May 23rd, 2013: Day 12081
May 23rd, 2013: Day 12081
You may or may not notice the quotes at the bottom of this site page. The home page of Who Is... contains many entries on the front page. This blog is also replicated across various social networks. As such, you may never even see the homepage. I've posted various quotes that I thought worth repeating upon hearing/reading them at some point. One particular quote I thought worth repeating is relevant to my post. Thus, I quote.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
I think over awareness of knowledge drives the mind crazy. With every piece of information & fact that falls into the working memory, the brain tries to work out the relationship between each new piece and the others. With the total possible connections growing rapidly, the brain either gives up, or runs itself crazy as it continues to work in left hemisphere following every connection.
This is what comes to mind when I think of social media fatigue; hyperawareness from of all this knowledge of everyone's personal information resulting in my brain saying, "no more", resulting in a shutdown. Perhaps I should have hit that limit sooner as I've long since crossed the dunbar limit in terms of total number of social connections (200 contacts, ~400 facebook friends, etc.).
To be accurate, it's more Facebook fatigue (facetigue?) than anything else. For me, most other social networks are more passive and less pervasive; Twitter comes in 2nd but it's footprint is smaller. Facebook being tied to my phone, as a passive feed in the web browser, linked to my email, and embedded on every web page has hit a point where it's too much. What was novel & exciting has become dull & burdensome.
As time goes on and friendflation sets in, news feeds become less usable. You start to see way more stuff that you don't care about versus that which you do. It goes back to the dunbar limit referenced earlier; as the number of social connections grows, so does the "grooming", the overhead spent trying to maintain the social connection. Once that overhead starts to take up more time than the stuff that matters (talking with people!), it all starts to break down.
But inexorably the march continues. In the information age, it's too tedious and long-winded to talk to a person to know who they are; it's much easier to see a nice curated page of likes, information points of jobs/activities/etc that tell me who a person is.
I stop submitting such information awhile ago because I realized something; the likelihood that this published information will strike up a social media induced serendipity is far outweighed by what it will be mostly likely used more for: micro marketing.
As a web developer, I can't help but feel that's all what's social media is good for these days. Everyone's always chasing the next big thing in tech and social media is it these days. If you want to have your presence known on the web, you have to do social media. No doubt about it. On one good side, social media has made it easy for the tech layman to communicate on the web. On the other, it means everyone is communicating at the same time.
The result is a feed of updates half-filled with things I could care less about. This is something I could filter, tweak, adjust, and so on, but that's more thing I have to do while fiddling with some electronic device (among all the work I have to do). Isn't technology supposed to make our lives easier? I could leave it to auto-curate for me, but I'm the type of person who likes to see the big picture; I don't want technology reinforcing my existing confirmation biases.
The struggle continues...
It's been a while since another post. There are many topics that I have cached that I'd like to write on. If it weren't for the troubling aspect of so many things eating at my free time, you'd see more posts on here. I'm not sure there are many readers on here anyway, I've notice the traffic has slowed down to very little these days. Partly because Google hasn't been indexing the site correctly which I fixed not too long ago. I'm sure the sporadic updates are another reason. So be it, there's not much I can do it about it.
Lately, an intriguing concept for me has been time. I'm reminded of a post I wrote long ago about my 2nd act. I think about today and the way things have progressed in my life which, in turn, has made me think about how I perceived time back then versus how I perceive them now. Time is a hard thing to exactly pin down; it can mean different things depending on what you're talking about.
In physics, time is a duration between 2 events or physical states. Whether it's how long it takes for the earth to fully rotate, a pendulum to move from side-to-side, or the radiation frequency of a cesium-133 electron transitioning between energy levels, the essence is the same; noting a specific physical state and some constant duration between each happening of that state. Keeping track of time physically allows us to consistently synchronize many things in life.
Psychologically, however, time is a different creature. Anyone that has uttered about time, flying, dragging on, or such has experienced this. Time isn't felt with the consistent synchronicity as with a modern atomic clock; it's relative to the observer based on number of influences. These influences can warp how time is felt just as gravity warps spacetime. Most of these influences are pretty common to many people; things like a person's age, the novelty of what their feeling or doing, their sense of urgency, their emotional state, the influence of drugs, and so on affect a person's sense of time. The Wikipedia article on time perception is an interesting write up on the phenomena and discusses many of these same influences.
The brain isn't like a clock. For the brain, time is more like a series of memories (feelings, thoughts, facts) that we can go back and reflect on even as new ones are happening. These memories that flood into our brain represent how we feel time progress. How many new memories we pick up, given a certain amount of time, would be akin to some sort of temporal resolution for the mind.
