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Or ( "To Do Science Or Not To Do Science")


Originally published on cingiler.substack.com on 25.02.2023. The French version of the song Let It Go is a bit darker than its English counterpart. In English, Let It Go is more akin to "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga, Elsa lets every obstacle in her life go, decides to live her life as who she is, and tells the audience that the cold never bothered her anyway.

In the French version, she is freed. She is freed from the chains of her past and her abilities, and the cold is the price she pays for her freedom. She is still happy, but she is explicitly aware that she is paying a price.

I think I will need to pay a similar price.





I have somehow have been part of some kind of scientific research since 2017. I did genetics stuff, pen-and-paper Psychology studies, I hand cleaned EEG data, I did computerized studies, I did evolutionary agent analysis, I did BCI product development. I did a lot of science stuff, especially brain science. I didn’t like the fact that we didn’t really have an answer to the question “how does organic matter, or anything, has consciousness associated with it” - i.e. “how do I experience” - and tried to shape my career towards that question. (I think the first thing I realized was basically we knew nothing about Psychology and how humans worked, and then I got into consciousness stuff.) It kind of is part of my identity right now. “Who is Oğulcan?” → “He does brain stuff.”. I also want to think that I like to do brain stuff.

I really like to think about brain stuff. There is no doubt about it.

I even like to get into discussions/fights about it.

But do I like to do the science part? Do I really like to do it? I would like to think I do, but I am not sure I do. I like writing code for research projects, but I usually don’t really like gathering data, especially I even hate some of the ways that one can gather data. I also don’t really like the fact that I need to take courses to further my position in the academia. I feel ungrateful for saying this, as I am able to listen to lectures from people who are excellent at what they do, but I don’t really want to listen to lectures anymore. I just want to do something instead of listening. Even the parts I don’t like of the reseach process are much more attractive to me than going through another school again. And this is just the “me” part of the problem, there is also the environmental factors: Finding and covincing a professor who is doing research on something that is close to your interests and who is also looking for a PhD student, then finishing said PhD and then finding a job in academia.

One can say that it is possible if you are good enough and also willing to relocate? Let’s say I am good enough but not willing to relocate and I am also willing to extend my options for a PhD, I will do whatever that is tangentially related to my area of expertise and found someone to do a PhD project with. This a possible scenario, there are tons of Neuroscience researchers in where I live. Then the question becomes, what happens after you finish your degree and you want to stay in academia? You need to find a post-doc position. How many post-doc positions will be available in your area? For how many will you be able to eligible? Maybe you should change cities. Why? Why do I need to change cities or even countries at this point? I am more than capable of doing my job on my own, why not just give me a place so I can do my contribution?





I had a friend who really wanted to be a musical actor. I feel like her. The chances of being one is so small, basically zero. Yet she tried, tried really hard for a long while. I don’t think I ever asked her why, I don’t know if she knows why. I think I am in a very similar place. Here is this problem that almost everybody who understands it agrees that it is pretty difficult, and I think I am a delusional knight standing in the field and charging against this problem,Consciousness, believing that I may actually solve it. I feel like, in some place inside of me, I really believe I can find an answer to it. If I cannot, at least I can help people find an answer to it, or try to propagate “the right answer”. (It is Integrated Information Theory by the way.)

This seems doable at first, especially testing an already found answer, or doing research about it seems very reasonable, until you realize you will probably never find a job. The number of positions decrease at every step and the amount of work you put in will never be enough. It could be enough of course, but, will it? Is it really worth the effort? Is it even possible to be a musical actor?







There is one question I am actually avoiding to answer: Do I even like it? Do I even like to do science? I like doing many things but do I enjoy the process? If I don’t, can’t I at least do something that pays the bills?

I may be thinking about this question possibly for years and something I should confess to myself is that even though I really like the feeling of discovery, I don’t really like doing cognitive research. I am a computer scientist who likes to play with data. I am a philosophy enthusiast who likes to think and speculate about consciousness. I am definitely not a person who can spend hours to collect behavioral data so that I can separate one small effect between two similar conditions.

Some cognitive experiments are borderline torture and I cannot even stand doing them myself.


Some little side notes:

I realize that maybe the problem is not science. I always liked working in the scientific establishment as a software developer. However, the gathering data part, the difficult part, has always been painful for me. If I could do one thing , I would rather find a way to speed up all this process. If I could save hours from an EEG researcher’s and their participants to their experiments’ lives, I would be a very happy person.

