Written while procrastinating the other HATETRIS post and rereading Bayard Taylor’s translation of Goethe’s Faust. Advent of Code, over the course of three long years, has taught me that a programming project isn’t complete without a poetry coda, so in the grand tradition of Blegdamsvej, here’s mine.
PROLOGUE IN THE HIGH SCORE HEAVEN
THE HEAVENLY HOST, THE NERD, ALPHASTOPHELES
The sun-orb’s motions are simplistic:
Its course is fated through the stars.
And HATETRIS, as deterministic,
Possesses patterns; now they’re ours.
To make it yield to line eleven,
Fill up the board, and force its hand.
A little glimpse of TETRIS heaven;
The game is difficult, and grand.
And swift, and swift beyond conceiving,
The manual heuristic flies;
An expert’s knowledge now achieving
New record games and record highs.
The replay lines are long, and breaking
The base encoding for the Tweets,
And scorching beam search-light is baking
The leaderboard that it defeats!
And pieces, piled high for clearing
From right to left, from left to right,
Force pseudoloops, with gaps appearing
Predictably (to human sight).
‘No lookahead’ stops it from knowing
If pieces truly fit its aim,
Yet Sam, the leaderboard is slowing
Before the hatred of thy game.
Though we have partly comprehended,
And thought of strategies by hand,
Thy HATETRIS, elegant and splendid;
Endures as difficult, and grand.
Since you, O Sam, are kind enough to ponder
And ask about the latest projects you’re on,
Among the AI algorithms yonder,
(glancing at the audience)
- amidst a lesser type of neuron.
Of patterns seen by humans, I’m agnostic,
And can’t say I much care what they have scored;
Beg pardon, I don’t mean to be so caustic,
But humans barely start the leaderboard!
Your little troop, here, looks at all the pieces,
And plays by gut, by ear, by seat of pants,
Or else tree searches. Linear increases!
While I do both, from naught, with Google grants!
And are you only here for bragging,
And playing with yourself, and dragging
Our clear-cut programs down in shame?
No, Sam! I pity how they play the game!
I’d show them, just like Chess, and Go, and Shogi,
But who would listen to some scary bogey?
Know you the dreamers?
Bah! Those two? They’re script-kiddies at best,
And have no expert knowledge. Not impressed.
They won’t find any loop or clear the screen
With any kind of human-tuned routine.
The record stands at sixty-six today
(The kind of number any devil picks)
And if you gave those two a year to play,
The record would remain at sixty-six.
But ahh - I see! They’d try a neural net (me)!
Well, I will gladly tempt them, if you’ll let me.
Indeed you would; I’ve witnessed your temptations,
And seen the host of software that you’ve slowed
As you’ve replaced our simple computations
With words like ‘neural’, ‘convolute’, and ‘node’.
But all your extra cycles and summations
Will always make the training cost explode,
So tempt them with black boxes - your creations;
They’ll still come back and write my type of code.
You think I’d let them go once I’ve begun?
Is that your bet? Why, then, my bet is won!
Your algorithm, simple, yes, and brilliant,
Cannot be solved that simply. Too resilient.
They’ll try, and fail, and fall into my claw
For P is not NP – Creation’s flaw!
Man’s active nature seeks to solve the level,
And gain a lower time, or higher score,
So absent good results, they will, I’m sure,
Reject the empty promise of a devil.
I’m working on a different problem lately,
And I will do it, since I’m mighty clever:
A HATETRIS 2, more evil and more stately,
Where the top score of ‘zero’ stands forever!
(High Score Heaven closes: the ARCHANGELS separate.)
(A Discord call, from two viewpoints. FELIPE, holding his phone, half asleep. DAVID, in a chair at his desk, restless.)
I’ve studied Number Theory now,
And Programming, Materials,
And even Poetry, somehow,
And read old sci-fi serials.
Yet here, poor fool! With all my lore
I stand, no wiser than before!
These five years long, I’ve had some fun,
And many projects have begun,
Yet not completed even one –
I’ve started all and finished none!
