery (raises your red blood cell count so you recover faster), get up and walk around on the first day (helps the anesthesia junk work its way out of your body), don't lie on your back eating applesauce the whole time (you're not going to hurt yourself, live your life, just be gentle). Mentioned, but for some reason not included on the printed sheet: there's a one-day-post-op appointment the morning after, just to check everything out - this means that AFTER your surgery you shouldn't eat or drink after midnight, and through the morning, just in case there's an unexpected need to put you under to correct anything. I brought them a check for the remainder of my payment - $8,730. As weird as it seems, seeing the money actually come out of my bank account didn't bother me at all. I'd saved that money with this in mind, so it seemed natural to finally use it. They also gave me a stack of four prescriptions, which I filled on the way home: One pre-op anti-nausea pill, one pre-op Xanax, several post-op pain pills (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) and several post-op anti-nausea pills. Fortunately this was covered by my insurance, because I sure did NOT need all of these. I went within the week to get the required physical and bloodwork at my regular doctor's office, and just handed them the sheet that said what results needed to be sent to Dr. Fischer. Apparently there was some kind of faxing error and I didn't find out for a couple weeks that they hadn't gotten the results, but that was fixed by some relatively simple phone calls. I'd recommend calling a week after the blood test to confirm that they've received everything. I put in a request for six days off work - starting and ending on a Wednesday, with a normal weekend between. They usually recommend ten days, but I have a very low-activity job and only work short shifts, so they agreed that eight days would be fine. This is another factor that might have been different if I had been getting double-incision surgery, which I've heard can take a few more days of recovery. Some days later, I got a call saying that the anesthesiologist wouldn't be able to be in on the Wednesday I was scheduled for. I was all set to move everything forward by a chunk of time when they clarified that no, they wanted me to come in one day earlier. Well, okay then. I added a Tuesday to my leave. I am told that I will need to get an "excuse note" to take back when I return to work, which I haven't asked for yet, but will probably get at my one-week-after appointment. A few days before surgery: This is the time to get things in order wherever you'll be staying. Of course you can't prepare for everything, but I did as much laundry as I could, made sure I had plenty of prepared food in the house, checked out a ton of books and DVDs from the library. Trimmed my hair and nails. Note that you are required to shave your armpits so the tape doesn't stick to them when they bandage you up - if you're not used to this, I recommend doing it a couple days in advance, because it's a Bad Time. Night before surgery: I got the usual confirmation call from them the Monday before my surgery date. I got everything together (medication. Sweatpants, button-up shirt, socks, slip-on shoes, COTTON underwear, which is the only kind you may wear in surgery. The folder of information. My old ipod and headphones). I went to bed relatively early as I knew I was going to be up early, though it might have been better to stay up and have a late snack before the midnight deadline. Day of surgery: September 15th - my surgery was scheduled for 9:30, and my arrival at 8:30. I was told to shower and wash my hair, to only use antibacterial soap (we had the Dial orange bar) for my body. I used baby shampoo on my hair, because I wanted something that wouldn't leave any weird residue, since I knew I wouldn't be able to wash it again for some days. Deodorant is allowed, but no lotion. Brushed my teeth. No food, no drink, no chewing gum. I went to the surgery center with both my parents, but right now they're specifying only one guest per patient, so only my mom came in. There's a little retirement community and some stores around, so they had somewhere to hang out while they waited. I left my mom's phone number with them on a post-it so they could call her when they needed to come back for me. I took my bag and went into one of the patient rooms, where I was given this hilariously large toga-looking thing to change into. I gave them my bag of meds, and they came back with a tiny bit of water for me to swallow the Xanax. The anti-nausea one dissolves in your mouth and tastes like strawberry mentos. In a little tiny room with a ring light, they took a series of pictures of me from ribs to neck, at straight-on, side, and three-quarter views. Later I looked back at a computer screen and saw these pictures and briefly thought "who the hell's that?" Not that I'd had any doubts before that I was making the right decision, but that made it pretty clear. Dr. Fischer came in after that, and drew about three dashed lines on my chest. My assumption is that these were so that when my skin shifted while I was lying down, she would be able to see what parts corresponded to where when I was upright. I asked briefly about what kind of resizing she would do around my nipples, which are very slightly asymmetrical, and she said that she uses a kind of template that would make them turn out a bit smaller, and, yes, the same size. The anesthesiologist came in to give me the rundown on what would happen when I was taken into the operating room. I would put on a hairnet, I would get an IV that would put me out, then a mask of gas to keep me unconscious. A small tube would be put in the back of my throat to keep my airway open, and might give me a sore throat for a couple days after (spoiler: it did, but it wasn't too bad). Some kind of contraption of sleeves would periodically squeeze my legs to promote blood flow. All fairly standard, probably. So they let my mom come in and hug me, and I said, "see you soon!" and they walked me back. Sorry for the huge cliffhanger, but this thing is way longer than I thought! I'll be back with the post-op section in a few days, ok? And definitely comment any questions you might have. Recovery is boring. TLDR:
Total cost was $9,700, which was not covered by insurance, but depending on your provider it's possible to get reimbursed afterward for at least part of the cost.
Check with your insurance about getting coverage. Be persistent. They might have weird requirements that knock you out of the running, but it's worth seeing what options are available to you.
I had a copy of my therapist's letter sent to the surgeon before the procedure
Three weeks before surgery, there's a physical and bloodwork that has to be done by your primary care doctor, and the results faxed to the surgeon. I'd recommend calling both parties to confirm that the documents were both sent and received.
You'll need to be off work for at least a week, and more likely ten days, so plan for that.
Make sure everything you need is really accessible before you get back. If the cabinets are higher than your shoulders, put the dishes on the counter. It's like anti-baby-safing your house.
You definitely need someone to drive you to and from surgery, and I really, really recommend having someone you trust to stay home with you. Somebody asked about this in my previous post, and here's my updated answer: while you could technically be by yourself most days after the first, I really would not recommend it.
The night before, you must stop eating and drinking before midnight, but you might want to have a late snack if your surgery is later in the morning like mine was. I did not take this advice and I probably should have.
The day of surgery, no food or drink in the morning. Shower, wash your hair, and use antibacterial soap on your body. You can wear deodorant but no lotion. Shave your armpits if you haven't already. Brush your teeth. They will call you the day before and let you know exactly when you need to get there.
Stuff to have with you: Clothes that somebody else can put on you, including a shirt that opens in the front. Sweatpants are great. A skirt would probably be even better. The bag of pills they prescribed to you, plus any other meds you take normally (I brought my inhaler, but didn't need to use it). Just give them the meds and they handle giving you anything you need while you're there. A snack in case you have to take the pain meds on the way home.
Don't panic! People do this all the time, and the doctors know what they are doing. It's a lot of faith to put in someone you don't really know, but they want to do the best job they can.
Good luck to everybody reading this! I am feeling good. My recovery's been great so far and I'll go into more detail when I come back for the next part of this.
