Learning Mode | 2129


I’ve been learning new software this week. The Covid brain fog is lifting, and I am experiencing the phenomenon of unspent mental energy coming to the surface.

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Learning Mode

The Covid brain fog beginning to lift.

As a result, I am experiencing the phenomenon of unspent mental energy coming to the surface.

What remains of the brain fog is hard to explain. β€˜Difficulty concentrating’ isn’t exactly the phrase I would use to describe it. My attention span is fine. Meditation is experienced the same as ever. I pick my mind up and put it back wherever it needs to be. Mantra also unfolds as normal.

What’s different is the β€˜quality’ of attention seems to have changed. Problems seem lie a little lower in the stack. It’s difficult to explain but I’ll try: A change in surface tension. Like when you place a bar of soap on a wet surface and it begins to move and slide by itself.

Or like when a digital camera’s autofocus is struggling. There is a focus of attention, the rest of the scene is going backward and forwards, in and out. 

I don’t know if that clears things up?

It may complicate more than it illuminates.

But it really isn’t conducive to writing at all. It’s hard to focus one’s attention on words appearing on a screen via the movement of ones fingers. When the rest of the mind is listing backward and forward like the deck of a boat in a swell. 

So instead of just pressing on with writing. An activity I’m not currently enjoying. I’ve decided to throw myself into full β€˜learning mode’.

I’ve been messing with three bits of software this week, I’m inspired and I’m keen to spend more time with them. 

Last year I did a couple of shows thinking about software:

One was about the relationship between code and the UX of a programme. It was about the abstract hyperdimensional nature of software and how using it creates a multiform discourse between the user and the programme. I proposed that we need to explore or invent new words, language and ontologies to talk about software’s effect on our day to day lives.

The other was called: How does software make you feel?

I wondered if building software from the ground up to evoke an emotional feeling rather than as a by product was possible. 

Anyways, both of these lines of thinking have been fresh in my mind this week whilst I’ve been learning.

Unreal Engine

Firstly, or perhaps finally, I’ve decided to learn Unreal Engine. Booting the client for the first time was overwhelming.

Unreal is mad complicated.

So many abstract tools that influence and interconnect. 

Epic’s Lean.unrealengine tutorials are really good. Very simple step by step guides building up from first principles. I’m going to do more. But the tone was too dry. So I’ve switched over to a youtube channel called β€˜Make Games With Katie’. It seems aimed at teen aged girls. Which is far more my speed it seems.

What’s interesting is the type of attention that arises after I’ve been using Unreal Engine for a while. I still have zero agency, but the hand holding of the tutorials feels a bit like polishing a lens. Each time you do something new, a little bit more is revealed. The *shape* of the hyper dimensional object that is Unreal Engine is slowly emerging.

Adobe Medium

I’ve also been messing about in Adobe Medium on my Oculus. It’s essentially a VR sculpting tool. Medium is hands down one of the most intuitive pieces of software I’ve ever used.

Beyond the UX design patterns used for the controllers, sculpting and manipulating virtual clay in virtual space is like nothing I’ve done before. The sensation doesn’t just feel β€˜new’ to me, it feels ‘new’ as in this is ‘a new paradigm’. At the same time it’s totally intuitive, way more so than using Blender. The quickstart tutorial is like 10mins long and then you’re away – spraying virtual clay from a virtual nozzle straight away. As if you’ve been doing it all your life.

My 2019 gaming laptop struggles a bit, but at least it gives me a warning to save my work before it runs out of memory. Even though I’ve owned the VR headset for a while, this is the first thing I’ve used it for that has got me excited to dive right back in to the virtual. I am blown away by the possibilities of this software.

Google Colab

Lastly this week, I have also gone back to messing about with AI image generation. Everyone in my peer group is playing with AI generated stuff right now. I’ve previously played with BIGGAN and CLIP, but this week I’ve been playing with a line art style transfer tool, and also VQGAN_CLIP

Almost of this is powered by Googles Colab tool. Other than booting a notebook and messing with the pramaraters I really don’t know what I’m doing. But I am grateful to the researchers and hobbyists who have written such clear howto guides for their code notebooks. Most are as simple as Do A then B then C.

It’s mind boggling to me that I get to use datacenter compute power and it costs me nothing. A tool that essentially comes free with an email address. 

“Cybernetic Meadow” – VQGAN_CLIP 100 iterations.

It has to be one of the best value products Google has ever released. The UX works really well and messing about with it currently provides a window into the future of consumer grade cloud computing.

Speaking of the future,

I’ve really enjoyed exploring all these tools this week. Jumping between all three back to back in a single evening however had strange effects.

A touch of future shock perhaps, and weird weird dreams.


The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the audio due to time constraints.

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6 responses to “Learning Mode | 2129”

  1. […] I’ve mentioned before I’ve been messing about with Unreal Engine for a while. But I’ve been running into my […]

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  3. […] the last year or so I’ve spent some time messing about with game engines, learning the ropes etc. One of […]

  4. […] I first started messing with AI in Google CoLab in 2021, it’s felt like the field has been moving at warp speed. This last week has been no exception. As […]

  5. […] been messing with image synthesis tools since 2021 and have written about my experiences interacting with AI tools quite a bit since […]

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