I also realized that I really like the fact that when I do research I am at the edge of the human knowledge for a while, until someone passes that, and it feels nice,cool, possibly glorious; but also this seems a bit unhealthy, it is like searching for this itch to scratch, this feeling of firstness. Is it really necessary to have this feeling to lead a good life? Or have I been too scarred from the unfathomable competitiveness of the Turkish National Education? Do I really need to feel special all the time? Is this what all this thing is about? I kinda feel like I will lose the spark of this distinctness if I get an industry job. I kind of feel like this is an implicit lie academia sells willingly or unwillingly -or maybe it is just a delusion I wanted to believe in- : “Here, take your place here and you will not be like anyone else. You are a pioneer, you are different. Yes, now work overtime for free, you are special.”







The French version of Let It Go, Libérée, délivrée, is a more honest representation of reality than its English counterpart. A decision concerning leaving behind what you know and try to build a new life comes with its prices to pay.

I came to write this essay to conclude that maybe it is my time to be liberated and leave academia behind with whatever price I will pay. Yet, I leave it inconclusively. I am as deluded as before as I still imagine a future in academia, yet now I think maybe I should be more careful about what I will do with my life. Maybe I will figure out something new to do in academia, maybe I will not.

Every decision I take will come with a price, but a life spent miserably should not be one.








P.S.: This was my third attempt to write a post on this topic. The first one was 12 page essay, where I presented an autobiographical portrait of my academic life and how I thought I lost my ability to study and ended it with a call for Slow Science -a movement which I didn’t know existed- . The second one was shorter, a 7 page summary of Turkish National System and how life and education in Turkey can put a person in “survival mode” which results in unreasonable expectations of oneself and also a sense of self-worth based on external validation and metrics. That essay’s main message was one should get out of this survival mode and realize that there aren’t any monsters chasing them after. It was essentially a call for a well-being approach for myself and other anxious academics.

I needed to write that second essay because before starting my Master’s degree, we had a slight mishap with my wife, our visas came basically a month after the semester started and I didn’t and couldn’t really keep up. I still feel guilty about it. I am not even sure why I am feeling guilty about this. The feeling of guilt comes from the idea that these courses were my responsibility and I haven’t fulfilled that responsibility. I think there is this nice area where responsibility and mental health clashes and I was in the middle of that. Yeah, but now writing that I realize there is another question that needs to be asked: What responsibility? I feel like there is none. For all my non-adult life, I was told certain things were my responsibility but now I realize, my academic obligations are truly optional. What I want to do with my life and actions that I need to take to be able to do those things are responsibilities: Making money is a responsibility, providing a livelihood in other ways is a responsibility, taking care of my cat is a responsibility. My master’s courses are completely optional.

Well, I didn’t publish the first essay because of personal reasons, and I didn’t publish the second one because it wasn’t really good to begin with and also it was more like a crash course on Turkish National Education system when I was between the ages of 11-17 - which I may publish at some point, it was crazy stuff-. I am publishing this essay because I think it is more relevant to anyone who may be going through something similar to mine and may help them cope. Also maybe someone write a response so that we may have a nice discussion.

Now why am I writing this endnote? Well, after I wrote the piece above, I was editing it and I realized I didn’t know how the academic system worked in Germany and checked, and realized that it is basically impossible to find a decent academic position. So: In the end, there isn’t even a choice. I have been liberated by the job prospects of the German academic establishment. Maybe I got something wrong from what I read but as far as I understand the most one can reasonably get as a job is a six year contract after PhD, then probably you get nothing as there aren’t that many professorship positions. That’s kind of a relief. I should have checked that before. The most relocation I was willing to do was in Germany itself and even that would have been mostly meaningless. Cool. ( https://echer.org/navigating-the-academic-career-system-in-germany/, https://echer.org/welcome-to-germany-95vswisszeitvg/ , https://www.eui.eu/programmesandfellowships/academiccareersobservatory/academiccareersbycountry/germany )

(Or "Stop Writing When You Cannot Write")


A few days ago, 4, to be almost exact, I wrote a review on No Man's Sky. It was a bad review by all measures. I wrote it when I wasn't feeling ready, I wrote it when I didn't even finish half of the "story" in the game and I wrote it when my English skills were in their lowest for many years. Yet, I will keep pushing to try to write my posts in English because if I don't do that - and I wasn't doing that- they will diminish further. I live in a contry where I cannot really speak English with other people and when I do it is very rare, because I completely reject the idea of going to my classes. If I had gone to my classes then I would have at least some practice in speaking English. To be fair, I go to some of them and all I realize is how my skills in English are lacking. That's why I decided to write an essay on No Man's Sky in English, even though I knew it wouldn't be good, even though I knew that it would be torture to my wife and a couple people who read it. I published the essay. I am the shameless student who doesn't give a crap about what the instructor is going to see on my exam paper. I see a question, I write an answer. The rest is the reader's problem.


