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There are those among us who are “health blind”, i.e., handicapped at sensing the health signals most of us easily recognize on others around us. They are the color blind. But we at O2Amp can fix that.



1. The Health-Blind Among Us

Despite the presence of modern electronic medical sensing tools, medical personnel still rely on their naked-eye visual skills when examining and judging the symptoms and health of patients (Savin et al. 1997).

But it is not widely appreciated that approximately 5% of medical personnel – 10% of men and 1% of women – are “health blind”, i.e., they are severely perceptually handicapped at sensing the health symptoms of patients. And they – and those that hire them – often don’t even realize.

Who are these “health blind” medical personnel?

Although not widely appreciated, it has long been documented that red-green color-deficients are disabled at seeing veins, vasculature, pallor, cyanosis, jaundice, rashes, bruising, erythema, retinal damage, ear and throat inflammation, and blood in excretions (Dalton 1798; Wilson 1855; Best & Jaenel 1880; Little 1881; Ahlenstiel 1951; Logan 1977; Voke 1980; Steward & Cole 1989; Spalding 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2004; Currier 1994; Anthony & Spalding 1999, 2004; Campbell et al. 1999, 2004, 2005; Reiss 2001; Cockburn 2004; Cole 2004; Changizi et al., 2006, suppl Table 1; Spalding et al. 2012). Even 18th century scientist John Dalton, who was color blind, observed that he “could scarcely distinguish mud from blood” (Dalton 1798).

Even today 10% of the 500 most prevalent medical conditions list skin color changes amongst the symptoms (Changizi & Rio 2009), and a red-green color deficient’s deficit in discriminating reds and greens makes him or her unable to see these everyday health color signals on the skin.

Color deficiency can consequently lead to medical misdiagnosis (Campbell, 1999; Campbell et al., 2004, 2005), and has at various times prevented entry into medical school (Hiroshi, 1998).

If you’re red-green colorblind, then you’re health-blind. And among those not traditionally deemed color deficient, many are mildly so, and thus mildly health-blind.

The graph below shows the reported clinical difficulties among 42 color-deficient doctors surveyed by Spalding (1995). (It should be kept in mind that this particular graph shows reported difficulties, and thus does not capture what the color-deficient doctors don’t realize they’re missing.)

Self-reported clinical perception difficulties from 42 color-deficient doctors (Spalding, 1995).

Self-reported clinical perception difficulties from 42 color-deficient doctors (Spalding, 1995).

2. Color-Deficiency is an Especially Severe Problem for the Medical Profession

A variety of occupations (e.g., pilots, police) routinely require passing a color exam before entry, and in some countries passing a color exam is even required in order to get a driver’s license.

But, except in rare instances (e.g., Hiroshi, 1998), color blindness had not been a formal barrier for becoming a doctor.

Unfortunately, a recent discovery by researchers at our 2ai Labs ( http://2ai.org ) shows that color blindness is not just a problem for medical personnel, but a disproportionate problem for the medical community.

In 2006, we showed that color vision evolved specifically to distinguish health and emotion states on the skin: our peculiar primate variety of color vision evolved to be optimized for sensing the oxygenation modulations hemoglobin undergoes under the skin (Changizi et al., 2006).

Red-green color vision is uniquely about seeing oxygenation, and therefore red-green color-deficients are especially hindered at seeing the skin signals that underlie health signals. Unlike other fields where colorblindness is a handicap but where it is actually fairly unlikely to find perfectly indiscriminable colors to a color-deficient, the oxygenation variations of blood under the skin are completely invisible to the red-green colorblind because they’re missing the evolved machinery specifically designed to detect it.

Color blindness is consequently a critical issue in clinical settings for patient health. Approximately 5% of clinical personnel are handicapped at detecting everyday health signals on the skin (including seeing veins, for example), and yet many are not even cognizant of their handicap. (And neither are the many other personnel who are only mildly color-deficient (sometimes due to aging).)

Color deficiency is also a serious liability issue for medical staff and their employers, and color deficient doctors have been sued on this basis (see citation to News & Observer).

3. The O2Amp Medical Solution for Color-Deficiency

Historically there has been no solution for the color deficient clinician. Varieties of filtered eyewear for color deficients exist that can help them pass Ishihara tests or perceive certain discriminations among objects in the world. But none were designed to enhance the signal that primate color vision evolved to detect: oxygenation variations in the skin (Changizi et al., 2006). And thus no previous color blindness treatment was consistent with the health perception demands of medical personnel.