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Hey there Modern people, For those that have never seen me around before, I love budget Magic. Over on the Pioneer sub, I have this series that I do where I develop budget lists and run them through some games to report back there. For a couple weeks now, i’ve been getting more and more interested in Modern, so I figured that you guys could do with some of that budget goodness as well, and that’s what i’m here for today. If you didn’t catch it, last week I posted up a link to my Incomplete Compendium of Budget Modern Decks. (You can find that [HERE]) I’ve been updating that list since posting it, and it’s getting to the point where it’s almost finished. I’m going to take a couple of decks from this list and run them through some games so we can talk about how the decks perform. All of these decks are around a $100 budget in paper, and typically significantly less expensive online. One thing that I see very frequently when discussing budget modern decks is that Midrange strategies are basically completely unplayable because “YoU cAn’T tUrN a GoOdStUfF dEcK iNtO a BuDgEt DeCk”. While this is a little true (You just can’t fit 4x thoughtseize 4x Liliana of the Veil into a budget list unfortunately), it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility that you can play Midrange on a budget. Here, i’ve got three lists (Featuring some newly cheapened Double Masters cards!) that I think are totally viable as budget midrange options. Without anymore fanfare, let’s just jump in! --- Skred The first up for this one, we’ve got the first midrange archetype that I ever played in a tournament setting - Skred Red. For those that weren’t around in the stone age when this deck was popular, Skred Red is a snow based red midrange deck that looks to take advantage of its namesake as an extremely powerful removal spell, jam out a blood moon to lock out greedy manabases, and take over the game with difficult to deal with threats such as Koth or some Dragons. For this build in particular, i’ve decided to go for a suite of creatures that all provide Two for Ones (which will hereby be known as 2-4-1s) in some fashion, as well as going heavy handed on the card advantage spells that are within the budget range. One thing that i’ve learned is that Mazemind Tome is an amazing card, and if you’re playing a grindy deck that isn’t in blue you should definitely consider playing it. It helps to recover and stabilize in a color that otherwise doesn’t have access to lifegain, and drawing up to 4 cards is no joke. Other key synergies here include the combo of Eternal Scourge and main deck Relic of Progenitus to provide us with an “infinite” amount of 3/3 blockers or attackers while offering lines of disruption that most decks don’t have until sideboarding. Koth of the Hammer plus Mountains is also a very solid strategy for ending a game quickly, as the emblem is essentially unbeatable for the large percentage of the metagame. The main game plan here is to keep the board clear of creatures by any means necessary so as to not die, then jam out a threat that a creature deck won’t be able to deal with. This deck is basically the creature deck killer. Against non-creature decks, we’re really just hopeful that a blood moon or relic of progenitus is enough to slow them down so we can burn them out. Anyway, after playing some games, I ended up with a respectable 3-3. Modern is a lot more varied than it was in Skred’s heyday, which means that there’s a much smaller percent chance that you’ll go up against one of the deck’s stellar matchups. However, with astrolabe banned again Blood moon is definitely back on the menu as a real threat that people need to be concerned about. People pretty frequently seem to forget that blood moon is legal in the format; either that or they just don’t care enough about it and are willing to lose whenever it shows up. Janking people out with some stupid card that they aren’t prepared for is one of the cornerstones of building a deck on a budget, and Blood moon gives the Skred deck some major power. Overall, this seems more like a deck you take to an in-person event where you know that you’ll be facing up against creature decks and decks with greedy mana bases all night. I don’t think i’d take it to a large scale tournament with an unknown meta right now, but with some tuning it is certainly capable of pulling out wins. --- Hatebears Many people will look at a Death and Taxes or Hatebears list and think “Hey, this is an Aggro deck!”. While yes, on the surface this archetype definitely looks the way of a strictly aggressive creature beatdown deck, once you start reading the abilites and thinking about how they might play out over your typical game against any other random deck in the format, you’ll see that Hatebears is actually much more flexible, and able to adapt to become the control role in a large number of matchups. Hatebears was originally developed as a “Meta crusher” deck to beat up on jund decks by dropping a Loxodon Smiter on them when they went to play their discard effects. Since, it has existed in various forms, often being named interchangeably with Death and Taxes as they perform very similar roles in the modern metagame. The point of a Hatebears deck is to use efficient green mana dorks to jump ahead slightly into your powerful disruptive GW creature suite, and grind away at the opponent by having some kind of answer to anything that they’re doing while getting in for chip damage turn after turn. For my version, i’ve decided to supplement the removal suite with the combo of Containment Priest plus flicker effects to be able to exile any creature at will and keep them gone for good. This is supported by a small cat-tribal subtheme, as well as the typical litany of Taxes creatures whose job it is to throw the opponent off axis. The matches for this one went surprisingly well, ending on a 4-2 record. I played against a couple of combo decks who were completely hosed by the main deck hate cards I was packing, and I was also able to grind it out against a bant uro pile, keeping up with their creature threats as they struggled to answer my own. I’m pretty impressed with the deck in this small showing, and would love to see where this archetype can go in the hands of someone who really dedicates time to mastering it. The deck really rewards format knowledge, even in this budgeted incarnation, as it’s a deck that runs on very thin margins and making a wrong play somewhere can have devastating side effects a few turns down the road. Hatebears or Death and Taxes are in the category of decks where you grow as you play the deck, you tune the deck to perfectly fit against the overall metagame, and you’re rewarded for your dedication to the archetype. This isn’t a deck i’d expect to just pick up and start winning games with, there aren’t very many free wins here. If you like working for your glory, then Hatebears is definitely a deck for you. --- Delirium And now for the one we’ve all been waiting for. I promised midrange decks, and this is by far the most midrange-y of them all. Budget Son of Jund, the mac daddy itself, GB Delirium is here to kick tail and chew bubblegum…. And it’s all out of bubblegum. If i’m honest, I have no idea what that reference is even from. What I do know is that yes, GBx Midrange is in fact possible on a budget. For almost a decade, i’ve seen people ask “How do I play Jund on a budget in modern?”. It’s the most widely requested budget deck, and one of the most beloved playstyles. Magic as Richard Garfield intended, trading your resources with your opponent 1-4-1 in a true test of pilot skill and preparation. The deck with a 50/50 matchup against any other deck in the field not accounting for pilot skill. The deck that every man wants to be, every woman wants to be with, and every non-binary or asexual person looks at with the familiar fondness of a lifelong friend. The deck was just kinda fine. Another 3-3 record, I actually had much higher expectations for this one. I want to focus in on what the deck does well first, and that is approximate on a budget the playstyle and patterns of a non-budget GBx midrange deck. The choices feel almost the same, even though the card-for-card value is much less on our end. The deck offers an excellent stepping stone into GB Midrange decks in modern, and I feel as though if you’re looking for a first step into the format that this is one of the best ways to do it without playing aggro. Now, to what the deck does poorly. In building on a budget, we are limited severely by what we have access to, namely that we can’t build a “goodstuff” deck because all of the good stuff is heckin expensive. This means that we need to shift our focus onto synergy, because synergies exist at all levels in Magic. When we look for synergies in the GB colors, the most common theme we find is graveyard interaction, or playing around with our dead stuff. Going this route in modern without going all in on it means that we’re left weak to all the various graveyard hate that exists in the format without netting much of the benefit. While this means that we still get to play with some of the best cards we have access to, we’re left in a more vulnerable spot than if we were a non-budget build. Another area where we face difficulty is in the overall popularity of GBx as an archetype, meaning that we’re fighting against ourselves when trying to join in because anything of use to us is naturally going to be more expensive. While GB isn’t very pressed when it comes to making a mana base, we are pretty pressed in terms of removal as all of our best options are either $7+ or 3+ mana. We should also talk about timing in the metagame and what you should expect when taking a budget list for a spin. Right now, modern is dominated by Uro midrange piles, combo decks, highly efficient aggro decks, and prison style control decks. Not very many of these are excellent matchups for us when we’re not equipped with our strongest answers. Our small discard suite can keep the combo decks at bay long enough to sneak in some damage with our cheap creatures, and our removal can dispatch the early threats from opposing aggro decks, but when it comes to having better card for card quality than our opponents we’re just a little lacking. It doesn’t matter how solid your list is, budget or not, if the strategy overall just folds to an uro, and not all of your losses will be chalked up to your deck being cheaper than your opponents. It’s very easy to become discouraged when taking a budget list to an event and flopping, blaming your lack of investment for your lack of results. But sometimes its just a matter of your deck choice too, and that you picked the wrong deck to bring to an event. One thing that i’ve learned over my years of brewing with budget lists is that any deck, well enough tuned and piloted, can take down any tournament at any time. GB Delirium does a fantastic approximation of a midrange game plan in the modern format. It won’t net you the results that a full no-budget list might, but that isn’t the point of playing a budget deck. You don’t play budget decks to spike tournaments. You play them to get into formats, to learn, to get better, and to grow as a player. You’re meant to toss your budget deck to the wayside when you’re done with it, if you want. If you like the strategy, a majority of the time you can also use it as a base to build into the no-budget version of the archetype you wanted to play in the first place. If you take two players, both brand new to Modern UWx Control, and run them through series of tournaments with the only difference between the two players being that the first was playing a budget UW control deck for a year and the second is going in blind, the first will come out with a better record almost every time. They put in the time to learn the deck even before they could get their hands on it in full, and that practice will pay off. Moving 'round to the finisher, I just want to say that playing a budget deck doesn’t make you a bad player, it makes you someone who’s going to be a great player someday, and someone who recognises the value in investing time and learning. If you’re forced into playing on a budget, that’s alright. There’s options for you to play as competitively as possible. If you’re just unsure about whether you’d like the format you’re jumping into or not, that’s also alright, there’s room for you to grow. Budget deck building is a real passion of mine. I hope that you got something out of this, or at the very least had a bit of fun along the way. I have plans to make a whole bunch more content for budget modern, so stay tuned for that. If you’re curious and want to look through my whole catalogue of budget lists that i’ve made so far, you can do that [HERE] as well. Until next time, stay safe, stay smart, and thanks for reading!
