Thursday, September 13, 2007

Happy Birthday, World

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. In Jewish tradition it is also thought of as the birthday of the world. If you're reading this blog, you probably have some interest in how X-Plane attempts to simulate the world on your computer. The attempt over the years to create a higher fidelity simulation has led me to a deeper appreciation of the subtlety, complexity, and beauty of the real thing.

(Nothing makes you realize how rich and intricate the world is than trying to model it with a few million triangles and ending up with something that looks completely crude.)

X-Plane's digital world isn't the only way that we interact with a proxy instead of the real thing. When we drive instead of walk, eat packaged food from a supermarket, talk on the telephone instead of talk in person, our technology becomes a proxy for our relationship with our direct natural environment - the planet, plants, animals, and other human beings.

Now I'm not saying that any of these things is bad. I'm not about to become a dairy farmer, and without the internet we couldn't create X-Plane at all. But I think it's important on this day, and hopefully every day to take time for activities that put us in direct contact with the world. Consider a few questions:
  • How does what I eat affect the world?
  • How does my travel affect the world?
  • What impact does my home have on the world?
  • Am I leaving the world in better condition for the next generation or worse?
Please ... take a few moments to consider the world, the only home we've ever had.

When I was in the Dolomites a few years ago with Sergio we were looking at the dolomites from his friend's balcony - mile after mile of beautiful mountains and rolling hills. I looked at him and said "God has more polygons than we do." It was a joke at the time, but I think that the act of really observing the real world and realizing that the digital reality and technology we create can be a proxy and an addition but never a replacement is critical to understanding the responsibility for stewardship we have over the planet. Are we taking good care of our most precious gift?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a philosophical thought.....
I like that, but sometimes we have to drive a car, because the work is too far away from home, although i would like to walk or use a bicycle instead.
I think sooner or later we can produce nearly perfect images of the world with CG in real time (ok without the billions of grains of sand on the beach), but i think what is really missing in games is the warmth of the sun while its light touches our skin or very high contrasts(light/shadow). With LCD and plasma monitors the contrast is much better now but still not as good as in reality.

Cheers

fred said...

You're right ben. We should take more time individualy to think and medit about our condition of living on this earth.
Not only technology divert us from this but social and cultural behaviour as well. I don't think technology (the recent one acting like proxys :) ) is involve alone but its fundaments : speach - language !
To widen our conscience we should (re)learn meditation. But I guess the programmer forget that...