Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Pixels of Life

The Pixels of Life-Sheva Apelbaum

I had an interesting conversation with my dad about simulated reality (like in the Matrix).  He said jokingly that as far as we are concerned, we could be living in a dream and everything around us could be just an illusion that the dream maker (or evil genius) created.  He suggested I check out the concept of cogito ergo sum.

So I did, Descartes, answers the question of how we know that we exist by stating that if one is capable of doubting one's own existence, it means that something must exist in order to have this doubt…a pretty interesting argument.   But even Descartes, fails to prove that the world around us is the way we perceive it?

Some time ago, a county fair came to my town.  I seized the opportunity, grabbed my new camera, and ran to take some shots.

I remember how beautiful and inviting the fairgrounds looked from the distance: colorful lights and signs, large tents with flags flying in the breeze, spinning Ferris wheels, organ music, the smell of popcorn and an ocean of of people everywhere. 

It’s a kid’s heaven: cotton candy in hands and large brimming smiles,  parents and grandparents standing in line for carousel rides or waving to little ones as they zoom by on the mini rollercoaster.

County Fair Carousel-Sheva Apelbaum County Fair Train-Sheva Apelbaum

It all seemed so picturesque and magical. After some time of walking around and taking pictures, I finally got tired and went home.  I took out the camera memory card and put it aside. 

Today, I got around to checking out my photo session.  As I was examining some of the photographs (I use Photoshop and Bridge), I zoomed in on the shots and discovered an entire world hidden inside the small pixels; a world that for some reason, I missed when I was looking through the view finder.  

The imperfect pixels showed families stuck for hours playing at the coin pushing machines throwing in hundreds of quarters and waiting in vain for the big windfall that never came.

County Fair Penny Posher-3-Sheva Apelbaum County Fair Penny Pushers-Sheva Apelbaum

Endless lines of rigged claw machines (see wiring below) with a one way mirror view that allowed the operators to control who won and when.

County Fair Crane Machine Back-Sheva Apelbaum County Fair Crane Machine-Sheva Apelbaum

This begs the question: how much of what we get to see around us that is bright and cheery is really nothing more than a thin coat of veneer?  Does every picture we take contain these imperfections?

Perhaps this is the answer to Descartes’ question. How do we know that we don’t really live in a dream? A well made dream would not have all these imperfect pixels. They make us doubt the world around us. But, on the other hand, maybe that is exactly how the dream maker would make the dream more believable.


  1. I'm going to have to think about this for a while and am unable to give a witty answer but will dissappear into my head for the rest of the day...thinking. Thank you, Sheva, for making me think!

  2. I too had to think - I checked on Descartes (by the way your link on him does not open) and - oh je - you know, I am a simple person, I tend to see the world around me as it is and I believe it is just so - philosophy is not my reality - they say I might live in a dream? So what, for me this "dream" is reality - philosophy certainly is not "holy" to me - I always had an opinion on it - oh maybe better don't ask!
    Of course in every picture there are hidden thousand more pictures and millions of details, like in every persons live - there is an ocean behind what you can see - but this ocean for me is real and the person could tell me and make me - maybe - understand his reality...
    Nothing "witty" about THAT answer, I know - let's see what Dawn has to say!
    Jelda metuka, ze mashe at!

  3. Dawn—I love to make you think! Take all the time you need….but in the end I don’t think anybody will be able to solve this mystery about the world around us.

    Yael—your answer was very witty…I applaud you! Although I do think it would be pretty cool to actually live inside a dream, I wonder what your real surroundings would look like. This blog-post kind of reminds me of the movie Coraline (I’m not sure if you have seen it or not) but it is the story of a girl who is not happy with her own life, so she goes into another world created by an evil person. She soon finds out that the evil person who acts as her “other mother” only creates the world that she wants Coraline to believe she is in. It is a very good movie and portrays an excellent point.

  4. Dear Sheva, as you may remember I do not like horror and fantasy movies (and war movies) - yap, they scare me too much! But I did check out the movie "Coraline" on the Internet, I saw a trailer and I read the plot - what I have to say is: I will NOT open the door! :-) But I am sure it is a good movie, as you say!

    By the way, since every one who saw "Avatar" went crazy about it, (even to my surprise my daughter C.) and it was on TV on Sunday, I decided to watch it - Uhhhhah, not my cup of tea, this is not exactly for me - it creeps me out - although I do very much appreciate the fantastic work that was done - and the forest was really magic and beautiful! Yes!