We at 2ai Labs, having discovered the evolutionary function of color vision, were in the unique position to design optical technology to enhance the signal for which color-deficients are deficient. In particular, we created O2Amp, our company highlighting several distinct optical technologies for enhancing perception of facets of the blood under the skin.

For color deficients our flagship technology is our Oxy-Iso Colorblind Correction Medical Eyewear, designed to amplify and isolate the oxygenation signal coming from under the skin. Color-normals use the eyewear to enhance perception of veins, but color-deficient medical personnel use the eyewear to amplify their minimal baseline sensitivity to oxygenation variations in the skin.

The Oxy-Iso doesn’t merely aid color deficiency…

…the Oxy-Iso aids color-deficiency in a manner consistent with the symptom-, vasculature-, and health-perceptual needs of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.


[See O2Amp’s site – http://o2amp.com – for testimonials and more information. Also see the following for example results on the Farnsworth-Munsell Test: https://changizi.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/the-ravenous-color-blind-new-developments-on-o2amp-for-color-deficients/ ]

“I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed using your eyewear, especially the Oxy-Iso glasses. I now use them in all of my leg vein procedures. Being color blind makes finding deeper (reticular) cutaneous veins a challenge; the Oxy-Iso eyewear makes them much easier to see… We actually have the Christie Vein Viewer (one of the IR devices) in our office… Although it is a very cool product, it does markedly alter the appearance of veins and the treatment process itself. While I haven’t used the IR device much for sclerotherapy, I use my Oxy-Iso’s every single time.” – Daniel Friedmann, MD, Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery

“This is exciting. I have not been able to see colors my entire life… They really work. I recommend them.” – Cary M. Silverman, MD, ophthalmic surgeon, Eyecare 20:20. Video review.

“I had to try them, working in the Dental field, colors are very important in many aspects of my practice. They vary from instruments identification, diagnosis of the oral cavity, and many other aspects. I went from the muted colors that I was used to all my life, to what I perceive as a more bold, and brighter red and greens. To me the darker red shades, like maroons and burgandy colors are more lighter with the oxy-iso on. I went from not seeing any numbers on the online color blindness tests, to seeing most of them. It has been stated that there may be some limitations of these online test due to screen settings and ambient light. But going from seeing nothing to almost all of them is truly remarkable to me.” – DKH, DDS, Glen Cove

“After 20+ years of medical education, I had a healthy skepticism about these glasses. I mean, how can you “cure” color-blindness, my cone cells have a mutation and my brain has learned to adapt. My eyes simply can’t absorb light at those frequencies. But, I was intrigued. As a surgeon, being color blind has not affected me as much as you might think, texture is very important, as is consistency, and I think I rely on those cues all the time. However, I do have a problem telling if something is bile-stained versus just bloody, and dark bloody emesis I could only tell by the smell. But as an art lover, and flower lover, being color blind is just annoying. Not to mention trying to shop at places like J. Crew where all the stupid colors are like, “stone” and “sledge”. What? // Anyway, I bought these on a lark, and OH MY GOD, THEY WORK!!! I only get 1 right on the Ishihara color blindness plate test (red-green and some blue-yellow deficiencies), but with these glasses, I got more than half right! It makes everything brighter and so much more intense! I scrolled through a website of Impressionist paintings and it was incredible! Beautiful!! I can see red flowers on trees now!! I can see the red on birds’ wings!! it’s actually almost overwhelming, I don’t wear them very often because it makes me a little sad that I’ve lived 44 years with a muted palette. I haven’t tried them in the OR yet, but I’m on call Wednesday. . . Makes me wish I’d invented or invested.” – Dr. Marie Crandall, Associate Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

“Currently, I occasionally try them during orthopedic surgeries, but mostly during speys and castrations. Some of the pregnant or recently pregnant dogs/cats (especially cats) have large networks of enlarged superficial vasculature just beneath the skin, and the glasses can be beneficial in identifying and avoiding these during the initial incision.” Dr. Aaron Raney, color-deficient veterinarian

