Jaron Lanier once told me why he chose to work with Microsoft rather than Google or Facebook. “It’s because,” he said, “Microsoft charges for the use of its products and services. In contrast, everything on Google and Facebook is ad driven.”

“Their revenue model is based on selling your personal data, so they have no choice but to be evil.

Some time later, I was talking with Yann LeCun. He told me why, as an A.I. reseaercher, he chose to work with Facebook rather than Google. “Both,” he explained, “gather people’s data. But Facebook is better, because people who use Facebook annotate their own data.”

I am fascinated by the way these two conversations are related.

Interactive textbook

Today I showed my computer graphics class some examples I’ve made of interactive diagrams. These are notes for a textbook that will be meant to be read on-line.

The basic idea is that every diagram in the book tells a little story. When you move your mouse over any diagram, it does something in response that aims to advance your understanding of whatever concept is being discussed.

You can check it out for yourself here.

For homework I asked the class to make their own interactive diagrams, and I gave them my software library to work with. I look forward to seeing what they come up with!


You would think that the situation most conducive to productivity would be one in which you have lots of time to think, without any distractions. After all, that would seem to be the optimal condition for entering a “flow” state.

Yet oddly enough, I seem to get much more done when I am overworked and busy and already have way too much on my plate. It appears that the need to multitask triggers some sort of psychic survival mechanism.

I begin to push in new directions, and I start tying projects together in new and different ways. In a sense, it feels as though the need to hold onto multiple things at once is causing me to temporarily grow more limbs.

I am not sure that this is a good thing.


I love the idea of election day. It’s something we too often take for granted here in the U.S., but I am acutely aware that it doesn’t exist everywhere in the world.

Democracy is a very beautiful idea. Each adult citizen gets exactly one vote, regardless of age, gender, profession or economic / social status. There are very few things in life as equitable as the democratic process.

Of course some people try to subvert it, to deny people their right to vote, to create unfairly high barriers to voting and gerrymandered districts that disenfranchise entire groups of people. Wherever there is good, there is also evil.

Still, I remain hopeful that democracy, as imperfect as it is, will win out. Voting is one of our most precious possessions.

Don’t take it for granted.


I suspect many of you have also had something like the following experience. When I am working on creating something, like a piece of computer code, or an animated character, or a procedural texture, sometimes I get sort of lost in the process.

I become so immersed that I forget all about myself. Time drifts by, and I tune out things like hunger or sleep.

When I emerge from this flow state, maybe a few hours later, I sometimes find that something wonderful has been created. Something that didn’t exist before.

And at such times I ask myself “Where did that come from?” Because I don’t quite remember having created what I am looking at.

In such situations I hesitate to take credit for the result, because it seems to have come from somewhere else. In a sense it feels that I was not the creator, but rather the instrument.

Well, whoever it is that I am working with at such times, I realize that I am privileged to have such a great and generous collaborator. All I can say is “Thank you.”

What I like about theater

I just saw a wonderful production of a wonderful play, and it got me thinking about the nature of theater.

The best thing about theater is the way in which it is completely the opposite of cinema. There is no camera. There is no editing. There are no special effects.

It’s just people on a bare stage creating the illusion of another world, using only words and facial expressions body language. It is this purity which makes it magical.

Why wait if you don’t need to?

I participated in a meeting yesterday with a number of film special effects professionals, and the topic was real-time film production. I was surprised to learn that many of them are waiting for the Apple Vision Pro to come out.

It seems to me that we can all get started figuring this XR based real-time production stuff out with the Meta Quest 3. Of course the quality is not as good, but the many unanswered questions about collaboration and production flow can be worked on right now.

Why wait if you don’t need to?

Now and Then

I have been listening to the Beatles song “Now and Then” periodically throughout the day. It’s a sad song, but it makes me incredibly happy. Every time I hear it, it seems to get even better.

I noticed that there are quite a few on-line commentators trashing this song. It seems that some people don’t like the fact that cutting edge technology was used to help bring it to life.

But when didn’t the Beatles use cutting edge technology to create their music? Wasn’t that an integral part of their identity?

Pay attention people.

Visual music

This evening I modified my extended reality piano program to create rising notes. Every time you play a note on the keyboard, a shape emerges from that key, and rises up into the air.

I first tried black and white shapes, but those were kind of boring, so now I am using rainbow colored shapes. I am making the black notes darker, but the general scheme is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet for the notes C,D,E,F,G,A,B.

I suppose I could have started the rainbow with A instead of C, but in my mind the scale really begins with C. I can always change it.

This is just a first step. What I really want to do is make multicolored butterflies rise up out of the keyboard as you play. At that point I think it will really start to feel like visual music.