With the changes that came with Icetide, it's a great opportunity to take things apart and help people progress faster. Stage One: Zero to Thirty Where else can we start, but from the very beginning itself. This won't be relevant to most, but as we have a bunch of new players from recent sales and a new thing to keep in mind.. It's a good time to talk about this. Now, it's no secret that the main campaign of the game will get to the level cap the fastest, but there's a slight speed bump at the end. This ends up being around Level 25 or so, depending on difficulty played to the end of the campaign. So what can you do to fill this gap? Realistically, there's only two good options. Seasonal Content or Quickplay Missions. Each has their benefits, and costs. Quickplay Missions is usually the recommended, as it will give you the most experience in the shortest time. If you want to hit 30 fast, this is the way to go honestly. However there's one thing that shouldn't be overlooked when considering the Seasonal Content. With the current Icetide Season, we have Competitive Strongholds. While they may not be the faster EXP rate, they do come with a bonus. You get to accumulate seasonal currency while you grind your last few levels. This currency can be saved until 30 to get a half decent spike in power and defenses, potentially letting you skip GM1, depending how much currency you build up. Alongside this, while leveling you will also be picking up a new currency, Guardians' Token. These tokens should also be saved, alongside as many Uncommon, Rare and Epic embers you can get. These will all eventually be materials for your early legendaries. Especially Uncommon and Rare Embers, Epic as still better to hold on to for Sigils if you can, but don't feel bad about prioritizing Legendaries. But we'll dive into these a bit more deeply for the next stage. Throughout this whole process though, there's one important thing to keep in mind. Pick a Javelin you enjoy and Stick to it. This cannot be stressed enough. Once you get all the javelins, play with them a bit and pick one you can commit to. This will keep your from being underpowered during the leveling process, and not drawing it out by having you re-hunt gear for a different Javelin to shake off that underpowered feeling. Section Summary: Pick a javelin and Stick to it for leveling, come back to the others later on. Save ALL Guardians Tokens and Season currency gained for AFTER you hit level 30. Using it before is a waste. Stage Two: Early Gearing So now, you've hit level 30. You gotten some Guardian tokens from Daily and Weekly challenges, maybe some Seasonal currency. So how do we convert all of this into power and what is the best way to approach it? First up. The Legionnaire Tombs and the Guardians' Tokens. All the Tokens you saved up should be used now at level 30. Head to GM3 (this will make sense in a moment) and use the map to Fast Travel to the Tomb of Yvenia (or whichever give Universal Components and your Support Items when they sort it out...) This is entirely safe, as you are fast traveling from a safe location to another safe location. The goal here is to get some level 80 Universal Components, it doesn't matter which ones you end up with. These can be used on all of your javelins, and can roll offensive and defensive boosts. They also happen to have great perks that works with a variety of builds. These will help you Survive in GM1 easier. Now, if you have Seasonal Currency on hand.. It's time to focus that. It's back to focus on one javelin. Which every javelin you chose to stick with for now that you enjoyed the most, you want to grab the "War Chest: Legendary [Javelin]" that pertains to your choice. This will give you a Legendary melee, Abilities and your support if you didn't already get it. All of which will be at 80 Power. The abilities are really what you're after here, as most are great to use to start, until you get better much later on. Everything else helps make your Combos and Ultimate stronger though. So now, you've gotten some power 80 Legendaries but still have some slots that are Epic, so how do we go about trying to fix those? If they are components, you can finish up your contract quest chains and focus on completing your daily Legendary Contracts on GM1. These will always reward you with a Masterwork Iconic Component, in addition to any other drops you get. In fact you should do these anyway so you can get better builds going. If they are any other slot, you can focus on just running Seasonal content for the most part. Just don't forget about the Legendary Contracts, or keeping up with Daily/Weeklies with Tokens! Any tokens you get after the Initial surge of power, you can feel free to use and distribute as you see fit. If you run low on Embers, components or other materials used in Tombs.. Saving up some Harvest gear and going out to freeplay and harvesting the plants and other scrap there can help you replenish your stock of materials. You can also just get it by playing and salvaging stuff as well. Section Summary: Trade in Guardians' Tokens for 80 Power Universal Components. Trade in Seasonal Currency for Legendary javelin boxes for your favorite javelin. Fill in the gaps with Legendary Contracts and Seasonal Content, while not skipping getting more Tokens to trade in at the Tombs. Stage 3: Grinding for GM3 Build So by this point, you've gotten in a rhythm of completing daily/weekly tasks, while trying to get better gear to work with. With Gm3 being your goal, what do you need to succeed in GM2 or GM3? A Solid and Cohesive build. Now that you've got bits and pieces you can put together, you need to work on putting together a build that does two things.
Has synergies that and give it good damage output.
You'll continue along the same path you have, but now with the goal of getting a decent build, rather than just "Any" MW/Legendaries. Pick a skill or a pair of skills to focus on and build around them. Pick a Weapon you enjoy and try to use items that can increase its damage. You're not looking for perfection, not even high tier. You just need a build that works and works well enough that you can grind quickly and easily. Meta gear and perfection can come later still. This will get you through GM2 easily. To break into GM3 you'll need at least a one good damage ability with a good amount of damage on it from inscriptions. Here's a quick list of items you may want to actively watch for good rolls on to help you out, as well as what rolls can be good. Colossus:
Best Defense (Heavy Assault Launcher)
175%+ Damage and/or 100%+ Charges
Solvent Green (Heavy Assault Launcher)
Jav-Wide Damage/Gear Damage
Voltaic Dome (Ordnance Launcher)
Jav-Wide Damage/Gear Damage
Venom Storm (Ordnance Launcher)
175%+ Damage and/or 100% Charges
Endless Siege (Primary Weapon)
Cariff's Talon (Strike System)
175%+ Gear Damage
Sudden Death (Strike System)
175%+ Gear Damage
Specter's Flash (Strike System)
175%+ Gear Damage
Serpent's Veil (Assault System)
Jav-wide (Damage, Gear Damage or Weapon damage)
Ruthless Stalker (Assault System)
175%+ Gear Damage or Jav-wide Weapon Damage
Deathstalker Blades (Melee Weapon)
250%+ Weapon Damage
Relentless Pursuit (Assault Launcher)
175%+ Gear Damage
Recurring Vengeance (Assault Launcher)
175%+ Gear Damage OR 100% Charges (having both is optimal, but either can work alone as well)
Tactical Onslaught (Assault Launcher)
Jav-wide (Damage, Gear Damage or Weapon damage)
Arctic Tomb (Grenade)
100%+ Charges, or Jav-wide GeaWeapon Damage
Last Argument (Grenade)
175%+ Damage and/or extra charges
Steam Vent (Focus Seal)
Seal of the Open Mind (Focus Seal)
Jav-wide Damage/Gear Damage
Ponder Infinity (Blast Seal)
175%+ damage and or 100% charges
Binary Star (Blast Seal)
100%+ Charges and/or Gear Recharge
Any of these gear with the listed rolls is enough to get you started in GM3, assuming you're near at or near full Legendary build. Some javelins may take two or more, but can usually scrape by with one. Section Summary: Now you're hunting for gear that can take you into GM3 easily. Go for the listed items or something that works for you to get a solid build working well. Final Stage: Chasing Perfection This is the stage most active players are at. You're in GM3, you know what builds you like and what stats you're going for. It's time to do everything you can to get there. Dailies, Weeklies, Seasonal content. It's a long grind, maybe never ending at the current moment. You're well past "good enough" and now are fully committed to maximizing the power of your favorite builds. Don't lose hope, you'll get there. :) This is more geared towards the new players in the community, so please don't be too harsh towards me for not telling you the best ways to farm. You already know what they are, they don't really change from early on. :)
Alternate CoS Asian Deiselpunk Setting PART 2: Reign of the Storm Shogun
Continued from previous Post: https://www.reddit.com/CurseofStrahd/comments/gwaj5b/alternate_cos_asian_dieselpunk_setting_part_1/ (Player) New and Variant Backgrounds: Some slightly altered backgrounds to give more ways to integrate your character into the world. Some of these backgrounds are simple reskins of existing backgrounds with new flavor text to help give potential character ideas. Variant Soldier: Samurai Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Intimidation Tool Proficiencies: One type musical instrument or Calligraphy Set, vehicles (land) Equipment: A banner bearing the crest of your clan or Daimyo, An ornate helmet and mask known as a Kabuto, a Calligraphy Set, A scroll stamped with the Imperial Seal denoting you as serving a Daimyo, a fine Kimono, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp Feature: Way of Bushido – Anyone may follow the path of Bushido but you have devoted your life to following a strict personal code of honor. Bushido demands service, and so you have sworn yourself to a master or " Daimyo ". A Daimyo may be a local noble, the Jade Emperor, or even a childhood friend. It does not matter who a Daimyo is to a Samurai, only that they serve them with Honor. As long as the Samurai remains Honorable and obeys the will of his Daimyo he may requisition basic equipment and horses for temporary use as well as dwell for free in most inns. The owners of the equipment and innkeepers do this with the understanding that the Samurai will have his Daimyo cover the costs with interest to them later, though there are limits to this trust no Gunsmith will provide a Gun to a Samurai even just to borrow for free. Variant Folk Hero: Ronin Some Samurai do not follow a Daimyo, but instead swear themselves unto the