1. Ahlenstiel H (1951) Red-green blindness as a personal experience. Kodak Research Library, London.
2. Anthony J, Spalding, B (1999) Colour vision deficiency in the medical profession. Br J Gen Pract 49: 469-475.
3. Anthony J, Spalding B (2004) Confessions of a colour blind physician. Clin Exp Opt 87: 344-349.
4. Best, F, Haenel H (1880) Rotgrün blindheit nach schneeblendung. Kin Monatsbl Augenheilkd. Beilagen 45: 88-105.
5. Campbell JL, Spalding AJ, Mir FA, Birch J (1999) Doctors and the assessment of clinical photographs—does colour blindness matter? Br J Gen Pract 49: 459-461.
6. Campbell JL, Spalding AJ, Mir FA (2004) The description of physical signs of illness in photographs by physicians with abnormal colour vision. Clin Exp Optom 87: 334-338.
7. Campbell JL, Griffin L, Spalding AJ, Mir FA (2005) The effect of abnormal colour vision on the ability to identify and outline coloured clinical signs and to count stained bacilli in sputum. Clin Exp Optom 88: 376-381.
8. Changizi MA, Zhang Q, Shimojo S (2006) Bare skin, blood, and the evolution of primate color vision. Biology Letters 2: 217-221. http://www.changizi.com/colorface.pdf
9. Changizi MA, Rio K (2009) Harnessing color vision for visual oximetry in central cyanosis. Medical Hypotheses 74: 87-91. http://www.changizi.com/colorclinical.pdf
10. Cockburn DM (2004) Confessions of a colour blind optometrist. Clin Exp Opt 87: 350-352.
11. Cole BL (2004) The handicap of abnormal colour vision. Clin Exp Opt 87: 258-275.
12. Currier JD (1994) A two and a half colour rainbow. Arch Neurol 51: 1090-1092.
13. Dalton J (1798) Extraordinary facts relating to the vision of colours. Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society 5: 28-45.
14. Hiroshi T (1998) Relaxation of university admission restriction for students with abnormal color vision. Japan Ophthalm 59: 123.
15. Jeffries BJ (1983) Colour blindness—its dangers and detection. Riverside Press, Cambridge, MA.
16. Little WS (1881) Experience of a red-blind physician with one ophthalmoscope. Practical advantage of colour-blindness with a case. Arch Ophthalm 10: 20-22.
17. Logan JS (1977) The disability in so-called red-green blindness. An account based on many years of self-observation. Ulster Med J 46: 41-45.
18. News & Observer. Partially blind, color blind surgeon continues to practice despite lawsuits. http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/news/partially_blind_color_blind_surgeon_continues_to_practice_despite_lawsuits.htm
19. Reiss MJ, Labowitz DA, Forman S, Wormser GP (2001) Impact of color blindness on recognition of blood in body fluids. Arch Int Med 161: 461-465.
20. Savin JA, Hunter JAA, Hepburn NC (1997) Skin Signs in Clinical Medicine. Mosby-Wolfe, London.
21. Spalding JAB (1993) The doctor with an inherited defect of colour vision: the effect on clinical skills. Br J Gen Pract 43: 32-33.
22. Spalding JAB (1995) Doctors with inherited colour vision deficiency: their difficulties in clinical work, In Cavonius CR. Ed. Proceedings of the International Research Group for Colour Vision Deficiency. Kluwer International Publishing: 483-489.
23. Spalding JAB (1997) Doctor with inherited colour vision deficiency: their difficulties with clinical work. In Colour Vision Deficiencies XIII (ed. Cavonius, C.R.) Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 483-489.
24. Spalding JAB (1999) Medical students and congenital colour vision deficiency: unnoticed problems and the cases for screening. Occup Med 49: 247-252.
25. Spalding JAB (2004) Confessions of a colour blind physician. Clin Exp Optom. 87: 344-349.
26. Spalding A, Cole B, Mir F (2012) http://colourmed.com
27. Steward SM, Cole BL (1989) What do colour vision defectives say about everyday tasks? Optom Vis Sci 66, 288-295.
28. Voke J (1980) Colour vision testing in specific industries and professions. Keller, London.
29. Wilson G (1855) Research on colour blindness with a supplement. Southerland and Knox, Edinburgh.

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O2Amp on Television

Our O2Amp technology appeared on Discovery Channel’s
Daily Planet [skip to 4:00] television show (Jan 9, 2013, Part 3).

We also were covered at EMONOME by filmmaker Emon Hassan.

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See my piece at Discover Magazine that refers to my research notes above.