This of course is a lie. If I was that shameless and delusional I wouldn't be writing this. I am somewhat ashamed of how the review turned out to be. I should have played the game a bit longer, I should have tried to write something with (more) substance. I probably should have not tried to give a weird context for the game I was reviewing. It was such a bad way to create some kind of a background to a story that if you had known nothing about the game or the hype surrounding it circa 2015, you didn't know what I was talking about, and if you had known all of that, then it was meaningless. Who was that review's target audience then? I guess the audience was my desire to write a game review after consuming too much Tim Rogers content in the past three months. After going through videos and written reviews of one particular person who gained my tremendous admiration, I decided to become that guy, while fully knowing that no one can become another person. Heck, I am even imitating this guy's voice in this paragraph. And, I need to stop.


One of the problems in the review, I believe, was that I cannot really shake the traditional game review format out of myself. However, I don't really remember how the game reviews of the old went and how they felt. I remember so little of them, yet I used to read them at least on a monthly basis. All I can remember is how the game engine in Prototype was sometimes buggy and didn't calculate collisions in time, and how Super Mario Galaxy 2 was awesome. Now thinking about them what I realize is that they were just essays on given games. Yes, there were discussions of how the technical feats of the game were compared to other contemporary titles, but in the end, they were essays that happened to touch upon the topics of graphics and gameplay. Maybe I am misremembering them right now. Maybe there was a structure to them, or maybe there were some kind of rules to follow for every other gaming magazine. Still, I can say that a game review is "What a person thought about this game" and that's why it is actually a limitless genre and also this is why I was amazed by Action Button's -Tim Roger's blog- reviews. Those reviews were not some twenty-eight-minute-long video-essay-worthy long form treatises filled with references to the literary theory and philosophy. Nor they were some kind of a discussion that can be boiled down to an argument about graphics and gameplay. They were something else entirely. They were in a place between Jacob Geller-esque intellectuality and Kotaku-like every-dayness. Here was a person -and a team- writing long-form weird essays on games I didn't play and they were amazing. I wanted to imitate the guy. I wanted to be the other possibly French author of the Final Fantasy 7 review on actionbutton.net and wanted to be able to say that "No Man's Sky is a game about nothing, and I want video games to be about something", but s/he had already said it. And I wanted to add my flair and my understanding. I wanted to be original, in a way that they were. A copy of the originals. An imitation. I couldn't be even that.


My first idea was "Cingiler's Phenomenological Game Reviews", with which I somehow planned to -and believed that I was capable of- write game reviews in a "phenomenological" fashion. By which I mean that I was going to report the feeling and the experience of the game very systematically but also in an artful way. Now writing this I am realizing that these are possibly contradictory goals to have in an essay. Also I am realizing that they may not be. I wanted to be able to get a reader and put them into the game by using my written words. I wanted to say that "this is how the game feels like", "it feels like you are a forgotten drop in an ocean yet everyone tries to make sure that you feel special". "It feels like that the loneliness you feel is so artifical, it is almost like you live in an MMO where every character has their own server to play in and the game doesn't hold back reminding this to you". (Even this last sentence is too game review-y). Well, then I realized something. All game reviews, at least in my mind, were already doing what I was planning to do. They tried to convey the feeling of a game through words and through explaining how the game feels. The graphics, the story and the gameplay were the phenomenological aspects of the game and people have been doing that forever, or so I thought.


In the end, I messed up. I didn't write a masterpiece of a review on No Man's Sky, I wrote a pretty mediocre, and to be honest, straight up a bad review of No Man's Sky. The best thing in the review was the post-script at the end where I explained how I felt about the fake discoveries in the game. I still feel awkward about those. I should have been more honest in my review and explained how the game felt to me. Instead I tried to write a background story, I also wrote it in a pretty bland way and messed it up. No one needed to know how No Man's Sky is somewhat objectively, but someone may needed another person's completely honest and personal opinion on it. How the game made them feel, how it was for them, what the experience was like, these were probably the important questions and I answered some of them in the review but apart from saying that "I LIKE SHOOTING ASTEROIDS". I failed.


