Blind spots

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hours of my youth were lost to a game called Age of Empires. This game was crack cocaine for kids and should have been illegal in some states. Each new game plopped you in the middle of nowhere with an axe, a small hut and a goat or pig nearby. You could only see the little parcel of land around you, everything else was pitch black. As you wandered around the world revealed itself. Move east and you’d discover a forest, move west and you’d stumble on some gold or more pigs (is there a difference?), move far enough south and you might discover an enemy empire, one you weren’t prepared for. This is how the game went — hours of constant struggle balancing exploration with empire building. You had to both know what was out there and be prepared to face it when it came to your little hut.

We exist in a pretty weird time when you think about it. It’s impossible for some to imagine, but there was a time when the Internet wasn’t a thing. There was even a time when books weren’t a thing 😮. We actually depended on others to bring us information through their experience and stories. The outside world was largely dark and unknown. We now occupy a world where there are no excuses, everything is exposed. We quickly went from acceptable ignorance to “why don’t you know, are you living under a rock?”

The upside of all this exposure is we’re closer to what game theorists call complete information. It’s when all participants in a game or activity have access to the same knowledge. The trick is making an effort to track it all down. Every problem you face has a dark corner, every skill you possess has a weak understanding, every proposal you’ve made has a flawed point. We all end up accepting varying degrees of unfit aspects of our work and lives. Uncovering these sooner can save money and often personal anguish — it’s also rewarding as hell.

Eyes are pretty fascinating (if you haven’t seen Neil deGrasse Tyson explain the evolution of the eye in Cosmos I suggest you drop everything). Eyes have two main receptors: cones and rods (some of you probably remember this from high school biology). Rods are more prevalent but they aren’t responsible for seeing color, that’s the job of cones. Most of the color sensitive cones are located in a very small patch at the center of the eye. Rods however, are concentrated around the eye and take the lead at providing us with peripheral vision and an ability to see in the dark. They’re highly tuned to sensing motion, motion that could vary well be a predator trying to eat us. This is evolutions attempt at eliminating a blind spot that’s the difference between survival and extinction.

I wish life had the “reveal map” cheat code or the “big daddy” rocket launching cars but it doesn’t. While these give you a few hours of your life back and some zeus-like control over “the game” they also make it really boring. So what are your blind spots? It’s worth taking a moment.