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A word is vague if it has borderline cases. Yul Brynner (the lead in “The King and I”) is definitely bald, I am (at the time of this writing) definitely not, and there are many people who seem to be neither. These people are in the “borderline region” of ‘bald’, and this phenomenon is central to vagueness.

Nearly every word in natural language is vague, from ‘person’and ‘coercion’ in ethics, ‘object’ and ‘red’ in physical science, ‘dog’ and ‘male’ in biology, to ‘chair’ and ‘plaid’ in interior decorating.

Vagueness is the rule, not the exception. Pick any natural language word you like, and you will almost surely be able to concoct a case — perhaps an imaginary case — where it is unclear to you whether or not the word applies.

Take ‘book’, for example. “The Bible” is definitely a book, and a light bulb is definitely not. Is a pamphlet a book? If you dipped a book in acid and burned off all the ink, would it still be a book? If I write a book in tiny script on the back of a turtle, is the turtle’s back a book?

We have no idea how to answer such questions. The fact that such questions appear to have no determinate answer is roughly what we mean when we say that ‘book’ is vague.

And vagueness is intimately related to the ancient sorites paradox, where from seemingly true premises that (i) a thousand grains of sand makes a heap, and (ii) if n+1 grains of sand make a heap, then n make a heap, one can derive the false conclusion that one grain of sand makes a heap.

Is vagueness a problem with our language, or our brains?

Or, could it be that vagueness is in some way necessary…

When you or I judge whether or not a word applies to an object, we are (in some abstract sense) running a program in the head.

The job of each of these programs (one for each word) is to output YES when input with an object to which the word applies, and to output NO when input with an object to which the word does not apply.

That sounds simple enough! But why, then, do we have vagueness? With programs like this in our head, we’d always get a clear YES or NO answer.

But it isn’t quite so simple.

Some of these “meaning” programs, when asked about some object, will refuse to respond. Instead of responding with a YES or NO, the program will just keep running on and on, until eventually you must give up on it and conclude that the object does not seem to clearly fit, nor clearly not fit.

Our programs in the head for telling us what words mean have “holes” in them. Our concepts have holes. And when a program for some word fails to respond with an answer — when the hole is “hit” — we see that the concept is actually vague.

Why, though, is it so difficult to have programs in the head that answer YES or NO when input with any object? Why should our programs have these holes?

Holes are an inevitability for us because they are an inevitability for any computing device, us included.

The problem is called the Always-Halting Problem. Some programs have inputs leading them into infinite loops. One doesn’t want one’s program to do that. One wants it to halt, and to do so on every possible input. It would be nice to have a program that sucks in programs and checks to see whether they have an infinite loop inside them. But the Always-Halting Problem states that there can be no such infinite-loop checking program. Checking that it is a program always halts is not generally possible.

That’s why programs have holes in them — because it’s computationally impossible to get rid of them all.

And that’s why our own programs in the head have holes in them. That’s why our concepts have holes, or borderline cases where the concept neither clearly applies nor clearly fails to apply.
Furthermore, notice a second feature of vagueness: Not only is there no clear boundary between where the concept applies and does not, but there are no clear boundaries to the boundary region.

We do not find ourselves saying, “84 grains of sand is a heap, 83 grains is a heap, but 82 grains is neither heap nor non-heap.”

sorites sandpile problem

This facet of vagueness — which is called “higher-order vagueness” — is not only something we have to deal with, but is also something which any computational device must contend with.

If 82 grains is in the borderline region of ‘heap’, then it is not because the program-in-the-head said “Oh, that’s a borderline case.” Rather, it is a borderline case because the program failed to halt at all.

And when something fails to halt, you can’t be sure it won’t halt. Perhaps it will eventually halt, later.

The problem here is called the Halting Problem, a simpler problem than the Always-Halting Problem mentioned earlier. The issue now is simply whether a given program will halt on a given input (whereas the “Always” version concerned whether a given program will halt on everyinput).

And this problem also is not generally solvable by any computational device. When you get to 82 grains from 83, your program in the head doesn’t respond at all, but you don’t know it won’t ever respond.

Your ability to see the boundary of the borderline region is itself fuzzy.

Our concepts not only have holes in them, but unseeable holes. …in the sense that exactly where the borders of the holes are is unclear.

And these aren’t quirks of our brains, but necessary consequences of any computational creature — man or machine — having concepts.