I failed also because I wrote the review when I had nothing to say apart from "discoveries fake, asteroids good" . I wrote the review when I haven't particulary had any emotional reaction or a thought about the game. I wrote the review because I wanted to get something out and it was already becoming a burden to play the game daily. I treated this project as I treat every other project in my life: With laziness and a lack of care. They say "Perfect is the enemy of good", but is mediocre really a friend of anyone? To finish this, I would like to say: I wrote a bad review and I apologize from every two or three of you -maybe six of you- for putting you through that. It was bad and I knew it was bad but I didn't stop still . I particularly would like to apologize to my wife as I am pretty sure she read the whole thing. Sorry wifey, I wouldn't want that to happen to you if I wasn't that selfish.


I have nothing left to say. Bye



Güncelleme tarihi: 29 Oca 2023

Nothing. You say nothing. Everything that needs to be said already has been said and you just go and read what is written and watch what is online. Or listen to a podcast about it, if that's your thing.


Here we go:


No Man's Sky is a third-person base-building, space-exploring, item-crafting, creature-cataloging, and pirate-fighting game made by Hello Games. I played it once when it was released, it had huge performance issues, couldn't endure it for 10 minutes, turned it off, and never played it again.


I saw on the internet that the new updates fulfilled the promises of the company in the end, and it was a decent game now. I didn't have the means to buy and play it for years, so I never did, and then I bought Game Pass. And No Man's Sky was on Game Pass. "This is good", I thought, "finally I will be able to play this game". After all, I liked Elite Dangerous, I really like going around in space, and I was really hyped before the game came out in 2016. Why was I hyped? Well, for some reason, everything the Hello Games Guy said - I don't remember his name, and I will not google this particularly easy-to-find information - was so interesting for me, and not just for me but for lots and lots of gamers. We were HYPED. We wanted to see that procedurally generated one-of-a-kind universe, we wanted to see different animals and weird plants. I wanted to see them. However, when the game came out, nothing was in place. It was almost like someone watched a video of a Unity tutorial on No Man's Sky's basic mechanics and made a small demo based on that.


It isn't like this anymore.


Every basic promise of the game is kept in the end. These developers somehow managed to do it all, and even though some parts feel like they were glued on top of an existing project as an afterthought, it works. The core game there works. For whatever reason, it works. It is so much fun to discover new creatures, it is so much fun to catalog them, so much fun to upload them to the internet, and hope that someone else will see that I, someone whom they never knew, once was there and discovered that creature. It is even fun to build a base, to teleport in and out of it. It is so interesting. It is interesting because it is obvious that the in-game achievements were tacked on to the game much later than it was first developed, and it is interesting because some of the choices for the GUI just don't make sense and it is interesting because sometimes it tells the story not even as a dialogue between characters but as prose. You find a ship to discover and you read what happened to the ship's pilot from your own character's mouth, which feels like the story was more like an add-on to the game, however, after some point even that feels interesting. This game is interesting because all of these mechanics are out of place yet they still somehow keep you in the game and keep you going. I still want to learn all the Korvax words so that I can know that learning all of them was probably meaningless. I want to figure out what's going on in the universe of the game. I kind of want to finish the main story. Even though the story will probably make no sense, or maybe I won't like it. This game is interesting because somehow it feels like it shouldn't be.



No Man's Sky, is, I believe, a game of compromises, like Deus Ex. It is not the best crafting game, it is not the best base-building game, and it is not the best space-shooting game, but it is a game where all of these mechanics are built well enough. And it is the only game I know where you catalog living beings and minerals, which scratches an itch for me. It is, for reasons I don't really understand, really captivating for me to catalog everything. I want to analyze that rock, I want to figure out what that plant is, and I want to know what this animal is. I have the option to change the name of these, but I rarely do. I leave the universe and the game in their pristine condition. I didn't even want to dig the rocks and caves to gather minerals. I don't like to harm the planet I was on. I didn't want to leave my permanent mark in this virtual reality. Yet, I did. I had, to be able to go forward, to be able to build another machine, to run my exosuit and my spaceship. I even tried to fix the holes I dug once or twice, but I couldn't. At least I couldn't do it properly. So, I had these anonymous scars that I left on these planets. And I have to live with the knowledge of that. I have to look at every rift on a planet I have been to and be burdened by the knowledge of not knowing whether it was done by some crazy big space monster or just by me, a human doing human stuff.


