LifeLog is depressing because it proves how boring my life is.

The idea of life log is interesting. You record your whole life, and supposedly, you will be able to go back, maybe relive those exciting moments. So many precious moments went by in my life, never to be recovered, what a waste. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Those moments when you wished you had a camera, or a video recorder...

But taking out cameras is distracting. When I'm excited, feel something is great, I want to dig in right there. Because that's what enthusiasm is. My photos are bad, because they are usually afterthoughts. I see a great dish in front of me, immediately dive in, eat half way through, really feel the satisfaction coming all over myself, and then at last I think "oh, maybe I should take a photo of this great dish." But half eaten dishes are seldom appetizing. So something that records no matter what seemed like a good idea.

Now there are bunch of gadgets that actually fulfill that dream. One of them is Narrative Clip. The idea is that, you wear this camera thingie always. It takes a picture every 30 seconds. And then, when you connect it to your PC, it will upload it to the server, and then some algorithm would pick out interesting stuff, and provide some continuity. I saw it on... Kickstarter? Indiegogo? and I thought I'd give it a try, plonked down USD150 or so.

The thing actually made it into production, and it arrived. Great!!

So I tried it on. And... it wasn't exactly what I expected.

How it went: Experience with food

One thing I was looking forward was, food. I go around the world, eat strange stuff, but never have photos to show. So, I took this Narrative Clip out for lunch and dinner. This is what I got.

Ummmm, what I wanted was WHAT IS INSIDE the square bowl. Not the grannie sitting across the table (but, it's amazing how she's perfectly framed). I don't know who this grannie is. What I'm eating (and the grannie is eating) is an eel bowl, a delicacy in Japan. We're eating these creatures into extinction. And I'm contributing. That's worth bragging.

But because the camera is positioned way below your head, it tends to shoot the sides of bowls and dishes, not the food itself.

In Hong Kong, I was having dinner with my friend Joe, in this great Chinese restaurant. But ALL the photos from the meal was as follows;

The camera seems to have took a liking for the tea pot. That's all it took during the whole meal. Where did that great bitter melon dish go?

Also, I went to dinner with 5 people, and it was fun, I talked to everybody. But looking at the photo stream, it is completely fixed on just one girl on the other side of the table. When you talk, you turn your head. But your body remains fixed. So the camera gets fixed.

Looking at the photo stream, it almost seems like I'm putting her under surveillance or even stalking her. In reality, I spoke to her least, because she was across the rather big table. But it looks like I was staring at this one person, without talking to anyone else!! If someone else (especially the girl) sees this photo stream, they will definitely get the wrong idea, and will get me a restraining order. A year from now, I myself would find these photo creepy, and think myself as a pervert. I would forget what happened, but the photos would remain.

This is a problem with the camera position. However, I don't see how it can be improved. I COULD wear it on my forehead... which would look stupid. And if I have to re-position the camera all the time, that kills the whole purpose of the thing.

But that was the LEAST of the problems. The most important issue was much more, how should I put it, philosophical. It forces you to reflect on your life, which could be lethal, or at least detrimental to your mental health.

My Life is Boring: depressing revelations of LifeLog

I wore the thing to work. I wore the thing to my trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen. And then, looking back at the photos... I noticed one thing.


Well, not really. But, the photos forces you into thinking that. Because I'm a desk worker, all my work photos look like this.

Most of the photos are... my hand holding my mouse. Is that what I do all they? Well yeah, but you know, there's more to it... or is there?? And then there are photos of meetings, where I get frame after frame of my colleague sitting across the meeting table. Don't I do anything else? Apparently not.

Other photos. I'm in a convenience store, walking corridors, riding subways...

Somehow, I fail to get excited about this. It depresses me. My life is so unadventurous. I'm so predictable. I'm just doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and....

OK, but that's boring everyday life. What about fun stuff? Out-of-the-Norm activities? I was a speaker in a talk show on Philip K. Dick (because I translated VALIS recently). That was fun. But all I got from that was photos of my hand holding the microphone.

BELIEVE ME, THERE WAS MORE TO THAT THAN THIS!!!! It was lively and fun!! But looking at this picture, I'm starting to doubt myself. Just like the dinner where the camera only took photos of the girl, the images, because they are there, starts to override your actual memories. THAT IS REALLY SCARY.

What about travels? I went to Hong Kong and Shenzhen in early August; that was super exciting. How was the lifelog on that?

Well... Not much. Travel is... travel. I'm on a plane. Or a subway. I'm walking on the streets. And there's nothing much there. In Hong Kong, I got numerous photos of the guy sitting next to me on the MRT. Like this;

He hardly moves. Sooo exciting. Sometimes, there are somewhat interesting stuff. Like this... couple, I think?

It's amazing how they are so close together, and yet, they are each immersed in their respective smartphones and tablets. Tragedy of modern life, isn't it?

Oh, and I got some photos of the border and immigration. You're not supposed to take pictures, so that is so-so interesting.

This may be interesting. But I can't say it captures the excitement of the whole journey. Looking at these pictures, it seems like I'm always sitting around, not doing anything exciting, I thought I had interesting and exciting moments but in reality, they may have been just in my head, and I'm just staring into computers with a mouse, looking at people on subways, missing everything that is beautiful in life.... in a word, being totally boring. Looking at those photos, it was a bit funny at first, but then, this overwhelming sense of boredom and sadness came over me, and I even thought maybe I should just kill myself right here, ending this worthless life.

I needed several good (and strong) drinks to get out of that mood.

I think there are a lot of life philosophy that you can take back from this. How the exciting moments become all the more precious, precisely because your normal life is rather event-less and boring. How I should cherish those moments, or maybe have a satori about how life in itself is meaningless and boring, but exactly because of that life is mysterious and unexpected and blah blah blah.

But the fact remains that the whole exercise depressed the hell out of me. And I'm really having second thoughts about this LifeLog thing. Most of my life is boring. OK, I get that, I don't need stupid gadgets to shove that down my throat!!!

Conclusion and Possible improvement

The Shenzhen thing was a tour of makers to check out the place, and the local maker-hacker scene. I was bitching about this Narrative Clip to one of the group members, and she suggested that instead of taking photos every 30 sec, it may be better to connect it with a sensor taking your pulse. When your pulse goes up, it takes a picture. Or, maybe you tag the photos with your pulse level. You choose the ones above some threshold. Then, you have a series of really meaningful moments

I think that's a good idea. That way, I don't have to look at numerous photos of the guy sitting across me in the subway. But then, that's also scary. What if it reveals that I don't have a pulse? Maybe I'm totally flatlined all the time. Hope not.

So I really need to rethink this idea about Lifelog in general. Maybe it isn't such a good idea. Your mileage may vary, especially if you are more active outdoor type with ever changing activities. But I would hesitate to recommend this to anyone. I don't want any of my friends to kill themselves.

And I'm not sure if I'll wear that thing ever again. One more thing: it does make you look... nerdy. And suspicious.

PS: Evolution is Overrated

One of my friends read this, and she said it reminded her of a project where they put cameras on Cows. The result was uneventful as hell; the cows just eat grass all day. Yeah, I remember seeing that. We looked at that and thought, "Wow, cows are STUPID!! They are so BORING!" The implication being, of course, that we are much more evolved and lead more exciting lives.

Now, I'm not sure anymore. Sorry cows, for dissing you. Maybe we are not that evolved, after all. (2014.08.15)

(Hiroo Yamagata )

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