The easiest way to explain temporal resolution is to compare to something like a video camera. A video camera works just like a normal camera except it take multiple pictures every second. Showing the pictures in normal progression produces the effect of motion. For a video camera, the temporal resolution is how many pictures, or frames, are taken per a unit of time (seconds). The frames per second (FPS) captured by the camera is the temporal resolution. With a greater resolution, the effect of motion/change is more noticeable. A slideshow of pictures progressing a 1 FPS won't feel like motion, a video at 10 FPS will produce choppy looking video, a movie at 24 FPS will produce a reliable feel of motion, a TV broadcast or video game at 60 FPS will produce smoother motion akin to what we see in life.
But the brain isn't like a video camera either. It doesn't capture crystal clear memories at a certain rate each second. It's temporal resolution is variable. While there's a few well known influences on the brain that adjusts it, we hardly know the whole picture of it.
So how does that relate back to feeling of time perception? The brain, by its nature, doesn't have a concept of the second. It can't feel a second. The second is something created by us for observing the physical world. We anchor our lives around the physical phenomena of the second so we can make order of life, but their is no inherit concept of it. For the feeling of time perception, the brain is governed by our senses and its thoughts. The memory is its unit of time.
To explain how this relates, I'll use the most common influence that everyone has first experience with: aging. Lets use a couple days that everyone has gone through: the first day of elementary school & the last day of high school. This example is arbitrary but it could work with any 2 similar events where one occurred after another.
In the first day of elementary school, you have to go through a lot of new things which are almost always, for good or bad, memorable: learning to wake up on a certain time, learning how to read, meeting new friends, learning all your teachers, etc. Through a kindergartner's first day, there are numerous novel things to learn, feel, and do. .
Compare that to the last day of high school. While there will still be many memorable things (saying good bye to friends/teachers, preparing for graduation, etc), it won't compare to the first day of elementary school. At that point there has been many routine things established: your schedule, your friends, your hobbies, the subjects you know, etc. In your mind, these things are glossed over; they're footnotes pulled from your explicit/implicit memory.
Visually, I like to think of it as a day divided up into different memories of that day. In the example above, the top would be the new kindergartner's day compared with the graduating senior's day. The length of time is the same (i.e. one day worth of physical time). However, there are way more memories divided into the day of kindergarten than there is the day of high school.
However, because the mind feels time by its memories, the amount of time felt for the kindergartner is much longer than the high school student. Each memory itself is the unit of time, not the second. Visually, the effect would appear something like this to the mind:
As time goes on this effect becomes more pronounced as a routine sets in. It's not immediately noticeable, because of its graduality of time but it's noticeable on retrospective. Comparisons between the length of summers during school vacation versus the length of summers as a working adult are quite noticeable for me. One good way to observe it is to pay attention to what kids do versus adults. Adults are generally more patient because time, for them, is passing faster than kids. Many parents talk about how quickly their "kids grow up so fast" which is funny because, from the kids' perspective, they grow up so slow.
This effect isn't just related to new experiences. New experiences just one of the many influences I mentioned before. Aging I imagine is the most noticeable of all. As the body slows down from aging, the alertness from its senses puts the mind & body into a gradually increasing torpor. In an rather odd abstracted way, the body aging isn't too different from NIST's definition of aging which is used in the context of physical timekeeping.
The end effect is new memories created from our senses and thoughts slows down even though time is still passing at a constant rate. In other words, our temporal resolution decreases; the videogame turns into the movie which turns into a choppy video which turns into a slideshow.
If you wanted to extrapolate it out, you can use the same visual example. Imagine a person's life experiences as a spiral of memories; densely packed from the center starting from birth and childhood, and getting less sparse as you spiral out into adulthood. Those core group of memories in the center define you as a person. The more you add to the spiral, the more you reflect on things and wonder where the time has gone.
This sort of relativity in time perception makes me wonder about how other creatures feel time. Dogs have a greater temporal resolution than people. Time moving slower for them allows them to do things like catch objects with their mouth quickly. Gradually they age and move slower. Does their lifetime feel the same as ours? What about insects that live for only a few days? They react really quick to movement. Does their greater temporal resolution make time move even slower for them?
It's certainly odd to think about.
With the start of the new year, I've made changes to the websites I administer. The biggest change is that I've moved them from a cheap shared hosting account to a virtual private server (VPS), a middle ground between shared hosting and a fully-dedicated physical server. If you've loaded this website in the last week or so, you've probably noticed the biggest change, speed. In addition to the performance gains provided by a VPS, I'm also able to make further configuration changes to Apache (such as mod_pagespeed & mod_deflate) that has allowed for further performance gains and enabling SSL (encypted traffic between the web server).
