Friday, 22 February 2002

At the risk of sounding like an uber-geek, I was thinking about how to describe emotions properly. There should be some sort of absolute reporting mechanism so we can accurately convey how something feels, it should be possible to say to someone

"and then the pipe burst and my favourite T-shirt was ruined and I felt like X"

and for them to be able to think,

"well I felt like X too when I was eating a slice of toast and my teeth fell out in front of the padre, so I know exactly what that feels like"

without resorting to a whole world of wild gesticulation, adjectives like dreamy, whirling and wild, and the all too common response of "I know" when they clearly don't.

In the world of design and techy things and what not, colours are specified using a set of numbers called RGB values. Any given colour can be described with three numbers detailing the amount of Red, Green and Blue in the colour. So (0,0,0) is black, (255, 255, 255) is white, and there are gazillions of colours inbetween (actually 16 777 216). In the same way it should be possible to describe an emotion in terms of AJF (anger, joy, frustration) or JLH (jealousy, love, heartbreak) or some such combination of provably perpendicular emotions.

In such a scheme our imaginary protagonist could describe X rather accurately.

Of course the reason that RGB values work so well for colours is that everyone can point stupidly at a red brick wall and agree loudly that it is indeed the finest red they have seen and should henceforth be the benchmark for redness (255, 0, 0). Whereas when your dog gets run over, there's little left to point to (other than a crumpled and sorry heap) so that you can agree with others quite how depressed, strangely serene and angry you all are.

Then there's the problem that the magic of science can prove that red is as red as red can be - (255, 0, 0) rather than (125,0,0). Whereas when you're angry, how do you know that's as angry as you can ever get? How do you know that just because your boss dumped you in it at the last minute you're as full of anger as possible, precluding the possibility that someone could come along and smear jam on your beard thus elevating your burping volcano of fury to a planetary cataclysm of rage?

So we're back to words like maelstrom, float and spiralling. Curses, another near flawless scheme for improving the world left in tatters.

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