Friday, May 20, 2011

Hmmm...

"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is."

-- Charles Bukowski (Factotum)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Reality -- What a Concept

We make decisions based upon our perceptions of the world and our perceptions are irrevocably linked with our expectations. In other words, we define the world according to our beliefs and act in response to established procedures. That’s how we discriminate between right and wrong. Therefore, every day is filled with decision-making moments that delve into what is best for ourselves balanced with what is best for those around us.

Now, at this point in my discussion, it would be easy to simply shrug and say, keep the faith, trust in God, and these matters will sort themselves out. That is wise and true, but bear with me a moment as I force a little deeper exploration.

Even for the most faithful, there are problems with sorting out the mere appearance of truth with truth itself. To help make the best decisions, we utilize and depend on trusted information resources. This is where problems often arise -- how to not be fooled by appearances.

Appearance versus reality. It’s an old question and one of the most fundamental in philosophy. What is genuinely real and what is merely appearance? Assuming there is a difference between the two, how do we distinguish between them in any reliable way when there are so many slick, mass marketing techniques and smooth-talking salesmen who establish and sell to our desires and fears rather than our needs?

Many years ago when I was working as a research analyst and had too much money, I thought I needed to upgrade my transportation. In large part, my desire was brought about by watching too many seductive advertisements for vehicles. Additionally, I drove a pick-up and my colleagues drove Beamers and Mercedes. Peer pressure and desire is a dangerous combination. I ended up making a quick decision and purchased a Nissan 300ZX which, in those times, was one of the slickest, sexiest vehicles on the market. To cut to the chase, I came to my senses overnight and, much to the dealership’s consternation, reneged on the deal the next day. The reality of the situation is that I didn’t need new wheels for transportation. Instead, I had allowed myself to be talked into the deal.

By extension of that reasoning, most, if not all of us, are influenced by advertising and news reports. Come on. Does a salesman really care whether or not you need a particular product as long as you buy the product from him? So, the salesman’s job is to create an appearance of reality that appeals to our more prurient senses.

This stuff extends way past deciding what toothpaste to use or what car to purchase. It also goes for political campaigns and national philosophies (global warming, the green movement, anti-gun, pro-gun -- well, you get the point) -- anywhere mass consensus can be influenced.

In that context and as if there wasn't enough doubt already, there's a new software application that allows a user to remove images from digital videos. That means if you wanted to remove someone or something from a movie you've made, well, you could do it on your computer by utilizing the new software. The kicker is that the new software is able to do its magic in real time via a video feed.

The computer technique has been dubbed, "diminished reality," because that's what it is -- a subtraction of something from our perception. In movie lingo, it would be called special effects, but movies are not shown in real time.

Reports say the application is intended for city planning, interactive film and television, and engineering design. Also, it will be available for Windows.

It doesn't take a newspaper reporter to figure out the opportunity for misuse of this computer package is compelling. The release of diminished reality software could call into question the validity of any video feed.

If this report has captured your interest, there's a sample video (if you can believe your eyes) and a report at this web address: www.kurzweilai.net/diminished-reality-software-removes-objects-from-video-in-real-time.

Diminished reality software was introduced at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR) in Seoul, South Korea on October 13 to 16 of the past year.

Is it real or is it Memorex? You decide.