Saturday, August 12, 2023

Barbie was a creative answer to the contradiction of the right vs. the desirable.

I went to see Barbie in the very first show in central Tokyo. It was a wickedly sophisticated treatment of many cultural assumptions about gender, ethnicity, body, glamour, personal charm and individuality. The production design was superb, making the unreal appear more real than reality. Perhaps that's the child's view, seeing the Platonic truth. You could almost feel the biology of the plastic. This might have been an aesthetic revolution, even.

Although it was a morning show, the theater was full. This would have been a relief for Barbie lovers. 

In the runup to the opening of Barbie, there have been some hiccups, especially related to the Barbenheimer memes. Japan is very sensitive about nuclear bombs, for obvious reasons. Having gone through that, perhaps now it is a time to come back to the common sense of the power of pink.

I admire the way Greta Gerwig went about the business of doing everything just right from politically correct viewpoints. The script was clever, on the verge of approaching cosmic absurdities. In entertainment, nowadays, it is important to do the right thing. On the other hand, I always thought that human desires were deep and perhaps more powerful than just doing and saying the right thing. Barbie was in a way a creative answer to the enigma of the contradiction of the right vs. the desirable. That was kind of revolutionary, too, at least for me.

By the way, my name is Ken. After seeing the movie, I finally came to understand why I have always been and ever will be no.2.

Ken Mogi bio, photos, and contact.

Ken Mogi is a neuroscientist, writer, and broadcaster based in Tokyo. Ken Mogi is a senior researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratories, and a visiting and project professor at the University of Tokyo. He has a B.A. in Physics and Law, and Ph.D in Physics, from the University of Tokyo. He has done postdoctoral research in University of Cambridge, U.K. He has published more than 200 books in Japan covering popular science, essay, criticism, self-help, and novels. Ken Mogi published several bestsellers in Japan (with close to million copies sold). He was the first Japanese to give a talk at the TED main stage, in 2012 (Long Beach). 

Ken Mogis book on IKIGAI, published in 31 countries and in 29 languages, has become a global bestseller. Ken Mogi's second book, The Way of Nagomi came out in the U.K. in 2022 and in the U.S. in 2023. Ken Mogi has a life-long interest in understanding the origin of consciousness, with the focus on qualia and free will.




Ken Mogi profile Photos (c) Itaru Hirama 2021


You can download large size files from the link below.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

We don't have to cite Dostoevsky to call out the incredible shallowness of game theoretic thinking.

Born and raised in Japan, I am naturally aware of the destruction that nuclear weapons bring about, as exemplified by the tragedies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I would definitely like to see them abolished. I can see at the same time how difficult the process would be. Once the powers that be have such capabilities of mass destruction, it would be difficult to persuade them to abandon the weapons. British comedian Diane Morgan cried bitterly as the character Philomena Cunk when she learned that humanity has not abolished nuclear weapons.

Quite MAD, isn't it? We are so mad that we need comedy to face the reality.

We are not alone, and perhaps there have been experiments on the difficulty of abolishing nuclear weapons on the cosmic scale. When considering the Fermi Paradox, I always thought that the apparent absence of intelligent extraterrestrial life out there is due to the short life expectancy of any advanced civilizations. Once they reach a stage where they could produce nuclear weapons, they would implode, annihilating themselves through unavoidable contingencies. Perhaps earthlings would follow suit soon enough if we are not careful. 

Abolition of nuclear weapons would need a serious examination of the game theoretic logic behind Mutually Assured Destruction. It is literally MAD as the acronym suggests. Game theory is great in its own way, but it does not scale very much when it comes to ethics.

For me, game theory always appeared to be rather superficial, in its premises that agents would behave according to some evaluation functions. It is useful, but it is obviously not the whole story.

We don't have to cite Dostoevsky to call out the incredible shallowness of game theoretic thinking, but it is difficult still to make humans behave any differently in a world increasingly dominated by AI think, both theoretically and emotionally. I am a great fan of the present AI developments. I am avidly interested in AI alignment problems. At the same time, I can see how this whole process has trapped us in a rather nasty rabbit hole, and we probably need to start thinking rather seriously about ways out, or even ways further in so that we can get somewhere else through some wormholes of concepts. 

Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird (2017)

I came across a great shooting scene from Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird (2017). In it Ms Gerwig was laughing, exhibiting her genuine good nature, instructing the actors to run and hug and kiss, while sitting comfortably behind the monitor.

Lady Bird was a true eye-opener for me, where I became aware of Ms. Gerwig's incredible talent, and the superb film making gene of the company A24. I have been a fan of Ms. Gerwig and A24 ever since.

What was great about Lady Bird was the poignant way human psychology was treated. The reason why the protagonist kept calling her Lady Bird was something which would resonate with everyone who has been a teenager once. And the final accepting of her real name, and her identity, was moving and was a very fine piece of film making.

I would never forget the artistic satisfaction that welled up in my heart at that particular moment, when the Lady Bird became a true Lady.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Ohtani's kabuto helmet performance is a celebration of the inner child alive in each one of us.

When Shohei Ohtani hits a home run, his team mates would put a kabuto helmet. While this is a symbol of the samurai warrior, many Japanese associate the headgear with happy childhood memories.

It has been customary for boys to get a set of samurai symbolism, including the kabuto helmet, when they are infants, from parents and grandparents. These would be typically displayed in special festivities in May. The kabuto helmet would represent wishes for an audacious and successful life.

With the growth of more gender neutral awareness, perhaps these customs are losing momentum. Still, for many Japanese, the kabuto helmets are symbols of happy and blessed childhood, rather than the literal ethos of the samurai clan, which disappeared from the Japanese society with modernization more than 150 years ago.

Every time Shohei Ohtani wears the kabuto helmet, those versed in the tradition of Japan would remember a childhood surrounded by well-wishers. In that sense, Ohtani's kabuto helmet performance is a celebration of the inner child alive in each one of us.