Monthly Archives: April 2013

Blog #4: Data, and the gullibility of the brain (Week 6)

How good, really, is our brain at retaining data? For instance, can you remember how much money you spent yesterday? Can you remember how many days it rained last week? Unless you’re Rainman, I’d say that the vast majority of people couldn’t correctly answer simple data-related questions such as these. Wolf states that we “make decisions with partial information. We are forced to steer by guesswork,” which is a flawed system which will invariably result in mistakes. Computers, on the other hand, are able to collect and collate data in a totally impartial and objective way, which adds more credence to the data itself.

“The brain is a gullible machine,” says Lehrer. This is true in many ways. For instance, he mentions an experiment where a group of people had to buy the same energy drink, half of whom purchased it at a discount, and then solve some puzzles. The people who bought the drink at a discount fared worse, because they felt the drink was less potent. This simply wasn’t true. The nature of how we acquire an item will change how our brain perceives it. I remember as a kid that my mum would buy bags of chocolate from Go-Lo. They were proper brands (Snickers, Twix or whatever) but because I knew they came from Go-Lo they always seemed to taste worse. CALL ME A SNOB.

Because of this, blind taste tests always interest me. In the same article, Lehrer describes a blind taste test of various wines. Often, people would say they liked the cheaper wines better. I’m sure, however, if they knew the prices beforehand, they would have preferred the more expensive wines. Our brain can be kind of dumb sometimes.

Lehrer, J 2010, ‘The Frontal Cortex: Self-Tracking’, viewed 17th April 2013,

Wolf, G 2010, ‘The Data-Driven Life’, viewed 17th April 2013,

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Blog #3: The Vocabulary of Vision (Week 5)

I want to begin this week’s blog by pretentiously asking “what does it really mean to see?” Normally, questions such as this annoy me, as I never usually understand why people ask complex questions regarding problems with seemingly simple answers. “What does it mean to see?” … “Using your eyes, idiot.” This is of course an immature, ill-reasoned response. Someone who is blind, for instance, may not be able to use their eyes, but this just means that they see and experience the world in a different way. The key word here is “different.” Just because the way a blind person sees the world isn’t the same as someone with 20/20 vision doesn’t mean that their reality isn’t just as real.

So where does virtual and augmented reality fit into all this? I see it as simply a different way of seeing. Havens describes AR technologies such as Google Glass as being a “shortcut” (very much in a positive sense) and a “profound” one at that. It can provide unparalleled technological immediacy to our interactions with the world around us, and possibly change the nature of communication. This is a just possibility, however. To me, Google Glass looks like nothing more than a GoPro with internet access.

A far more important technological advancement, in my eyes at least (pardon the pun), is that of the invention of a bionic eye which could potentially grant normal sight to those with blindness. These bionic eyes are very much machines, working with chips and algorithms, so would a person with two bionic eyes be experiencing augmented reality or reality? This just goes to show how mutable the concept of reality really is.

Gannon, M 2012, ‘An Artificial Eye That Can See?’, viewed 10th April 2013,

Havens, J 2013, ‘The Impending Social Consequences of Augmented Reality’, viewed 10th April 2013,


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