To keep the momentum going with performance upgrades, I've also added mobile versions of this site & The Riverhouse. Whenever you visit this site in your browser, it should bounce you over to http://m.shawnconn.com/ where you'll see the same content but formatted for a smaller screen. Doing this with Drupal is a little tricky but I think it's worth it; the mobile web is only going to get bigger at this point. I don't think it's a stretch to say that for some, it will be their only Internet experience. In the mobile Internet era, having loading times between subsecond to at most a few seconds is critical.
With the new freelance job I picked up, learning all the possible optimization tricks is going to be necessary to make sure the servers keep up with demand. I've been on the lookout for more tools and information to help me in this quest. This site is worth a plug, it offers stress testing for your site. Prices & services range from free to the more enterprise class solutions.
Steve has mentioned to me on a couple of occasions his surprise that the XBox Kinect hasn't had more hype about it compared to the Nintendo Wii upon its release; the reasoning, technologically, the XBox Kinect is more impressive with its body/voice recognition than the Nintendo Wii's Wiimote gestures. I agree it is. However, it's not surprising that the degree of hype isn't the same.
Blame it on jadedness with peripheral-based games or a glut of games following the "causal gamer" market. Whatever it is, expectations have changed since 2006 when the Wii was released. In 2006 there was an untapped market for gamers who were left behind the learning curve that kept growing long past the re-emergence of video games in the latter 80's. Nintendo had understood this from the shrinking video game market in Japan. Sony & Microsoft are just now playing catchup with this now-fully tapped market; along with numerous peripheral Wii games, portable console games, smartphone games, pointless money-making Facebook games, iPods/iPads app games, a plethora of [Your Musical Instrument Here] Hero& [Your Music Genre Here] Band games, the Playstation Move & XBox Kinect are now on top of a massive heap of battery/time sucking casual games.
Most casual games, from what I can see, aren't too much different from games that have been around long before '06. The graphics are prettier and there is a wider variety of different types of controls, but the fundamental mechanics of the games haven't changed that much. Casual games haven't done anything to push the limits of what we know as video games, it has rather just reiterated what has already been great about video games. To use the tired Hollywood analogy, they are mediocre 2nd-rate shows and movies; not anything awful but not anything spectacular either.
Innovation with video games will always take place with games aimed at the hardcore (or "core" as I've seen it recently) audience. Why? Because its these games that focus on the real meat of any video game, the gameplay. The audience is assumed to have a certain pre-existing knowledge of video-games and is apt to picking up new and different ways of playing video games. Thus the creators are free to experiment with new things;things that lead to innovation in video games.
As great as Nintendo Wii, XBox Kinect, & Playstation Move are, they will never supplant the core gamer's trusty friend, the controller. The reason for this is the controller allows for greater precision and less ambiguity between the gamer's intentions and his performing the mechanical action to follow his intentions. I think about this in terms of a less-used (but still abused) sports analogy; if a company produced a simple one golf-club that worked for any situation and allowed novices to get further distance than with a normal club, you'd never see professionals take to this club. Why? They wouldn't want to sacrifice accuracy for simplicity. A professional understands all the mechanics, variables, etc, in the game or sport he plays. Any value gained by easy of use would be sacrificed at the cost of loss of control.
In terms of video gameplay mechanics, many of these motion-based controllers do the same thing. Sure it's easier to realize how to do a punch or kick in a motion-based controller. But ultimately, some computer determines whether that motion you performed was a kick or punch. Computers are superior at making binary choices–either a button was pressed or it wasn't–when it comes to making fuzzy decisions (e.g. does the certain movement of the leg joints represent a kick) the results are not as good. Thus, motion-based controllers will always sacrifice accuracy at the cost of ease of use. The day motion-based controllers replace the standard videogame controller is the same day all sport referees are replaced with computers; it's not going to happen.
According to Micheal Gladwell in his book, Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours of work in a specific area to become an expert at it. If this is true, the amount of things you can become an expert in your life can be expressed by the following:
Sm = Hw x Yl x 365 / 10,000
Sm = Subjects mastered
Hw = Average hours awake / day
Yl = Years lived
Assuming that you're awake for an average of 16 hours /day, the math works out to
Sm = 0.584 x Yl
Put into English, you can master over half a subject in a given year if you've spent all your waking hours into it. Assuming you live 80 years, you could learn at most 46 different subjects.
Under a more realistic scenario of 8 hours / day and 60 years (lower than life expectancy but figuring in enfeebled years) lived:
Sm = 0.292 x Yl
Which means less than a 1/3 of a subject mastered in a given year with at most 17 different subjects in your lifetime.