In No Man's Sky, you can fly your ship, visit space stations, other planets, and other star systems, but also you can fly your ship, head towards space from the planet you were on, and SHOOT ASTEROIDS. I really like shooting asteroids. It was one of the best moments for me while playing the game, I realized I can shoot asteroids and they were destructible. The feeling of peace that I get from putting a hole in an asteroid in space is just indescribable. It is almost like eating a really good dessert. Delicious.


No Man's Sky is a good game because it feels good to play it. It is not Outer Wilds, it will never be Elite Dangerous, and it may or may not be Minecraft or Astroneer - both of which I have really little experience with, so take it with a grain of salt-, but it is good as it exists. It is a fun place to chill, go around, get attacked by pirates, and gather gold from the asteroids. And catalog animals. So many weird animals. The story is meh. The graphics are sometimes good but very taxing on my computer. THE MUSIC IS SO NICE. It feels random at places, but when it hits right, it is the best thing.


I would recommend No Man's Sky to anyone who would like to feel like they are the loneliest person in the Universe and to people who like to walk on the edge of imminent death, or to people who are contractors at their hearts and really like to build things. That's also fine. I like No Man's Sky because I like exploring, I kind of always liked exploring -which makes me wonder why I am not doing that anymore in real life- and I like shooting stuff in space.



That's it.


I really like shooting stuff in space.





p.s.:


For the story and the never-ending fear of death, I would really recommend Outer Wilds. I haven't finished it either, but the story was so captivating and so good, and the horror of space was just right. I never had that fear before, and I think haven't had it later in any other game. - Even though in my notes I said for No Man's Sky" (it has ) the deep feeling of never-ending loneliness, as it should have ", the reality of it is that the game doesn't really leave you alone. At most, it feels like you are part of some kind of a game show, in a way. You "discover" things in places that have already been obviously discovered. Everywhere is littered with abandoned ships, cargo drops, persons of other alien species, and protective robots. How can I be the first one on a planet when there are manufacturing facilities or trade posts on that same planet? "Discovery" in the case of No Man's Sky, I believe, is just a very narrow definition of discovery where the "players" are the first ones that are discovering anything that can be discovered. I haven't played as a Gek or a Korvax, and I don't know if Gek or Korvax players play in a human star system and discover human planets as the first Gek or Korvax who had been there, but for me, it was like I was this first human or anomaly (it is also a species, which I don't know anything about) in a Gek system. But, the Geks were already there. The Korvax were already there. I should really check the case for different player species, for example, if Gek players or Vy'keen players- I don't even know if you can play as Vy'keen- also play in the same star systems where their own species is the dominant ones, then it would mean that the game really takes the player(s) as its own thing, as a meta-being in the universe and treats it differently, which in the end is a shitty thing for the suspension-of-disbelief for a game to immerse someone. I really don't like this. I don't like being the fake discoverer of the Universe. When the game tells you that "You were the first one here", you are never the first one there - at least for the first 8 hours of the game, I don't know the rest-, and I am particularly not okay with this lie. To hell with this, I will check that now. It's time to start over.




Coming an hour later:


I checked it. I also played the game like a psycho -destroyed many plants and rocks on my way to reach my goal- to be able to reach the species selection screen. I couldn't reach it, but this run made me understand something: There is no need to look for ludonarrative dissonances or rifts, or whatever it can be called for this game. This game is more akin to a zen garden or a virtual national park, where you go to relax. It has surprises, and it still has surprises after 9 hours of playing it and I believe it will have more surprises afterward. This game is an "experience" to be had like Abzu, you need to let it happen and enjoy it. It is as if bird watching had a child with a walk in a park but you are on a spaceship and usually about to die.


It is nice.






Edited using Grammarly on 22.01.2023. Written originally on 18.01.2023.


New Addition on 24.01.2023: First, apparently you are always playing multiplayer but the chance to see other players is so low. I thought every player had their own universe and could only meet in the Anomaly. Also, for once - while playing Multiplayer with a friend- , we woke up in a system where there was a planet where someone has - a Playstation player called TheVerySpecialK - already discovered. -The planet we started on was not discovered-


One more thing I want to add is, at least on Wikipedia, it seems that the hype around the game was driven by the media and the fans, and the Hello Games guy was kind of trying to deflate it. I don't remember it happenening that way, but it may have happened that way, and in the Wikipedia page there is at least one report of Hello Games-Guy saying something akin to "don't keep your expectations too high, this is a very chill game". Also I believe that the way they kept their promise is really cool and shows their honesty.


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