Thinking About BattleBots (or "Boy, do I wish I could still talk to John!")

My niece recently graduated from BYU with a CS degree but is getting discouraged about ever finding the kind of life she wants:

A husband with whom she can raise a big family while working from home as a programmer. (You’d think this would be no problem with the LDS… Don’t get me started…)

So I’ve been trying to come up with some way to overcome her depression and think maybe I’ve found something that will motivate her out of her funk:

She’s seriously into BattleBots (as a fan although she did some class projects involving bot control) and has written a whole bunch of “mods” for the Unity gaming engine…


I went looking around for any BattleBots that were doing semi-autonomy using something like an AI Dojo for training of a outside-the-arena camera.

What should I discover but Orbitron:

And they’re from the University of Waterloo!

The University of Waterloo is where the Applied Brain Research guys are from:

But the ABR guys caught my attention back in 2019 because their Legendre Memory Unit patent was focused on dynamical systems identification – and that was what I saw as the key to the future of Algorithmic Information approximation as model selection.

Well, after a few years, the language modeling hysteria calmed down enough for Silicon Valley to recognize dynamical systems as the way forward in language modeling but, of course, the academic “authors of confusion” had to come up with another term for dynamical systems identification: “state space modeling”:

Well before “Mamba” (a State Space Model) became The Next Big Thing, I had already been seeking funding for the ABR guys by flying to Houston to meet with some very wealthy (and as it turned out, unfortunately for me, not very serious about AI) folks. This I did because, as I had hoped they might based on their proximity to Algorithmic Information as model selection, they came up with a factor of 10 improvement in data efficiency for their language model well before Mamba.

But, because they weren’t in SV no one cared.

OK, so I’m just trying to emphasize this because when I hear about “Waterloo” and “AI” I take notice because it is likely being undervalued by the AI hysteria that has taken hold of SV. (For example, Altman’s “$7 Trillion Dollar Chip Initiative” when the ABR guys seemed to have grounded their spiking neural net chip in neocortical systems model, trainable with their LMU approach to dynamical systems identification, but that’s another story.)

So these Waterloo BattleBots kids did pretty much the right thing from an AI perspective:

They used a physics game engine (Unity) to create an AI training Dojo, the way Musk is using his Dojo to train Tesla’s autonomous vehicles.

But then, reminiscent of the STP-Paxton Turbocar’s flop at the Indy500:

…they had an amazing start only to be defeated by the complexity of their system…

Obviously at least to me, to win in an arena like BattleBots, you need a mechanical design to withstand serious impacts as much as you need high performance control.

The kind of thoughts that run through my head:

Could you, possibly get rid of what we think of “electronics” entirely by reverting back to Tesla’s “Method of and apparatus for controlling mechanism of moving vessels or vehicles”… and, no, I’m not talking about Musk’s Tesla:

Who have we known better-versed in the history of “technological fallbacks” than John?

And what sort of energy storage is most-resilient to shocks while being able to deliver huge amounts of power, on demand, to rotating weapons as well as wheel torque?

Flywheels? Homopolar motor/generators?

Perhaps even low internal resistance ultracapacitors?

And what about this approach to simplicity of a self-righting BattleBot?

Ignore for a moment the low traction implied by a small surface contact and the lack of a viable weapon, since those can be remedied by a cylindrical section to each of the wheels and spray-on traction material for metal surface, and bisecting the axle with a torque-driven weapon.

And, as for transmitting control signals to such a vehicle:

Boy do I wish I could talk to John!


So do I.


Is your niece having trouble finding a (porn-addiction–free) guy, or finding a guy who wants a large family? If the latter, in my experience, it probably doesn’t matter what he thinks he wants.

I’ve seen many men who say they want a big family bail after the kids arrive, and men who say they can’t see themselves with a lot of kids end up with a huge family—and be happy about it. The woman usually holds most of the cards in this regard.

I’d recommend she look for someone with a strong sense of duty, rather than someone who “loves kids!” The latter is highly likely to flake.

Also, working from home in the preschool years is no picnic. She might feel like a live-in nanny undermines the purpose of being a stay-at-home mom, but the right person can become like an extended family member in the household, and really ease the extra load of work outside the home.


I’m reminded of a video I saw of Elon Musk’s conversation with a couple of female government bureaucrats in which he emphasized the importance of having children. IIRC he confronted them about it in their own lives. The practical barriers to TFR in an era of “The Two Income Trap” were taken up by Elizabeth Warren before she was worse-than-neutralized by being seduced into politics:

I can only imagine that Musk is paying his young female employees enough money to not only pay for the nanny services you advise, but avoid the mine-field of risks to family formation that Warren specialized in analyzing while a professor of bankruptcy law at Harvard.


As I delve deeper into the subject of young CS grads being not only unable to find jobs, but becoming so depressed as to become disillusioned with the world and, in essence, “giving up” on their futures, it has become apparent that it is virtually impossible to find any estimated statistics on the number of job openings by income level.

I’ve spun my wheels on this and have other things I must attend to*, so I’m done wasting my time on it and have asked the “open data” stackexchange for any help they might be able to provide:


* like overcome local intransigence to my attempt at educating people about the urgent need to develop some sort of local currency supporting first responders before the wheels come off of the USD as the worst resource curse.


There are lots of rumors that many posted job openings are not real. Part of it is the requirement to “prove” to government bureaucrats that there are no willing available qualified US citizens in order to get approval for imported (cheaper) labor.

Cynics would add that there are large numbers of Human Resource employees whose jobs depend on keeping the wheels spinning even if they have no real jobs to fill.

A lot of the “data” used by analysts is rather low quality. Unemployment figures and GNP statistics are examples. The more trustworthy estimates, like the giant unsustainable Trade Deficit, are not promising.