Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Creating the happy life - in retrospect

Faughnan's Notes: Editing -- the secret to a happy life ...

I'm still thinking about my above post, and the Onion satire that inspired it. We don't do scrapbooks, but we have about 1500 images that cycle through our computer screens. This will probably grow to over 20,000 images over the next decade with new additions and by the incorporation of 40 years of analog images. Current selection algorithms are very crude, but with a bit of metadata one could script quite an interesting perspective on a life. For now images are "randomly" selected.

The pictures are strongly biased towards positive and happy events. Not everyone in the images is still with us or even still alive, but the times that the images were taken they were very much with us and very much alive. Unlike the traditional world of photo albums, we see them all the time. Each viewing triggers (or recreates!) old memories.

We know our memories are constructed from tiny fragments of "true memory", and we know our memories can be manipulated with trivial ease. In particular, we know how easy it is to implant false memories by using false images. In this case the images are not false (or no more false than any image), but they are highly selected. They produce a partially false "impression".

Is the viewing of these images, spanning decades of life and biased towards happy moments, altering memory and perception? Are they retrospectively creating a "happy" life -- irregardless of the true balance of joy and sorrow? Is this good? How does it differ from a constitutional predilection to seeing the "bright side" of life?

Hmm. Lots of interesting questions here.

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