Replace one day

If you could go back in time and replace any one day of your life, would you do it? If so, do you know what day you would replace?

You wouldn’t have any guarantee about what would happen on that day. If this were an option, could you put a price on how much it would be worth to you?

I think that simply asking this question, and spending some serious time pondering it, could give us some real insights about our deepest values and priorities.

With love and a fiction

Following up on my post from yesterday, do we have a special love for things that are fiction? Do we, in fact, use fiction as a way to process unlovable things in order to transform them into something lovable?

Think of all the characters from fiction that we love, like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, that we would find completely insufferable in real life. By finding a way to connect with such characters in fiction, we are processing emotions, and forms of emotional intelligence, that otherwise would be difficult or impossible to access.

It’s funny to think that we might be doing this with dinosaurs as well, but not completely crazy. After all, we are human. This is what we do.

Miniature train neologism, part 2

Yesterday I talked about the illusion, after visiting a model train shop, that the entire world is a model train setup. And we discussed a possible new word to describe this feeling.

I like Adrian’s suggestion “Déjà choo-choo”.

Then again, I realized that for me this is not a feeling that diminishes the world, but rather expands it and fills it with wonder. After all, if the entire world is a model train set, then we can make of it what we will. It becomes an object of our creation.

So I think that I prefer a word that suggest the craziness of such an idea, yet also conveys the wonderful feeling that the world around us is filled with creative possibility.

Given that, I prefer the word locomotivation.

Personalities and species

I have known a number of dogs, and I have known a number of people. And I have noticed quite a few personality traits that individuals of the two species have in common.

We could probably draw a diagram, with one axis showing systematic differences between the two species, and the other axis showing variations in personality common to humans and dogs. I suspect this second axis would be very rich in parallels.

I wonder whether there is some quality in evolution of mammals that promotes a particular range of personality types — confident, shy, neurotic, calculating, trusting of strangers, and so forth. Many psychological qualities that we think of as “human” are probably shared across a wide range of species.

It would be interesting to study the gamut of personality traits in a way that does not privilege humans in particular, but rather takes other species into account. I wonder whether this has been tried.

Fitness function

Since the pandemic started, unable to follow my usual rhythm of going to work too much, I have altered my daily patterns. I’ve started watching what I eat, working out several times a week, and in general getting more physically fit.

I realize that this has stereotypically the time of the “Covid 20′, when everyone sits around on Zoom all day and gains 20 pounds.

That isn’t how it has happened for me. Quite the opposite in fact.

I wonder whether there is a trend here that is going unreported. Maybe, in response to this tragedy, people have had a chance to take stock of their lives, rearrange their priorities, and realize that to live in your body is not something to take for granted.

Obvious question of the day

Why, in K-12 education, are kids not taught how to draw with the same level of seriousness with which they are taught reading and writing and math and history? Clearly, drawing is a skill that will empower them, if they could only do it well.

Sadly, I have seen so many otherwise incredibly capable young people not able to express themselves visually. Isn’t this a basic educational right of everyone?

A really expressive Martian

I attended a panel discussion at SIGGRAPH today that compared volumetric capture of people with computer synthesis of people. Both are ways of creating the appearance of a person in virtual reality or in a movie from a dynamic point of view.

The first uses an array of cameras to capture a real person from many different angles, so you can later move around a virtual camera to see that person from any chosen vantage point. The second is a computer graphic creation of a virtual person, which can be modified to look like anybody you wish — including people who don’t exist.

I am not sure it is fair to compare the two. It’s kind of like asking somebody to compare live action movies with animated movies. Each is good at a different thing.

I think it will be a long time, if ever, before synthetic humans are able to express all the emotional subtlety of a real person. On the other hand, volumetric capture is never going to let us create a really expressive Martian — or, for that matter, a really expressive Bugs Bunny.