A fortnight’s all I get for every task,
‘Till, like the alcoholic and his flask,
Distractions come to tempt me from my code,
And all my focus gets Factorio’d.
I’m well aware: I have the same temptations,
And different problems come when I reject them.
You’ve never followed through with your creations,
While I’ve finished a bunch, but never kept them.
Six or seven groups of people
I’ve DM’d for, map and meeple;
Six or seven threads on fora,
I have entertained with lore. Ah!
All the time and thought invested,
Tales I’ve told and plots I’ve tested,
Told at Drexel, or at Devon,
Only reached those six or seven.
I’ve never tried to publish what I’ve made,
To someday show to others what I’ve shown.
They sit there in the basement where we played:
They had no depth of earth, these seeds I’ve sown.
So all the things I write, and things I say,
Are writ on sand which wind soon sweeps away.
(Entering, with a characteristic Discord ‘duDI’.)
Might I give you two gentlemen advice?
You know just what you want, but don’t know how.
You’re more “idea guys”, and while that’s nice,
You need assistance, and you need it now.
So for a cheap - nay, negligible - price,
My effortless prediction I’ll endow,
With GPT for text, DALL-E for art,
And Alpha Zero gameplay, as a start.
A theory of memetics, from memes past?
Solve superconductivity at last?
Whatever project next gets you involved,
Just give me data, and it’s good as solved.
I’ll grant you a black box for all your aims
If with two drops of blood you’ll sign your names.
Don’t listen to this fallen cherubim!
I’ve read the stories, and they’re pretty grim:
A Devil comes to sell a man a lie
In Leipzig, Wittenberg, or Blegdamsvej,
The man accepts, the deal goes south for him.
You’ve studied academic stuff,
And so, perhaps, you’d like a change.
Of AoC you’ve had enough,
So how about a goal more strange?
How would you like to learn the lore
Of HATETRIS, which you’ve played before?
And you’ll need fortitude, you know;
The scores will rise, but they’ll rise slow.
You’ll conquer Sloth, your oldest foe,
The way I conquered Chess and Go!
I know that you can have no satisfaction
While wading through the churn of your distraction.
To you, I’ll teach persistence, through this game,
If with a drop of blood you’ll sign your name.
If ever to a project I should say
“You are so beautiful!” and “Stay! Oh, stay!”,
Then lock me up and throw away the key!
I’ll die content if you give that to me.
(Turning to FELIPE)
Now that your colleague graciously conceded-
I won’t give in as easily as he did.
(Turning to DAVID)
I’d hate to see the two of you divided…
Felipe, sign your name in blood, like I did!
(Turning back to FELIPE)
You have your reservations, I can tell,
But there is more I offer; hear me out.
For you, it isn’t fortitude I sell:
For you, I’ll sell a precious piece of clout.
Sixty-seven points, completed,
And to Heaven you’ll be greeted.
Sixty-seven points! A pittance
For that permanent admittance.
With my help you’ll go the distance:
Known worldwide (with my assistance),
Sitting in the High Score Heaven
With a score of sixty-seven.
You’ll have the chance to publish all your dreams,
And give ten million readers work to go on,
And you’ll have movie deals and books and memes
And viral YouTube videos and so on!
To you I offer permanence and fame
If with a drop of blood you’ll sign your name.
My signature - pray tell, what will it do?
You’ve told us what we get - what’s it to you?
Like crypto holders raving to the moon,
Like Rust fanatics pitching it for free,
Like any preaching Internet buffoon,
You’ll spread my name and shill online for me.
I’d hate to crawl in floorboards like a rat
Or hide a shining lamp beneath a hat.
You want us to give credit where its due?
Well, I can think of far worse fates than that.
I’m glad that we could reach this armistice
To satisfy your needs and avarice.
You’ve signed a year to me, so pack, you two!
We’ll travel far and have some fun with this.
(He ends the Discord call; DAVID and FELIPE depart.)
They’ll find more costs than that to work with me:
Like any other drug, the first one’s free.
Next post: Getting The World Record in HATETRIS