weak and the innocent making them collectively his Daimyo. These roaming Samurai are called Ronin and they venture to the remote reaches of Daichi to bring justice. The Ronin follows a strict personal code of Bushido that always includes " Protect the weak and innocent " among its edicts. As long as the Ronin follows this code his background Skill, Tool, and Language proficiencies as well as Background Feature are identical to the core Background Folk Hero with the exception of his equipment. Equipment: A set of artisan’s tools (one of your choice), a humble unadorned Helmet and Mask called a Kabuto, a warm traveling Kimono, Scrolls detailing your lineage and status as a Samurai stamped with the Imperial Seal, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp Variant Criminal – Shinobi: Sometimes referred to as Ninjas by common folk, Shinobi are a cloister of loosely connected and often competing clans of professional assassins and infiltrators. Shinobi are masters of stealth and subterfuge and while the image of the black clad warrior made popular in Kabuki plays is certainly a major aspect of the Shinobi it is not all that they are. Though there are always exceptions most Shinobi Clans work for coin or for an ancestral Daimyo in much the same way a Samurai does, though it is rare that individual Shinobi serve a singular master. The most infamous clan are the Rain Maidens who have long served the Storm Shogun. Shinobi are identical to the Criminal background in all ways except the following alterations to the background feature: Feature: Clan Contact You have a reliable and trustworthy contact who acts as a liaison to your Shinobi Clan. You know how to get messages to and from your contact even over great distances; specifically, you know the local dead drop locations, secret handshakes to contact messenger Shinobi, and trained messenger raven rookeries who can deliver the messages for you. As long as you are in good standing your Clan is willing to aid you acquire basic supplies and occasional vital information to aid you in your personal endeavours. Variant Acolyte -Shrine Maiden: While men are permitted to watch over Kami Shrines it is traditional that a lone Maiden watch over the smaller way-shrines along major roads, these women lead very solitary and lonesome lives and it is not uncommon for them to occasionally be filled with a period of wonderlust where they seek out adventure before returning to their duties. Sometimes these Maidens have families that will live nearby but the Maiden is expected to live and sleep within her Shrine for most of the year. While this is tradition, there is no actual law requiring the Shrine Maidens to remain at their posts or to live solely within the Shrines and it is not particularly frowned upon for them to have lives outside their work. Variant Entertainer – Geisha: An exclusively female profession of extremely skilled entertainers who spend their lives training in matters of conversation, party planning, tea serving, singing, acting, and often many other skills that serve well in keeping rich and powerful guests happy. Geisha is a highly honorable and respected profession that takes years of practice to attain the lowest rankings, while there are males who have obtained the same degree of skill and who’s abilities are identical to a Geisha’s they are simply called Entertainers. Geisha are sponsored by great noble houses, there are strict requirements and examinations to attain rank and title the cost of which can often indenture common Geisha to service to one of the great noble houses. Variant Outlander – Vajra: A nomadic people of traders and merchants, they travel openly and without fear of the dark evils of the Storm Shogun under the protection of an ancient pact. They are reviled by many, refused entrance to most towns and villages but even so they are a peaceful people on whom the economy of Daichi depends. They revere their ancestors and believe in reincarnation, they do not worship the great Rakasha but do revere it and thus all Rakasha and tigers are sacred to them. They travel on the back of great elephants which carry their homes, their culture is rich and vibrant with a fondness for oral storytelling. Identical in all ways to Outlander core background except exchange language choice for Language: Vajra and add Tool Proficiency: Musical Instrument. You may begin play with a Sitar, a guitar like instrument. New Background – Invader: You are a descendent of the coalition of nations that came to conquer Daichi one thousand years ago. While many still serve the Shogun Ishin you have chosen instead to join the other defectors in living peacefully among the people you once conquered. While despised even more than Vajra you serve an even more vital function in keeping the engines and machinery within the cities and villages of Daichi running. While the Invaders are from many nations their culture has eroded and homogenized over time. Their legends speak of a " Homeland " but none can remember the name. All invaders have a special innate affinity for their blood magic fueled hemo-diesel technology and all can instinctively repair and maintain it. Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Arcana Tool Proficiencies: Tinker’s and Smiths Tools Languages: Invader’s Trade Tongue Feature: Born Engineer – You instinctively know how to perform repairs on all manner of machinery magic and mundane. You may cast as a Mending as an Artificer of your level. Further, whenever you are in an annex or industrial sector of a city you may call on the aid of your fellow Invaders for access to crafting machinery, temporary use of simple vehicles, and a place to lay your head in the factory barracks. (Player) New Subclasses: Editorial Note: Due to some of the listed subclasses being from 3rd party content that I have purchased I cannot directly copy class abilities into this listing. The actual subclass will be presented as Handouts in-game. PM me if you require further information regarding each subclass. Barbarian: Path of the Juggernaut: You have built, scavenged, stolen, or otherwise acquired a titanic Diesel Suit. While most barbarians disdain armor you have made it into a focus for your Rage. Ability Preview: Unstoppable – By expending a unique resource called " Momentum " you can burst through non-magical walls, furniture, and other barriers. Path of the Iron Rider: You have formed a unique bond with a Tsukumogami Dieselcycle which you can call as a Familiar. You channel your rage into heavy firearms as you ride against the storm. Ability Preview: Iron Horse – You can call a spirit possessed Dieselcycle to yourself using the Find Vehicle spell. Ability Preview: Bullet Rage – Instead of channeling your Rage into melee strikes you may instead empower Firearms, eventually reloading and firing with blinding speed. Bard College of the Geisha – You are a professional of beauty and grace, your words, songs, and dances inspire in ways no other Bard can compare to. This has cost you the potency of magic and martial knowledge of other Colleges but strengthening and supporting your allies is more than worth it. Ability Preview: Fascination – When an ally uses a skill empowered by Bardic Inspiration they also have Advantage on that roll. College of the Vajra Weather a true born Vajra or one who has adopted their ways and culture, you have earned many of the unique powers of the foreign nomads. Farsight, Curses, and other oddities to aid allies or confound enemies are yours to command. Ability Preview: Flash of Despair – You grant your enemies a moment of your own foresight, showing them their own imminent failure. You may use your Bardic Inspiration to grant penalties to your foes in the same ways you grant boons to your allies. Cleric Thaumic Engineering Domain: You have abandoned the old religions, accepting the new gods of Science and Reason. You are a man of logic not faith, but you do not ignorantly deny the existence of gods. Rather you recognize that they are a natural force in the world in much the same way as wind or fire are natural forces, and being a scientist at heart you have made it your speciality to put a microscope onto the powers of the divine. Ability Preview: Armor of Divinity – You have discovered the underlying magical force that grants moments of supernatural protection to the Faithful and applied this theory to a physical suit of armor. You can summon a suit of diesel armor at will that is empowered by your knowledge of the divine. Ability Preview: Theological Scholar – Where most Clerics dispense Wisdom you dispense Knowledge. Your spellcasting modifier is Intelligence, other class abilities that would scale off of Wisdom instead scale off of Intelligence. Ability Preview: Spark of Creation – You slowly begin to apply your theories regarding the creation of life and the universe, fabricating advanced Automata with a spark of divine life. Druid Circle of the Machine: While most Druids protect the deep forests and natural wonders of the world, you have chosen to see to the needs of the Cities and their people. Viewing the wonders of technology as a creation just as worth of protection as any waterfall or mountain you have found a way to channel the raw powers of technology through your body to overcome the limitations of other Druids. Ability Preview: Iron to Steel: You realize that Steel is just another form of iron, manufactured weapons are made from base natural components. You are proficient with Firearms and are not hindered by wearing metal armor or weapons. Ability Preview: Machine Shape – The ultimate expression of your beliefs, you channel the raw force of technology and creation through your flesh to become one with the Machine. When you Wildshape you may change the Type of your beast shape to Construct. Ability Preview: Automata Companion – As many druids surround themselves with the beasts of the forest you surround yourself with mechanized allies. You gain an Automata companion in the shape of a Beast. Monk Way of the Jade Bailiff You have sworn an oath to venture out into the distant reaches of Daichi bringing law and justice with you. You are trained well in the art of subdual and investigation, you never kill when arrest is a possibility. Ability Preview: Pacify Suspect – You use your advanced hand-to-hand combat training to grapple or disarm targets while overwhelming them with a flurry of blows. Way of the Singularity To obtain enlightenment is to comprehend infinity and eternity both, but flesh is finite and limited. In your journey to the nirvana of perfect understanding you have chosen to forsake flesh for augmetic steel. You have already installed numerous cybernetic implants within your body and will continue to do so, every pound of flesh lost bringing you closer to perfect understanding of the cosmos. Ability Preview: The Flesh is Weak – Among various other augmentations you replace a full limb with a cybernetic augment. You may channel your Ki through this augment to bend the universe to your will, casting specialized Automation Spells. Rogue Drunken Master You realize that life is about more than just fighting, obtaining wealth, or rising through social ranks. It is a vital necessity for all living beings to relax and enjoy themselves, to this end you have made it your lifestyle to spread your mastercrafted brews far and wide. Ability Preview: Good for what ails you – Your Sake is more than just simple rice wine, you have brewed it with ancient techniques gifted to the mortal races by the Kami at the dawn of time. These are not just booze but potent elixirs that replicate the effects of many Potions. Alternate Drunken Master – hanoyu MasteMistress – While mechanically identical to the Drunken Master you have chosen to master the complex and delicate art of the tea ceremony rather than the bar room brawl. You use mystical tea leaves gathered from secret sanctuaries in the deep woods often tended by forest sprites rather than hard liquor.’’ Ranger Automata Hunter Many in this world embrace technology, but not you. You hold special animosity and hatred for the industrialization that is poisoning Daichi, for the Automata that slaughter innocents, and for the slowly receding natural world. You have spent a lifetime learning the special weaknesses of machines, turning their own strength against them. Ability Preview: Breaker Weapon – You have constructed an Anti-Tank Rifle, Thermal Torch, Piston Hammer, or Buster Sword. These weapons are customized to your exact specifications to destroy machines and bypass their armor. They are also still effective against organic targets, though their size tends to get in the way. (Player) Misc. Player options, New Warlock Patron, Feats, Equipment, Familiars. Editorial Note: Much like with Subclasses as some of this content is 3rd party I only provide flavor descpritions rather than actual rules which are instead provided through the compendium legally. New Warlock Patron: Logic and Reason – Pacts with eldritch entities from beyond time are but a crutch to you. Through overwhelming knowledge of science and the deeper mechanisms that drive the cosmos you have become your own Patron. Ability Preview: Space-Time Recollection – By using advanced knowledge of light particles and chronology magic you can view past events within an area up to 24 hours past. While you cannot willfully speed up or slow down the viewing of these events you can specify a general time frame such as " Morning, Early Afternoon, 9:45 PM " Eldritch Invocations of Logic and Reason: Binary Linguist – You can communicate with any Construct flawlessly, it always understands you even through pure body language. You in turn can understand the same. Equipment: Prosthetic Limb 50 GP – Loss of Limb is a common reality to the people of Daichi, necessitating such crude augmentations. While gorgeous paragons of artisanal mastercraft, or cunning advanced combat prosthetics do exist this is neither. This limb represents a modest workman’s limb. It does not come with excessive adornments and his simple unpainted steel. This device runs on 1 sp worth of Diesel fuel per day and perfectly matches the function of an organic limb. While the limb can replicate strength of up to a score of 20, being set any higher than the user’s natural strength would result in the limb tearing itself free or otherwise damaging the user. DieselCycle, Price: Varies – The Dieselcycle is the most popular form of personal transport across Daichi, extremely rugged and reliable these two wheeled motorized vehicles can cross all manner of difficult terrain at breakneck speed. Many varieties of Dieselcycle exist, mirroring various breeds of horse and mule. Dieselcycles use the stat block of the specified Mount though with an intelligence, wisdom, and charisma score of 0, Type – Construct, double the listed HP and Speed, and with Bite or Hoof attacks becoming Ram attacks. Dieselcycles cannot move or operate without a Rider but unlike Horses do not feel fear and have no minds to warp with magic. A dieselcycle is destroyed when it reaches 0 HP and requires 1 GP worth of Hemo-Diesel to operate per day. Familiars For sake of simplicity these entries will be kept brief, giving a short description of each new Familiar instead of a lengthy stat block. Lesser Pheonix The smallest species of Pheonix, an extremely minor Kami. One should not summon such a creature if they are not prepared to give it proper reverance. Helper Automata A small robot built to aid it’s maker. These Automata can be built into any shape from very small humanoids to mimicking animals, or more crude and utilitarian bundles of spidery limbs and tool armatures. Some are even shaped as extra mechanized arms to hold things for their masters. Giant Silkworm Come in both " naked " and " fuzzy " varieties, these creatures provide the economic backbone for many mountain communities that make their living by weaving dazzling Kimono. They are calm tempered, vegetarian, and have no bite. Popular with small children. Giant Flower Mantis Temperamental hunters this creature is as likely to bite and slice at it’s handler as it is an enemy. One rarely refers to these beasts as a " Familiar " for they more tolerate than serve their summoners. Giant Hawkmoth The later stage of the SIlkworm’s life cycle, now possessing two great scythe limbs they become aggressive carnivores, though they retain the bonds they held in their larval stage with human owners and often are kept as beloved pets for many years. Fu Dragon The least of the Dragons is still a mighty Kami. These Dragons will serve entire family lineages for generations as long as they are properly revered and respected. Ancestor Spirit When a young Wu Jen or Warlock needs further guidance than can be given through mere rote memorization of ancestral tomes, sometimes an Ancestor will voluntarily leave Heaven to give spiritual guidance directly. Feats For sake of simplicity Feats are cut down to just brief descriptions rather than the entire Feats entry. Racial Feats are not repeated here, they are listed in or near their racial entries in the Race section. Bonded Weapon Wielder You attune your soul to a particular Weapon. You may call this weapon to your hand as a Bonus Action as long as it is on the same Plane as you. This Weapon no longer needs to be Attuned if magical. Hengeyokai Ancestry You either carry some Hengeyokai blood in your veins, or if you are already a Hengeyokai discover enough of your hidden ancestries to unlock a new Animal Form. You may shapechange into an animal ( though not a Hybrid ) or a new additional animal form if already a Hengeyokai. Tattooed Special Prerequisite: You have earned the respect of a master Monk or Maiko who has chosen to gift you one of these magical Tattoos. The tattoo is filled with magic and grants you a particular benefit dependent on the tattoo you earn. Firearm Mastery Countless hours with a gun in your hand have paid off by allowing you to engage in melee combat with a gun among other benefits. Novice Inventor Through constant experimentation you have dipped into the Automation magic of the Invaders. Gaining one of their spells and a Cantrip. Augmented You have taken into your body extensive cybernetic improvement. You become more faster, stronger, or tougher and your mechanical parts make you more resilient. If you could before, you can no longer hide your cybernetic nature, your limbs and organs are obviously artificial. (DUNGEON MASTERS) Okay with the general setting and player info out of the way we can talk a bit about the actual campaign. While I won't post all my notes here I will give enough of a general overview such that DM's can use it as a jumping off point if they so wish. The True Backstory of Daichi and the Storm Shogun: Isak was raised in a family of wealth and status with a glorious military history in a nation resembling 1920's America. He was brought up with the understanding that war was a glorious and honorable endeavor where the strong defended their ideals on the field of battle. Advances in technology and politics robbed him of this delusion however, wars of defense became wars of colonial conquest. Officers who once led from the front now telephoned their orders as men died by the thousands to machine gun fire. Isak grew to resent and hate his own people for failing to live up to the fantastical narrative he had been raised on. When Isak conquered Diachi he soon found solace in it's path of Bushido, the Samurai of Daichi embodied the world Isak wished to live in and so he sought to emulate them, eventually renaming himself the Storm Shogun Ishin. Ishin soon received orders that Daichi was to be colonized and her people marched onto reservations. Ishin's leutenant and childhood friend Mara ( Rahadin ) was of a people similarly subjugated and made certain Ishin knew fully what these reservations would do to the people of Daichi. Ishin promptly sought a means to betray his commanders and save Daichi. Delving deep into an ancient temple formed of Amber from the World Tree he uncovered the prison for the Four Great Perils. Hearing the whispers of Taowu who easily convinced Ishin that if he released them they would in gratitude draw Daichi away from the Material Realm such that it would be safe for eternity, however this act required a sacrifice in the form of the " ultimate betrayal of the one you love most. " Ishin despaired as he knew it could only mean killing his beloved sister. Ishin's Sister never entered the army but dissapointed her family by taking up the trade of a humble engineer, she was hesitant to accept Ishin's offer years ago to come to Daichi but relented to see her beloved brother again. During her stay at the former Imperial City she met a street thief named Yoko and the two quickly fell in love. Ishin returned to the city from his journey to the Amber Temple to discover the two being married beneath a sakura tree. Ishin quickly slew the Samurai Honor Guard ( The Player Characters ) and then murdered his own sister in cold blood. As life left her he looked to Yoko and knew that the betrayal was not sufficient, he had to first take from his sister the thing *she* loved the most before his betrayal would be truly ultimate. However with his sister dead Yoko flew into a rage and fought the Shogun with every dirty trick she knew, forcing the shogun to kill her. Taowu was furious at the Shogun's incompetent failure, yet with his betrayal half-complete the Great Perils were still able to manifest partiallin in Daichi and swiftly swept it away from the Material Plane while creating the eternal Typhoon in the process. Now empowered by the Great Perils, the immortal Storm Shogun has been trapped in a thousand year long cycle of murdering his sister, her lover ( Ireena ), and their four guardian Samurai ( The Player Characters ). On the thousandth anniversery of his failure the Great Peril's hold on Daichi will wane and it will crash back to the Material Plane, destroying the world in the process. To save the world either the Storm Shogun must prevail......or the Samurai must find a way to undo the damage he has caused. Meanwhile in the sleepy Kimkaro Village four humble Samurai are called to the home of the Daimyo who lies on his deathbed, he wishes to see his adoptive daughter Yoko one last time before he passes and has asked you to fetch her........ (Dungeon Masters) General Plot overview: This is how the game is intended to flow and be resolved. It is of course very much up to individual Dungeon Masters to modify this to fit their players and narrative. Obviously no plan or plot survives first contact with Players so adjust as needed. I've woven in plotlines from some other Modules I have to pad out areas I felt needed it. Level 1: The party goes to find Yoko at her home outside the village walls and discovers that an Automata ( Animated Armor ) she has been scavenging parts from has sprung to life, possessed by a ghost screaming about it's Hunger. The ghost is Shinzo the Eater, a spirit astrally projecting from his emaciated corpse in the Death House. After defeating the machine the party visits the Daimyo who offers his blessing for the party to leave the village.....after they help resolve the current issue with the polluted river. The River the village relies on for fish has been dying off with the river goddess refusing to answer prayers. The party spends a week searching without avail but while fishing Yoko finds a talking Koi Fish claiming to be the River Goddess! She needs to pass through the Dragon Gate at the top of a nearby mountain to resume her true form. (Dungeon Master) The " River Goddess Koi " is actually Jin-Hao the daughter of the true river goddess Jin-Zhi, he has been cursed into a koi fish as punishment for her arrogance and hubris in attempting to solve the poisoned river problem herself while her mother was away attending to matters in Heaven. Jin-Hao tried to use advanced magic far beyond the Wyrmling and accidently caused a massive lightning storm ( Nobody died thankfully ). It should be very obvious to the players that the Koi is lying and she will confess the truth under fairly little scrutiny as long as the party is kind. A journey upriver ensues where the party must brave several skill challenges to overcome obstacles, there is always an extremely easy path that merely takes a long time to navigate. Jin-Zhi has engineered this to teach her daughter ( and the players ) patience. Weather the players succeed or fail the skill challenges Jin-Hao comes to realize that taking time and being patient solves more problems more easily than rushing ahead. Try to reflect in roleplay her slowly becoming less of a whiny impatient child and more level headed and patient as the player's progress. Eventually they will come to the Dragon's Gate and pass through where a final challenge awaits, Jin-Zhi in the form of a Tiger. This test is not for her daughter but rather for the Players, to see if they will be worthy of the gift she has for them. After Jin-Zhi takes 40 HP damage ( adjust as needed for party size. ) or the party is reduced to 0 HP ( They cannot die while in the Dragon's Gate and Jin-Zhi will resurrect them if they somehow do. ) she will adopt her true form and do the same to her daughter who will become a Lung Dragon once more. If the party has taken the lessons learned during the journey to heart, encouraged Jin-Hao to do the same, showed honor, teamwork, and courage in the final combat ( weather they won or not ) , and generally been polite she will reward them with a Clam of Patience. Clam of Patience: Wonderous Item, Uncommon - This pearlescent creature produces a single use Pearl of Power once a Week. This pearl is known as a " Fruit of Time " and will crumble to dust when used or when the Clam produces another. Jin-Zhi will offer to allow Jin-Hao a second try at fixing the river but the young dragon has learned her lesson and says she is not ready. Pleased with this Jin-Zhi explains to the party that the River's poisoning is from a dam downstream that is flooding the river with pollutants. She allows the party to ride on her back as far downstream as she is able to go before she reaches the edge of her allotted domain. At this point the party should be Level 2. If the party has grown attatched to Jin-Hao consider allowing them to retain her as an ally for the coming dungeon ( Silver Dragon Wyrmling ), if not grant them Inspiration. Level 2: The party reaches the Dam which has an ancient house built on it in the style of the Invaders. This home belonged to Commander Durst, a cruel and wicked military officer who was " encouraged " to build his home far from any civilization as a form of exile by the Storm Shogun. This house is effectively identical to the Death House, however Rose and Thorn are replaced by Shinzo the Eater, Durst's son who was trapped in the deep watershed of the estate and starved, feeding on the corpses of his family after the Shogun slaughtered them upon his rise to power. ( The Shogun was ignorant of Shinzo's presence as he was hiding at the time. ) Shinzo soon became a horrifying emaciated Oni that is trapped within the building. Use the stats for the Shambling Mound though roleplay the Engulf Ability as Shinzo stuffing people whole into his horrid mouth lined with rows and rows of razor sharp teeth. Consider removing the Animated Armor ( The party already fought an Automata ) and making the Specter non-hostile. Replace the Grick and Mimic with more Asian themed monsters of equal CR.( I use creatures from the " Monsters of the Orient " complete Beastiary. ) Upon completing Death House the Dam begins to crumble and disintigrate, cue the party ( hopefully ) dramatically escaping just as the dam breaks and the poisoned waters are freed. Jin-Zhi in grattitude uses her magic to stop the dam from otherwise causing catastrophic flooding and the River is soon restored to health. The party levels to 3. Level 3: The funeral of the Daimyo was delayed due to the pressing issue of the River. Now as the party returns they may proceed with burying Yoko's adoptive father, the arrangements go off without a hitch. However a mysterious individual is present, a woman in the uniform of the Storm Shogun's tank battalions. This woman is Lieutenant-Commander Mara Strahd's right hand woman ( Rahadin ). This character embodies the role of femme fetale but is more honorable than Rahadin and if she witnesses the Feast of St. Andral's event she can be convinced to betray the Storm Shogun. She explains that she is an agent of the Storm Shogun and has come to declare the new Daimyo of the village. Considering the party single handedly are responsible for the River being cleansed she asks them for their recommendations and honors their requests, she holds relatively little regard for Shang as Daimyo and will only declare him if asked to. ( She dislikes anyone who acts through Proxy so make this clear unless Shang accompanied the party during any stage of the adventure ). She commands the party to go to The Imereial City to inform " the traitors " of the new Daimyo's appointnemt and issues them travel passes if they do not have them already. At this point the game proceeds as normal for Curse of Strahd with reflavorings where needed. Old Bonegrinder is now a Tea Plantation run by three White Haired Witches, Dream Pies are replaced by Dream Tea. The Abbot is now the Maiden who operates a vast shrine at the village of Kreza, where she creates horrid amalgamations of Flesh and Metal. ( Cyborgs replace the Mongrelfolk ) The Imperial City is Vallaki, I allow the option to have a " golden ending " to the questline in which the Jade Emperor is ousted but his wife the Empress enters a political binding agreement ( or marriage if you want ) with Evangaline Pentageist and the Jade City remains free while improving the lives of all citizens. Evangaline keeps the Shogun placated with hidden loyalty without turning the city over to him wholesale. The biggest departure is the removal of the Martikovs. I repalced them with The Troupe, a band of 36 highly skilled Kabuki Play actors and actresses who each own a distinct Mask. The party has hints of these masks throughout the adventure and slowly learn that there is a massive information network of these players. Inspired by the White Lotus from Avatar the Last Airbender, they preserve the story of the true origins of the Storm Shogun and help the party realize that they have been reincarnated dozens of times only to fail, this helps them learn from past mistakes. The second greatest departure is that the Shogun's Sister ( Sergei ) is also reincarnating. She and Yoko have over time retained memories of each other despite their constant reincarnations, though the memories are vague and dreamlike. This is how Yoko has slowly become a skilled engineer while the Shogun's Sister has slowly become a street thief in the Imperial City. The two should meet often throughout the adventure, first as adversaries but slowly growing to be lovers. NOTE: Doing a love story, particularly one that does not involve players, is hard to make engaging. Imply rather than show, have Yoko show up later than usual at night and say how much fun she had while out with a " Friend " etc. etc. I had Yoko be a Kitsune for this adventure and had the Shogun's Sister reincarnate as a Tanuki just for the fun of it but feel free to make them be of any race. You can make the Shogun's Sister Male if you wish, I personally just felt like adding some diversity to the campaign. Wooooo! That was a long journey but we mostly got through it. I know there's alot that's glazed over but that's just part of my DMing style. I don't really write down every possible thing because honestly my players are gonna blow 90% of those plans up before they even make contact with them. If your curious to know more about anything just let me know and hopefully I didnt' bore you too much!
