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The tools are us

Post #1465 • March 10, 2010, 9:31 AM • 16 Comments

Brandon Keim for Wired (via):

[Anthony] Chemero’s experiment, published March 9 in Public Library of Science, was designed to test one of Heidegger’s fundamental concepts: that people don’t notice familiar, functional tools, but instead “see through” them to a task at hand, for precisely the same reasons that one doesn’t think of one’s fingers while tying shoelaces. The tools are us.

This idea, called “ready-to-hand,” has influenced artificial intelligence and cognitive science research, but without being directly tested.

In the new study, Chemero tracked the hand movements of people using a mouse to guide a cursor during a series of motor tests. Part way through the tests, the cursor lagged behind the mouse. After a few seconds, it worked again. When Chemero’s team analyzed how people moved the mouse, they found profound differences between patterns produced during mouse function and malfunction.

When the mouse worked, hand motions followed a mathematical form known as “one over frequency,” or pink noise. It’s a pattern that pops up repeatedly in the natural world, from universal electromagnetic wave fluctuations to tidal flows to DNA sequences. Scientists don’t fully understand pink noise, but there’s evidence that our cognitive processes are naturally attuned to it.

See also The Mind of Materials (PDF, linked fixed) by yours truly.




March 10, 2010, 10:09 AM

This comment isn't to do with the post directly, but at the pink-noise wiki-link, there are audio samples of white, pink and brown noise. Very interesting comparisons. Hearing each separated from one another in time might find me calling them the same sound. Heard one after another they are very definitely each their own sound. I guess I'm simply noting that they are well named - one can hear the glaring in the white, the soothered quality of pink, and the rustiness of brown.



March 10, 2010, 10:23 AM

Back when I was a kid, in medieval times, the word "tool" was applied to a socially clueless person, roughly equivalent to "nerd" now.

anyway, why is it odd or interesting that these functions should change during malfunction? What else?


Chris Rywalt

March 10, 2010, 10:40 AM

Man, I go so crazy when a computer I'm using doesn't respond properly. I've spent days chasing down every last thing to figure out why my own PC is pausing or lagging or wandering off on its own. (The blanket answer, in case you care, is that modern operating systems keep thinking they have better things to do than whatever it is their lowly users are doing.)

The very instant the ready-to-hand link breaks down my hackles go up. Woe betide the child who interrupts Daddy when that's going on!



March 10, 2010, 10:50 AM

Chris, you need to get out more.


Chris Rywalt

March 10, 2010, 10:58 AM

Listen, I'm a tinkerer and a computer guy. I can't help what I am. I might have preferred to be a baseball player, a marathon runner or a gardener, but I'm not any of those things. A baseball bat is not an extension of my arm. A hoe is not part of my being. A keyboard, a mouse, a pencil or a paintbrush, these things are part of me.

As the great Tom Stoppard wrote, "There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said -- no. But somehow we missed it."



March 10, 2010, 11:10 AM

Samurai tools:




March 10, 2010, 11:16 AM

Samurai fashion statement:




March 10, 2010, 11:43 AM

Franklin, your PDF link needs tooling.

I get this: 'The requested URL / was not found on this server.'


Chris Rywalt

March 10, 2010, 11:49 AM

I warned him already, Dude. The actual paper is here.

Of course, we've all read it already, haven't we, kids? Remember Professor Shoe?



March 10, 2010, 12:51 PM

I don't know, Franklin, but it appears to me that your computer geek cred is at stake now. Of course, there are worse problems.



March 10, 2010, 12:56 PM

You know, problems like having to deal with giant carp:

Big Fish


Chris Rywalt

March 10, 2010, 1:04 PM

Even the best computer bolthead makes a mistake now and again, and neither Franklin nor I are that good. His cred's as good with me as ever.

That's why I sent him e-mail privately about the error rather than bring it up here. I should've guessed that someone else would bring it up, though. No big deal. In the end it's all just ones and zeroes.



March 10, 2010, 6:47 PM

"When the mouse worked, hand motions followed a mathematical form known as “one over frequency,” or pink noise. It’s a pattern that pops up repeatedly in the natural world."

This is known as being in the groove. You should watch me planing a gnarly piece of oak sometime. You catch the grain wrong and lose the pink noise, then change direction to get it back again.



March 10, 2010, 7:11 PM

I think this is pretty groovy:

Bizen 1
Bizen 2
Bizen 3
Bizen 4



March 10, 2010, 9:34 PM

Most groovy baby. Love the way that lip turns in just enough to curtail a near perfect hemisphere. Dulche de licious.



March 10, 2010, 9:50 PM

I don't know, maybe I'm just getting even further "out of it," but the more I look at good pots, the more ridiculous official "fine" art looks. I mean, who has time for all that bullshit?



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