Thursday, 29 July 2010


Yesterday I had the photography student drop by again. It was pretty fun again, and I hope useful for her as well. She gave me a film camera to take some snaps myself for her project. It's interesting to basically get told 'go take pictures of something'. I'll figure something out even if it may take me a few weeks :) In September she'll formally propose her project to her school, though we're both pretty sure it'll be accepted. Last year another student got a project involving barn interiors accepted, to name just one example.

On a less related note, the camera I got to take those snaps with is a compact film camera, the likes of which I haven't seen since the 90s. It's somewhat disconcerting to go from having a camera capable of taking thousands of shots on even a lowly 1 GB SD card to being limited to 36 shots on a film roll, without the ability to review taken shots and delete failed ones. In a sense it's like taking pictures with a 64 MB CF card and a camera without a display. Somewhat like the digicams at the beginning of this century.

Anyway, I won't be condemning anyone for choosing film over digital cameras :) It does reinforce the need to get the shot right in one go. Wasting a shot isn't free like with a digicam.

During our 3+ hour conversation one topic we covered was that of human and artificial intelligence, as well as that of replacing entire limbs, organs and even the brain itself with artificial components performing the same or superior functions. I thought it was interesting that she was so interested in this topic, most people I come across mostly display a distinct lack of interest or even fright when this topic is brought up. That's one thing we also agreed on, that advanced prosthetics is going to cause a division within society, especially once healthy biological parts are being replaced for artificial ones. Division seems to be the one central theme when it comes to human society.

One observation I have been pondering on for a while now, and moreso since yesterday is that of neuroplasticity as it relates to my case. In essence neuroplasticity is the ability of a neural network to learn, to adapt to changing input and recall memories. In the debate on nature versus nurture this comes up a lot as well, and can be resolved easily: we all start with a set of basic parameters due to genetics and through input via our senses and our changing internal interpretation of these from the moment our brains begin to function, we develop what is referred to as a 'personality', which is thus the expression of the neural network's configuration as a whole.

My inputs, if you will, have been wildly different from those around me. I haven't experienced socializing, I have been excluded from friendship, relations, sexuality and even puberty. The only positive input I have received when you think about it is that on an intellectual level. An individual always seeks those things which are rewarded by its own brain or by others. In my case being 'smart' and 'knowing things' made me feel appreciated in way I couldn't accomplish in other ways. This would have strongly reinforced my intellectual side, and caused my emotional side to be pretty much discarded as useless junk as the latter never got any positive reinforcement.

In a way one could say that I see the world in a completely different way than virtually everyone around me. Where they see a happy family, I see strife, biological processes, decay, aging and death. Where they see a pretty flower I see an organism, a part of an ecosystem and the reproductive organs of a plant. In a fantasy series called the Dragonlance Saga there's a wizard who due to a curse has been given eyes through which he can only see death and decay before the inevitable march of time. It's somewhat like that for me. I can't live in this one moment, I can't be happy with what I have. I only see that what is coming next, and after that, and after that, until it's all gone. It's one incredibly effective way to never feel happiness.

My experiences during the past 5.5 years have merely reinforced what I already knew, that I'm different, that there's no place for me among 'normals' and that emotions are irrelevant luggage, not to mention that having a body is a tiresome part of existence, a mere shell for a fragile and fallible brain. Naturally, there's almost no one who would agree with me on any of this, and why should they? They haven't experienced the same inputs I have, the same strife and barrage of negativity. I have been tuned to only expect these inputs.

Can this change? Of course it can. That's the essence of neuroplasticity. If the UMCG hospital manages to finally resolve the stand-off within my medical case it means I can finally leave the state of not having an identity, participate fully in friendship, relationships and possibly sexuality. Of course, there's also every chance that they'll manage to screw things up again, further reinforcing all the bad preconceptions I have about others and causing me to further withdraw from society.

In the end it's all just a game of positive and negative reinforcements.


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