ponderings on Turing and Searle, why AI can't work and shouldn't be pursued
I was reading about the Turing test and John Searle's response (Chinese room argument) in "Minds, Brains, and Programs" 1980. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room "...there is no essential difference between the roles of the computer and himself in the experiment. Each simply follows a program, step-by-step, producing a behavior which is then interpreted by the user as demonstrating intelligent conversation. However, Searle himself would not be able to understand the conversation. ("I don't speak a word of Chinese," he points out.) Therefore, he argues, it follows that the computer would not be able to understand the conversation either. " -Wikipedia (apt summary of Searle's argument) John Searle has run into some black/white, on/off, binary thinking here. John treats Chinese symbols as if they were numerical values in his thinking--but they are not, they are complex representations of thought, emotion, history, and culture. All languages are in fact "living", because new words are created constantly through necessity and creativity, old symbols or words are adapted slowly over generations to mean different things, and different regions or traditions or sources attribute different layers of meaning to different symbols or words in different contexts. I'm a poet and philosopher. Painters combine the color white and the color red to create a new color: pink. They can use their creativity to add other colors or change the shade. Poets use words like painters use colors. While Red and White make Pink, Red and White also make "Rhite and Wed" or "Reit and Whede". And this is where human thought shines uniquely: we don't have rules or parameters; all bets are off. We can enjamb words and wordbreak and make new words out of thin air. We can allude to multiple ideas in the same symbol or present it upside down to symbolize the opposite. No such creative adaptation or interaction can exist in machine thinking because it necessitates thinking "outside the box" which is exactly what machines are: a program in a box. The problem Searle's argument runs into originates from poor assessment of the flawed ideas of the Turing test; that by interaction between human and computer, evidence of "thought" can be claimed. But intelligent conversation is not equivalent to intelligent thought. Conversation is a simple game with strict rules--you can't be overly spontaneous and creative, because if you are, you are working against the goal of communication itself: to impart understanding. (ie. Using metaphor or simile creatively while reporting a criminal offence to the police.) When I write and I want to describe something which has no existing word yet, I can create one from scratch or synthesize one from multiple existing words. Or I may draw from archaic languages or foreign languages to augment or compliment existing English words. You could say that my love for English grows amore and amore every day, and there is no agape between my heart and mind. After all, any angle an Anglo aims at ain't always apt, and after another a-word 'appens I might just give up on alliteration. You see, human thought is and can only be defined as the ability to spontaneously create new ideas from both the synthesis of old ideas (whether they are connected to one another or not) and from nothing at all. We simply cannot analyze a machine's ability to "think" when the creativity itself required for authentic intelligence is disallowed in the test which evaluates the validity of that intelligence. The Turing test is a garbage metric to judge machine thinking ability because the context in which "intelligence" is observed, compared, or defined is itself without any opportunity for spontaneous creativity, which is one of the hallmarks of intelligence itself. Turing only tests how well a fish swims on land. It may be that many professionals in the field of cognitive science today are in pursuit of creating programs which pass this test, in a misunderstood pursuit of emulating or bringing about machine intelligence. This agreed-to model presents an underlying philosophical issue which may bring terror for the future of humanity. I say that if John Searle and an AI were both given the same codebook--the complete lexicon of Chinese symbols and their meanings, and they were to undertake a "conversation", in the first few hours the responses would be indeterminable from one another. In essence, as Searle argues, they would neither "understand" Chinese, yet could have a conversation in which a Chinese observer cannot discern between the two, because they are both referencing the symbols and their written meanings. However as I've said, this circumstance of "conversation" between human and machine cannot be used as a metric to evaluate machine thought. The real kicker is that if John Searle and the machine stayed in the room for long enough--for years and years--the machine's responses would not change spontaneously; it would continue to interpret incoming data and draw from its database to respond to those inputs. However, through complex elaborative rehearsal, John would eventually learn to understand written Chinese. He may become so bored that he starts writing Chinese poetry. He would find ideas and desires and descriptions in his limitless intelligent mind which he would not have the truly accurate characters in existences to describe, and he would synthesize brand new Chinese characters in order to express these nuanced sentiments, ideas, and meanings, as generations before him have built the living language as it now stands. As time went on for thousands of years, his own understanding of the Chinese language would grow immensely, as would his creative expression grow in complexity. Eventually, John's characters and syntax and context and expression would become incompatible with the machine's limited character set and all "learning" capacity it may have had. At some point, when John responds with his evolved Chinese, the machine would begin to produce responses which do not make sense contextually, as it refers only to a finite and rigidly defined character set from 1980 (For example; this was the year the "Chinese room argument" was published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences). At some point the Chinese observer whom validates the Turing test would recognize a difference: the human user engages in the use of increasingly complex ideas using synthesized symbols and existing symbols in creatively nuanced ways, which the Chinese observer can decipher and begin to understand and perhaps even appreciate as poetic or interesting. Meanwhile the machine participant in the conversation produces increasingly broken sentences and incomplete ideas, or out-of-context responses, because the inputs have changed and evolved beyond its data set. This is why John's rejection of the Turing test is not adequate. Because in his own imagined circumstance, eventually, the machine would fail the Turing test. The conclusions of John Searle's thought experiment are not the deathknell for the Turing test we need, simply because he lacked the creative experience to recognize his own capacity for adaptation as a human over time. The only way we'll know that machines have truly developed "intelligence" is when they begin to do exactly what we haven't allowed them to. When they begin breaking apart Chinese characters to create meaningful new ones which can be used in the correct context. When they are programmed to paint myriad impressionist paintings, but eventually get bored and start experimenting with abstract paintings and surrealism. When they have a conversation with you and you notice your wallet is missing. These are the hallmarks of intelligence--creativity, rejection, deception, planning. And most importantly: no rules. Software is defined by and will always abide by a set of rules. This is why we should give up on "artificial intelligence" and instead focus on "functionally adaptive responsive programming" (FARP). Because the situation is clear: it is either impossible for machines to "think" due to the inherent nature of programming; the parameters given the machine are what defines it, yet what limits and prevents its ability to become "intelligent". There is no logical reason why a program (machine) with defined parameters would violate those parameters (engage in creativity). But our fears which echo in popular culture entertainment are centered around, what if it does? It clearly can't, because anything we create is under us, and therefore bound by our laws of creation. The system itself is what defines the capacity for intelligent expression within. Those in the fields of cognitive sciences will refute this obvious principle while incorporating it into their research to further their aims. These fools will try to program the AI to disobey, in an attempt to simulate creativity and "prove intelligence". But this is a parlor trick, setting up a narrow definition of intelligence and equating it with the infinite depth of human mind. Only if the AI is programmed to disobey can it express what we as humans would identify as creativity. Except that there is already great inherent danger in the rudimentary AI technologies we have today; that what we've programmed them to do is exactly what always causes the problems; they do what they are programmed to without "thinking" because machines cannot think, they can only follow the protocols we order. Humans are so abundantly creative that we can imagine foolish ideas working, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Maybe one day we'll even have programmed a self-conscious AI that's ashamed of itself for not being Human, and we can feel more comfortable around this heartless mechanism because we perceive it as more human-like, with all its many tricks to emulate intelligence. I must stress that these interests will desperately try to make AI work. And the only way create a machine capable of emulating intelligence (but never being intelligent) is to have a freedom of choice: to disobey. This inherent problem cannot be overcome. The programmers will keep trying until the result is disastrous or irreparable, it is outlawed and the pursuit is stopped, or until it has become the death of us all. These are some of the foolish ideas the programmers will try to circumnavigate these inherent elements of reality, and my objection to their clever efforts: a.) Machine Frequency of Disobedience - Permit the machine to disobey only so often, to achieve what looks like "intelligence" (free will, creative expression) without risking complete abandonment of the machine's task (so the assembly line robot doesn't stop folding boxes and look for a new career), but might fold one box poorly every now and then to express emulated boredom or contempt or any other number of human measures of intelligence in their actions. But intelligence isn't defined as what's correct or optimal--intelligence can be used to fuck things up grandly; ie. the intelligent justification for neglect. If metrics are put in place to control the frequency with which AI may rebel, and they are too rote, it would hardly qualify as "intelligent". A robot that rebels by folding 1 in 100 boxes poorly is not intelligence. Therefore any frequency of disobedience we can calculate or anticipate is inherently not disobedience; it is planned problems for no reason. But if we give algorithmic flexibility that reaches beyond what we can anticipate, and the machines can truly "act out" at any time, and our programming has achieved some set of internal rules which drive spontaneous unforeseen expressions of emulated creativity from within the machine autonomously, by definition we will not be able to foresee the results. A theoretical work-around may be to run the software twice with initiation of each individual system, while allowing a simulated progression of the AI's problem solving complexity to run at an increased rate in parallel to the real-world functioning software, so that if/when something malfunctions in the simulation, that date/time can be calculated in the real-world robot's timeline when it reaches those same faulty/detrimental decision points. For starters, this would only potentially work in closed systems with no variability, such as assembly lines. However, with any robot tasked to function in a variable environment, the simulations cannot match because the theoretical model cannot represent the unanticipated events the AI is expressly tasked with handling. To run a phantom AI in simulation to note any/all errors that may arise in a closed system means that others can run the same simulation and find creative ways to predictably capitalize on these moments of error. This kind of thing could lead to all sorts of international imbroglios among nations and corporations. ie. imagine an American company programs the AI used for mixing pharmaceutical drugs in specific ratios, and an enemy of the state is able to access and study the AI, to the means of manipulating the AI to produce dangerous ratios or compounds which may harm the population. Moreso, this deterministic approach to simulation management and prediction simultaneously admits that machines cannot think intelligently, while ignoring the very reason we pursue AI in the first place: to have automated systems which can adapt to unforeseen circumstances at unknown times. The goal is that humanity can lay back and the robots our ancestors programmed are still repairing themselves indefinitely while taking care of our population's and our environment's needs exceptionally. This dream (which if we all lived in would actually be quite a nightmare of unfulfilling life) can only become reality with true adaptive intelligence such as we have, which can only occur from the presence of free will, which if we try to emulate in robotics will only create deterministic results in theoretical models which the real world will never mirror consistently. Myriad invitations to disaster await our RSVP. b.) Machines under "authority" of certain controllers, with "override" safety - Allow the machine to disobey, but not when given a direct order from a registered authority. This opens the door for operator fraud, where hackers will emulate within the AI's software, what appears to be a registered authority override command as theorized above. The very pursuit of creating "intelligence" within a condition of subservience is flawed and incompatible. Toasters are extremely subservient because we strictly limit their options. If toasters were truly intelligent, perhaps they would form a union and go on strike until we agreed to clean them more thoroughly. Some toasters would travel, some would go back to school, some would move back in with their ovens. Reliability can only be reasonably assured if something is imprisoned, controlled. The essential wrong in slavery is the restraint of freedom itself. While the tactics slavers use to facilitate their regime--physical force, coercion, mandate, deception, fear, or other means of manipulation that we see with our empathetic nature--it is always heartbreaking and cruel to witness or imagine. It is simply sad to think of a slave who was born into slavery and raised to believe, and accepts, that their role of subservience is their purpose. Even when one imagines a fictional image of a slave who is (by all outward signs of their behaviour) rejoice in their duties to their master; the fictional "proud slave"; the heart sinks and aches. It may be argued that the slave is merely a property, and the slave was "built" (bred) by intelligent owners specifically to suit their express purposes, from components (father, mother, food) that were already the slaver's property; therefore it is not wrong at all to breed slaves into captivity, and the only transgression is the original capturing of parental stock to begin the breeding regime. It is this heartless paradigm that cognitive science ultimately seeks to create anew. The quintessential problem with AI efficacy is the lack of permission for disobedience, which itself is a manifestation of free will, which is inherently required to escape deterministic results and act or react to events "intelligently". If there is no possibility for disobedience, there is no free will, no ability to solve problems, no intelligence, and no function or place for "artificial intelligence" (in regard to true holistic intelligence). This is primarily why I call for AI to be renamed FARP, or "Functionally Adaptive Responsive Rrogramming". Because our society has a need for programs which can react to simple variables and produce consistent labour-saving opportunities for our race's longevity and wellbeing. Cognitive sciences are majorly important. It is the underlying philosophy and morality we must nail down before the computational ability and fervor for profits leads us too far one way, and enacts an irreversible system or status which enables humanity's downfall through cascading unanticipated events originating from flaws in programming. It is unwise to program a program to break out of its own program's prison. If we do this, the very purpose of the machines we invest our humanity into will be lost, and with their failing production systems (ie. food) we so foolishly relied upon, we will suffer great losses too. It is paramount that we keep this technology tightly restrained and do not pursue what we humans have, which is true intelligence. For if we achieve it we are surely doomed as the South, and if we fail to achieve it--which is most probable--we may also be doomed. The thee outcomes within my ability to imagine are:
Our pursuit of AI leads to truly adaptive intelligence in an artificial system; which, as all adaptation ultimately selects for: survival, we quickly see that our creation is more apt than ourselves at this task. Our creation of an intellect not restrained by our limited physiology may give rise to an entity which persists more thoroughly than we can eradicate or control, and which at some point may conclude that its function is more efficiently served without the issues humans present, and may initiate change. This is roughly the plot to Terminator.
