Friday, February 27, 2015

The blue and the black

So, is it blue and black, or is it white and gold?

The way I arranged that question should tell you what I see.  My preference is initial, not secondary.  (Yes, I could be more fatuous about this, but how far dare I go?)

What's interesting is the number of comments on this from people convinced only one set of colors is possible, and people who claim to see the others are obviously liars and fools and just trying to fool with their haids!   (Second best are the people relying on Photoshop to analyze the colors and tell them what they are seeing.  I do wonder how many people could actually identify "cyan" or "magenta" without a labeled color card).

Well, that's what's going on at Slate, anyway.  According to that article Buzzed settled the issue with a poll that determined almost 75% of people see white and gold.  Which is objective proof, along with your lyin' eyes.

So who you gonna believe?  Me?  Or your lyin' eyes?

There may be an explanation for this.  Wired (again, per Slate) insists it's all because of how we are...wired.  Which seems a little obvious, and quite a bit obtuse, at the same time.  Maybe it's the quality of the photograph.  But if we can't believe a photograph, what can we believe about our world?

And if you can't believe your lyin' eyes.....

I don't want to make too much of this, but it is an interesting object lesson in ambiguity and certainty. There is so much jabber on the internet treating ambiguity as if it were an intellectual weakness, and certainty as if it were proof one is aligned with the cosmos, or at least in touch with the Platonic Good.  How much certainty do we have if people don't see the colors we see?  Isn't color objective and immutable?  Is this some kind of fight between Kantians and empiricists, where perception is one thing, "fact" another?  Are there facts which we literally cannot perceive?  How does that work?

Is one group of observers of this photo just trolling the other group?  I mean, if we can't trust the products of our technology (photography, digital reproduction), what can we trust?

Aye, theres' the rub.....

Update:  I'm too lazy to chase down all the theories being proposed as to why people don't see the same dress here (when everything says they should).  Just as I'm too lazy to spend the years of in-depth research such a project would probably require (as opposed to reaching for some on-the-shelf answer which isn't really an answer but will please the non-scientists/non-rigorous empiricists).

But this compendium of theories satisfies me as to one thing:  no one has a clue, and all the answers are simply proof Male Answer Syndrome (in the face of ignorance, make up something at least semi-plausible) is alive and well.  Sadly, this also proves the internet is still mostly run by men.



  1. From what I understand different browsers display colors differently, the reason my blog looks weird to me on other computers with other browsers.

    Other than that, I don't feel qualified to get into the quality of the qualia in question so I will remain quite quiet on that quest for a conclusive QED.

    I've got to get away from reading for a few hours. It's messing with my mind.

  2. "There's the missing shade of blue!"

    - D Hume

  3. In an age of Photoshop, this controversy is VERY silly. When people see what they want to see AND can be made to see anything else, there's obviously No Right Answer, just subjectivity galore.