This originally appeared August 19, 2010, at Science 2.0. (See the comments there for some good discussion.)


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books). He is working on his fourth book at the moment, tentatively titled Making Faces, about emotions and facial expressions.


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Crying is a waste of perfectly good water. So why we do it? I have no idea, so I would like to hear your ideas. To get the ball rolling, here are eight hypotheses, each surely inadequate and probably false.

(1) Purple Haze: When the tears “well up” under the skin, even before overflowing, the skin changes color, darkening and becoming purplish. Given that our color vision may have evolved for seeing skin color changes (do a Google search of “primate rump” but without the scare quotes to find my paper on this), one wonders whether tears are all about changing the skin’s color while still under the skin. Perhaps the flowing-over of the tears is just a side story. It seems, however, unlikely that the overflowing tears is just a side effect. Why not reabsorb it? And once the tears come out, it is likely the more visually salient feature, not the purple bags of skin under the eyes.

(2) Seen Sheen: Perhaps the water visibly in the eyes and on the face creates a highly salient sheen, and this is the key. We are, indeed, highly sensitive to the signature “glimmer” of water, and perhaps this makes the face’s sad emotion easier to see. But modifying the face via muscle expressions would seem to be even easier to see. And even if tear-sheens are especially visible, why should sadness (and to a lesser extent happiness) be the emotion that utilizes this trick?

(3) Unstoppable: It can be very difficult to control a cry – which is why at the Harley Club Movie Night I go to the bathroom just before Bambi’s mother is shot by hunters – and that kind of uncontrollability is often a virtue for emotions. It let’s the viewer “know” he or she is not being manipulated. This could be part of the story of cries, but we would want to know why color signals (mediated via blood physiological changes under the skin, like blushes and blanches) aren’t enough, because color signals are also out of our control.

(4) Water-Handicap: On the topic of manipulating others, another way to convince others that you’re sad is to sacrifice something important to yourself. Perhaps tears are the sacrifice: by giving up perfectly good precious water, the crier is generally deemed to be more honestly signaling. …because crying is costly.

(5) Salt-Lick: Tears are salty and wet, just the thing animals love to lick. Perhaps tears are put out to attract grooming behaviors and intimacy from loved ones. (…who love you even though they need to be bought off by salt-licks to come to your aid.)

(6) That Wet Feeling: This idea is from my seven year old daughter. “Perhaps,” she said, “tears let us feel how sad we are.” The idea that our facial expressions are crucial in driving our inner emotions – rather than the other way around – has a long history. My daughter wasn’t intending to refer to that, I don’t think, but, rather, that the wet feeling on one’s face helps give one better feedback about how sad one appears to others. Rather than the usual proprioceptive sense of our facial expressions, her point was that the wet feel of tears is a special, extra proprioceptive sense of our sadness expression. The wet skin may even make the muscular facial expression easier to sense (i.e., in addition to the intrinsic wet feel). Why, though, should this extra-powerful proprioceptive sense be especially needed for sadness?

(7) Wet-for-a-While: Once the tears have overflowed, they stick around until they evaporate (or until the last lick of your, ahem, loved ones). To the extent that the tear-glimmer serves to signal sadness, one can keep up the sadness signal without having to put on one’s sad face. Relax your face, and let your water do the fussing on your face for the next ten minutes.

(8) Bucket-O-Tears: Facial expressions due to muscles on the face don’t tell you how long they’ve been being expressed. Tears, on the other hand, are more “additive”. The more you cry, the wetter your face, and eventually your neck, chest and Bowling Enthusiast magazine. Why, though, would this kind of “additivity” matter for sadness and not other expressions?

With the quality of my thinking on this matter out on the table, hopefully you now feel no inhibition whatsoever to propose your own idea. And if we can put together a somewhat coherent one, then we can look into how we might test it.

But don’t be a cry-baby about it.


This first appeared July 20, 2010, at Science 2.0.

Mark Changizi is Professor of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books).

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As seen in classified ads…

Have a talent and enjoyment for inflicting prescribed doses of pain? Your dream job awaits. (Biology undergraduate required.) Contact: 555-8428
You are not supposed to be reading this. You’re an ape who never evolved to read, but you can do so because writing culturally evolved to be shaped just right for your illiterate visual system. As I have argued in my research and recent books, culture’s trick for getting writing into us was to harness our ancient visual system for a new purpose (The Vision Revolution), a trick also used for speech and music (upcoming in Harnessed). (Hint: The trick to harnessing is, in each case, to mimic nature.)