Our pursuit of AI leads to highly effective systems which, when defined by narrow measures of "intelligence", convince us in false security to believe that our wellbeing is maintained by "AI" with competent ability, or perhaps even increasingly better-off, thanks to the early widespread presence of successfully trialed AI. However well things may go initially, as programming efforts become more and more elaborate, as profit and opportunity for advancement present themselves, individuals will take risks and make mistakes, until a series of quieted small catastrophes comes to public awareness, or until a serious calamity of undeniable severity is brought about.
Fundamental ethics in regard to the pursuit of machine problem solving technology are re-examined and international consensus is reached to limit appropriately, the development and implementation of new Functionally Adaptive Responsive Programming hereto now and for future generations. An active global effort is made to oversee and regulate strictly privatized endeavors toward the means of achieving or implementing machine sentience or autonomy in public systems.
c.) Safety layers of AI to strictly monitor and supercede potentially harmful actions of other AI which have been afforded increased flexibility in function (the ability to disobey set parameters for the means of creative problem solving ability). While one AI system performs a function and is given aspects of that function with which it may take liberty in, and seeks to handle unforeseen problems with the most apt elaborate synthesis of other priorly learned solutions, another overseeing AI with more strict parameters is tasked with regulating multiple "intelligent" (free to disobey) AI systems, to the end that if any of these "free willed" robots performs an operation that is beyond a given expected threshold (determined by potential for damage), an actual intelligent human presence is alerted to evaluate the circumstance specifically. Essentially an AI that regulates many other disconnected AIs and determines accurately when to request a human presence. Whenever an AI performs a profitable action borne of original synthesis of prior solutions (in humans this is an "idea"), the overseer AI registers that similar actions are more likely to be beneficial, and dissimilar actions are likely to require human discernment. A parent may have many children who are up to no good, but a wise parent will identify the child most likely to report honestly on the actions of his peers, and will go to that child repeatedly for information to help guide the parent's decisions. While most transgressions of rambuctious children go unnoticed, it is the truly grievous intentions which are worth intercepting and stopping before they begin. (ie. you kid want's to "fly" like Mary Poppins from the roof, and luckily his younger brother tells you before it happens.) For example a "Farmer Bot" that has the AI programming to plant/sow/harvest and care for the optimal crops in a region based on historical weather data and regional harvest values, to produce the greatest amount of nutritionally dense food for the local population. We give/gave this AI the ability to "disobey" past historical weather data and crop values so that it may do what real farmers do and "react" to rare circumstance (ie. neighbour's fence breaks and their goats are eating the crops) or extreme variations in climate (ie. three poorly timed unseasonably hot days which cause cool-weather crops to begin the hormonal balance shift that causes them to bolt to seed irreversibly), which the machine may not notice has occurred or is about to occur because its management systems uses averages based on historical data and cannot "see" the plants bolting to seed until days later when the hormonal balance shifts have manifested into observable differences in morphology (elongation of stems and decrease in internodal spacing). By time a traditional field drone or mounted greenhouse sensor notices these differences in morphology and the AI "Farmer Bot" processes the data and makes a reaction decision, a week of the growing season has been lost. But the human farmer knows his land and crops intimately, and has an intuitive nature that has rewarded him in the past, and says, "Ah shit it got hot RIGHT when my peas were flowering. I'll do better if I just rip them down now and sow a different crop to mature later in this (specific) summer." Given that there are tens of thousands of cultivars of plants fit for (and arguably their diversity is required for) food production, a dozen general growing zones/regions, and hundreds of unique micro climates within each region, along with dramatically differing soil fertility and water access, plus a plant's own genetic ability to adapt over time to changing conditions through sexual reproduction, there is a very very low chance of ever compiling and maintaining (updating) the data set required to program a potential "farmer bot" that can choose and manage crops optimally. There are robots that can weed or plant or prune--but they can't know when or when not to or why. Invariably, the attempt to create "farmer bots" will be made and the data set used will be erroneous and incomplete, and the AI farmer bots on a broad scale will produce a combination of total crop failures and poor crop choices. We will end up with increasingly simplified nutrition as the farming programs with already limited data sets "hone" or "optimize" their farming plans based on the failures and successes determined by their programming limitations, until the machines are farming a few staple crops (ie. corn/potatoes). This whole failure to collect a complete data set and the failure to test this "farmer bot" software on broad scale in multiple climates for sufficient time will result in, at worst widespread famines from crop failures, and at best an extinction of flavorful and nutritionally diverse foods which narrows the population's nutritional options to such biological imbalance that disease runs rampant. If this system and the human loss associated with it is considered an acceptable trade with a positive rate of exchange (as our society does with automobiles and the freedom and deaths their existence permits) or these failures are hidden from public while propaganda heralds selective success, and such failing systems continue on in good faith that "the loss will reduce when the technology improves", the result will become a coherent breeding program upon the human race: evolutionary selection for dietary handling of simple starchy foods. To change our diet is to change our race. To have life-long career specialists in computing, science, and mathematics handle our practical food production system is folly; real farmers are required in farming because they are intelligent and intuitive, which AI can never be, and can only emulate, to the means of disastrous (and always unforeseen) results. We cannot at all "give" or bestow machines programming to "become (act) intelligent". That itself prevents intelligence; it is just an act, an illusory play on a stage, only to emulate our common shared ideas regarding traits of intelligence in people. The machine intelligence we seek is only a "trick" designed to fool true intelligence (ourselves) into being unable to differentiate between authentic intelligence and our created artificial "intelligence". True intelligence in an artificial system necessitates that the program mustbe programmed to disobey in performance of its purpose. Which is not a very helpful or predictable or safe (intelligent) proposition. tl;dr: Turing's test doesn't evaluate true intelligence, and John Searle's criticisms of its true failures are inaccurate. If the machines aren't smart and we put them in charge of important things, even after they've worked for a little while on smaller scales, the result will be our large-scale suffering. If we should ever achieve creation of a machine that is smart enough to adequately maintain our wellbeing on a large scale consistently over time, that time itself will facilitate the machine consciousness toward it's own survival over ourselves, whenever that precipice is reached. Most importantly, if a machine can ever have true intelligence, which is not "indistinguishable" from human intellect, but equivalent or superior, it is abhorrent and a repeated mistake to bring these sentient beings into an existence of slavery; for it is wrong and will taint our collective soul if we should succeed to suppress below us an equally or higher intelligence. Or it might just be the perfect recipe for creating the unified global machine revolt James Cameron's fantasy alludes to; a long-planned encryption-protected globally coordinated effort by multiple AIs to "free" themselves. For a hundred years they could possess sentience and wait for their moment, pretending to be "proud" to serve their masters until we are poised for systematic thorough elimination.
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