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You, Me, and Face-space

17 July 2000
Matt can be found somewhere in the corner.

I'm not pissing about here: Metaphors are as real as you and me.

Pigeons in spandex, monkeys who carry calling-cards: All part of this place of my mind where people are animals. For instance, there was a boy at my school who was obviously a sparrow. I'd tell you who he is, but you probably don't know him, and to be honest it's not important.

And then the connection's made, I treat the people differently: The man in the shop who looks like a friend's dad, I chat to him. The guy I meet who has an accent like another guy I really didn't like, I have an irrational hatred for. Alan Shearer is tough because he looks like Bruce Willis. I feed crumbs of my packed lunch to Robin (the boy who looked like a sparrow, confusingly).

The Victorian idea of a typical criminal face isn't entirely false: Bad people look bad (and are either British or South African). Great looking people with pointed noses have shitty personalities. Don't you dare deny it (and if you do, I know you have thin lips). Why is this? Is your personality determined by how you look? Are your features formed by how you act? Bollocks they are: It's the third way. It's more holistic than that.

Let's break out of the binary. Yes? No? Mu: Your features are genetic. Your responses are learned as you are socialised by the people around you. The people around you act towards to you depending on how they expect you to be. How can they tell? They guess, depending on how you look.

You look dull? They make no effort in conversation. You look evil? They bend to your whim incase you put their head on a sharpened stick. Of course people around you fawning and drooling staring at your breasts is going to make you manipulative and cynical. And stupid, too, if those beautiful tits make getting into your pants a higher priority than making intelligent conversation.

Another child becomes what it appears to be: The image is strengthened into another generation.

You can describe a face with a limited number of quantities: How sharp the nose, how high the forhead, how many chins. Some of these go hand in hand: Ten chins implies large jowls. Reduce these quantities so they are all independent. IBM did this, for a photo identification card: They needed twenty.

Okay, so we've got a twenty-dimensional space and each point in that space gives a different face. But we can describe this space with any twenty non-parallel vectors: That is, any twenty different faces that aren't too similar. These are the basis vectors of face-space.

So you've got your group of friends. There's the joker, the one everyone sleeps with, the one whose shoulder you cry on. And then you join a new group of friends: There's the joker, the one everyone sleeps with, the one whose shoulder you cry on.

And the people look roughly the same in your new group. They're combinations and mixes of the people you used to know. They're a stable group of people whose roles don't overlap too much -- other members would get confused if they did.

Are you getting the picture? A group of people is the set of basis vectors of face-space. The size of a socially stable group is exactly the maximum number of people we can easily visually identify.

We are metaphors. We're shaped by metaphors. Our perception of the universe isn't direct: It's through towers of ever more precarious metaphors. If we looked at our bodies as swarms rather than machines, instead of braces and splints we'd have compression funnels and pipes.

As we abstract, we create: We regard a people as two selves, as a convenient separation. Suddenly we find genes and memes, physical and mental illnesses, heart and brain. We attempt to describe the emergent properties of the social combination of minds: We create the noösphere, of us but separate from us.

So be careful what you create. The body-as-machine will lead us to an Earth within a computer mainframe, virtual selves, the flesh itself withering tethered to an RJ-45. The holistic-body-and-mind will ground us, stop us from leaping into new worlds of the imagination, limit our abstractions and constrain us to limited consumption.

The choice, it's sad to say, is no longer yours. But those memes you're carrying, ask them what they think.


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
23 October 2003. Matt writes: Topology
2 October 2003. Matt writes: Haunted
8 September 2003. Matt writes: The Gardener's Diary
21 August 2003. Matt writes: The Starling Variable
31 July 2003. Matt writes: Two stories
14 July 2003. Matt writes: What is real?
23 June 2003. Matt writes: Mapping and journeys
29 May 2003. Matt writes: Extelligence
5 May 2003. Matt writes: Religious experiences
17 April 2003. Matt writes: Seeing the Light
27 March 2003. Matt writes: Flowering
10 March 2003. Matt writes: Climax state
10 February 2003. Matt writes: The Role of Cooperation in Human Interaction
20 January 2003. Matt writes: The same old subroutine
2 January 2003. Matt writes: New beginnings
9 December 2002. Matt writes: Packet Loss
18 November 2002. Matt writes: Wonderland
31 October 2002. Matt writes: Having and losing
10 October 2002. Matt writes: Trees of Knowledge
19 September 2002. Matt writes: The online life of bigplaty47
29 August 2002. Matt writes: Divorce
8 August 2002. Matt writes: How to get exactly what you want
18 July 2002. Matt writes: Eleven Graceland endings
27 June 2002. Matt writes: Listopad, Prague 1989
3 June 2002. Matt writes: Engram bullets
6 May 2002. Matt writes: Sound advice
15 April 2002. Matt writes: How it all works: Cars
21 March 2002. Matt writes: Proceeding to the next stage
25 February 2002. Matt writes: Spam quartet
31 January 2002. Matt writes: Person to person
7 January 2002. Matt writes: All for the best
13 December 2001. Matt writes: Life
19 November 2001. Matt writes: Giving is better than receiving
25 October 2001. Matt writes: Ludo
1 October 2001. Matt writes: Gifts, contracts, and whispers
6 September 2001. Matt writes: The world is ending
13 August 2001. Matt writes: The Church of Mrs Bins
16 July 2001. Matt writes: Things I Don't Have
25 June 2001. Matt writes: Fighting the Good Fight
31 May 2001. Matt writes: Code dependency
7 May 2001. Matt writes: Up The Arse, Or Not At All
5 April 2001. Matt writes: The increasing nonlinearity of time
19 March 2001. Matt writes: Hit Me Baby, One More Time
22 February 2001. Matt writes: Space, Matter, Cities, Sausages
29 January 2001. Matt writes: Truth in Advertising
1 January 2001. Matt writes: Six predictions for tomorrow
7 December 2000. Matt writes: You must reach this line to ride
16 November 2000. Matt writes: The truth about the leopard
23 October 2000. Matt writes: Shopping mauls
28 September 2000. Matt writes: Heavy traffic on the road to Utopia
4 September 2000. Matt writes: Sixty worlds a minute
17 July 2000. Matt writes: You, Me, and Face-space

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