I’m thinking that one of the reason why things have been changing so much and so fast is immediacy. When it took several hours or even days to hear about the death of a monarch, and if people weren’t hearing about it all at the same time, then it’s not surprising that the reaction was not quite as concerted and overwhelming, as, say when JFK got shot or Diana died. When the population can travel long distances quickly and cheaply perhaps it’s not so surprising that deaths are characterised by mass flower laying at the scene or even people lining the route along the motorway route of Diana’s funeral procession – such shows of emotion could just not be achieved by a population with limited and slow transportation. Of course, we may have achieved instant news, but we are still only on the way to instant travel. We may have achieved just-in-time production, but how close are we to just-in-time market research? Whatever – immediacy is a driver of the age – and virtual reality is round the corner with instant presence.
One of the problems I’ve encountered many times is when photographing a painting or a poster or anything flat on the wall or placed on the floor: unless the camera is absolutely parallel with the flat surface in both the horizontal and vertical planes, the object looks distorted in the resulting photo. I’m not sure if it’s already been done, but a facility that made sure that such photos came out correctly would be a really useful feature on a camera (among the many others that I know I’m not aware of!).
If you want to use your own bedding while you’re away, a duvet with a built in undersheet – rather like an oversized sleeping bag – would do the trick. It would also eliminate the need for the people you’re staying with having to wash the bedding after you’ve left.
This is not so much an idea as a commentary on other great ideas…. A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Richard Harper, gave me a book to read – ‘Writing The Self’ by Peter Heehs. I guess it came up in our conversation because of my writings in pwofc.com and because of my questioning about why I keep things. However, it turns out that it informs neither of those endeavours. Instead, it made me realise, first, just how little I ever learned about mankind’s greatest thinkers; and, second, that I’m really not sure all that great thinking would have been any use to me.
The book is essentially a quick run through of the great philosophers and theologists and their most basic tenets in respect of The Self (they may well have pronounced on other great matters but this book sticks to their ideas about Self); which, so far as I can see, tend to have concentrated on answers to the simple questions of what we are and what we are doing in the universe. The answers seem to have been anything but simple – particularly as religion seems to have provided the excuse for huge amounts of rationalisation and speculation. Thankfully, as the book points out in its last chapter, the consensus among today’s philosophers, social scientists, cultural theorists and neuroscientists is that the self is a construct not a substance; and most people in modern society take selfhood for granted, and don’t bother theorizing about it. I’m not sure where that leaves the huge amount of writings that have been produced in the past on the subject.
The ‘writings’ focus of the book seems to have four aspects; first, the fact that ideas produced by the great thinkers were recorded in writing; second, from about the 16th century onwards, the thinkers started to use their own writings for self examination (the start of the modern diary); third, memoirs and autobiographies started to become commonplace in the eighteenth century; and, fourth, also around the eighteenth century, novelists started to explore the notion of the self – sometimes using the mechanism of diaries and memoirs as a vehicle for their fictional stories. Writings in the age of the internet – the blog and social media – are only given a brief mention in the last 7 pages of the book; and, disappointingly, I found only one half page passage (on page 170 regarding the Goncourt Brothers in the nineteenth century) referring to the survival of the personality through material artefacts, writings etc. – there must be more of that out there somewhere.
I’m left feeling that I should appreciate more, glad that at least I’m aware there is more, and thankful that I am not driven to find out more. However, It would be interesting to hear from someone who is knowledgeable in these fields as to whether the past thoughts of the great thinkers on the subject of The Self still hold any sort of sway today.
I was thinking it would be good to be able to specify a particular piece of music or sound to be played when a particular piece of text was being read in a book. Then I realised that ebooks on tablets make that feasible. In fact why stop at sound – there could be pictures or video associated with particular pieces of text. It would just be a matter of being able to specify the exact location of a piece of text on the screen when such additions start and stop or appear and disappear. Whether this would be a useful adjunct to reading is something that would have to be explored, as, no doubt, somewhere, somebody has done or is already doing – some ideas (like google glass) are just too interesting to some people to not find out they don’t work.
It would be very useful to have an indoor plant pot that could store a lot of water and release it slowly, as well as letting you know when the water was running out. I’m sure there are such devices/systems out there. However, I wonder if anyone has constructed a plant pot which has a substantial gap between the outside and the inside of the pot which would act as a water reservoir; and an internet connection which would alert you when the water is running low.
In the last couple of months I’ve been reading about Pokemon Go which requires players to capture Pokemon creatures imposed on the view of the real world as seen through your phone camera; and just now I’ve read a Linked-In headline reading “Is augmented reality the next big marketing channel?” with an explanation that augmented reality involves superimposing a digital element on another environment. The thought suddenly occurred to me that this might be a way to display all these memento’s that I’ve been digitising. Could you designate a room in the house as a display room in which mementos could be imposed digitally on the walls and in the space, and which could be seen through the phone camera or virtual reality headset?
It was only a few days after I’d watched a TV biopic on the last days of Winston Churchill that I discovered that the central nurse character was a fictional invention. Some days after that, I read a Guardian article (02Mar2016, page 8) quoting Tim Bliss, who had just won a share of an award from the Lundbeck Brain Research Foundation for his research on memory. Bliss said that we now have a pretty good handle on what happens with memory and asked, if that’s the case could we instil memories that we didn’t actually have? He went on to say that there’s very good evidence that we can start to erase memories using drugs and that this may be useful eventually for the treatment of PTSD. This got me thinking that the truth is in danger, as we produce and consume more information, as we exploit virtuality, and as we get more technologically sophisticated. By ’in danger’, I mean we are becoming less able to distinguish fact from fiction with a commensurate reduction in trust and increase in suspicion, disagreement and hostility. Perhaps we need to start being more rigorous about declaring fictions; and maybe we should start exploring how we can adjust our laws to cope with an increasingly malleable future.
Perhaps it would be interesting to place pictures of all the houses you have lived in on a poster with associated pictures or information around them. If you are missing a picture of one of the houses it should be possible to find one in the satellite view in Google maps or in Streetview. Maybe, it would be even more interesting to extend it to houses your parents, grandparents and their ancestors lived in. Once the photos and information have been assembled it’s easy enough to create the poster in a service like Snapfish or Phtotobox.
Now that we have to pay for plastic bags in the UK, I try to keep a spare in my coat pocket – but sometimes I forget to replace it. That made me think it would be good to have a jacket or pair of trousers that had a bag designed into the fabric. I’m sure someone must have invented this already – but I don’t recall ever seeing anything like it in the shops.