This “harnessing” strategy is just the tip of the iceberg – our modern civilization is, in myriad ways, shaped to fit our fundamentally uncivilized selves. Culture has given us clothes that fit our body shapes, color patterns that fit our innate color senses, lexicons that fit our brains, religions that fit our aspirations, and chairs that fit our butts.

But there is one blaring gap in how we have been harnessed for modernity, a gap that, if addressed, would lead to a revolution in safety and well-being for humankind.

What’s missing is pain.

Pain is crucial, of course, because it keeps us safe, and prevents us from engaging in acts that injure or slice off parts of ourselves. Although wishing for a world without pain sounds initially alluring, one quickly realizes that such a world would be hell – it would be a world of the walking bruised and hideously injured (unless you’re into that). Those who lack pain don’t last long. And even if they avoid catching on fire or bleeding to death, they often succumb to death by a thousand pricks (e.g., they don’t shift their body weight as the rest of us do when they sit too long in one position, and this leads over time to circulatory damage).

Pain is designed to be elicited before injury actually occurs, with the hope that it prevents injury altogether. (E.g., see Why Does Light Make Headaches Worse?) Pain is evolutionarily designed to cause us to say, “Ouch!”, rather than, “Darn, I needed that appendage!”

More importantly for our purposes here, pain is rigged to be elicited in scenarios that would have been dangerous for our ancestors out in nature. A great example of what happens to animals who encounter injurious situations they have no pain mechanisms to deter them from is when natural gas accumulates in low spots. One animal gets there and dies. Another animal sees an easy meal, and also dies. Soon there are many dozens of dead animals there, lured to their death, with life-snuffing injuries sneaking up on them without the benefit of warning pain.

And there’s your problem! We no longer live in the nature that shaped our bodies and brains, and the dangerous scenarios we now face aren’t the same as those our ancestors faced. Electricity, ban saws, nail guns, stove tops, toasters perched next to bathtubs, and countless other modern dangers exist today, dangers that we’re not designed to have safety-ensuring pain to protect us from (until it’s too late).

What we need are technologies that inflict “smart pain,” pain not only designed to go off at signs of modern dangers, but designed to be painful in the right way, on the right body part, so as to optimally alert us to the acute danger.

Just to throw out a few examples…

  • Your car rigged to shock you on your left or right side if drive your car within several inches of an obstacle on your car’s left or right, respectively.
  • Your computer set to shine a painfully bright red light if you are about to click on a suspicious link.
  • A wearable device with a video sensor that detects the likelihood that the person you’re picking up at a bar has an STD, and then causes severe itching until you flee the bar.

You’re beginning to get the idea, and I hope you can see that the ideas are endless. What I would like to see are your own suggestions for the future of pain engineering, and to a world where all sadists are employed.

This first appeared on May 6, 2010, as a feature at bodyinmind.au


Mark Changizi is Professor of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books) and the upcoming book Harnessed (Benbella Books).

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Already well-known for its short character length limits, in a press conference scheduled for later today, Twitter will announce that it will severely shorten its allowable “tweets”.

“I’m frankly amazed at all the crap people fit into their tweets,” said Twitters’ founder Jack Dorsey by phone with me yesterday. “By shortening tweets to 20 characters, they’ll be able to put their bit.ly link, and still have about seven characters left over for a snappy headline.”

Prior to this decision, “twitterers” could put in up to 140 characters, allowing Twitter tripe such as, “Recall the Tiger Woods apology… Is it me, or did it look like he was having oral sex during the press conference?” Asked whether shortening tweets by two-seventh can hamper speech on Twitter, Dorsey quickly replied, “You can say the same thing with: ‘Tiger got oral on TV’.”

Twitter rights groups have promised a fight, with its spokesperson Doug Degas tweeting the following announcement to his 31,794 followers: “#Sign #our #petition #to #keep #us #blithering #on #twitter http://bit.ly/c1PsXn @mrsaki @sextmessage #dontyouhatewhen (This is an RT must!)”

Filed by news staff, April 1, 2010

[Note added April 28, 2010: Now that April 1 is long past, I probably should emphasize that this was written on April 1.]

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