Damn It, Jaden

The son of Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith has been foisted into the public eye to decidedly mixed results. But his brand was arguably established by his Twitter feed, a soupy mixture of faux philosophy and surely-he’s-stoned non sequiturs. And yesterday, the Huffington Post published an article where he’s asked to explain a selection of his most famous thoughts.

It’s not good, guys. I’m bolding the quote in question and italicizing his commentary, and then I’ve got a couple of things to say.

It burns. It BURNS.
The voice of his generation. Pic from https://hypebeast.com/2018/7/jaden-smith-syre-electric-album-instagram-stream

How Can Mirrors Be Real If Our Eyes Aren’t Real

“This one comes from a study that a scientist was saying, that the way that the eyes perceive reality is not the way we actually see it,” he said. “So, like, we can only see three base colors, but there’s so much more on the electromagnetic spectrum of light that we could see, but our eyes are just not capable of seeing, which brought me to the realization that what we see on an everyday basis is not actually what’s there. It’s actually only what we can take in.”

He is on to a tenuous little trickle of wisdom here, but it’s drowned in Goop-level misconceptions about science. The brain does *not* necessarily perceive a quantifiable, universally correct reality through the eyes, that much is true. There are lots of examples of this, but here’s one everybody will probably recognize. If you’ve ever glanced up at the second hand of a clock and perceived that it takes an unusually long amount of time before the next second ticks down, you’ve encountered it. It’s called chronostasis, an illusion tied to your brain stitching together a continuous conscious reality despite the interruption in visual input caused by saccades.

These eye movements comprise moments in which your eyes are in rapid motion. While your eyes pivot, the brain is temporarily unable to perceive a coherent image. Thus – and this is where things get very interesting – your brain models events based on its last input and begins compiling what it expects to happen until input resumes, based on prior experience and what it’s observed about your surroundings. Unlike a computer, your brain doesn’t have a rigidly accurate internal timer, and experiments suggest it values a  coherent perception of reality over a strict adherence to accuracy. Part of why the scientific method is so important is that differences in perception of an experiment and its results due to bias in researchers – even totally well-meaning, stridently neutral ones without explicitly held agendas – can be smoothed out through reproduction of experiments and careful methodology.

So, you know, good on Jaden for having some perception of that, but I may be giving him too much credit. Let’s dive into the rest of this thing.

Here I think he’s conflating the Red/Green/Blue additive color model and the visible light spectrum. Talking about mixing colors in ratios is useful for color theory and predicting the results of interactions in a medium – RGB for light, CMYK for print, and luminance and chroma for video are used every day to simplify working with multimedia. But it’s important to remember that these systems are invented by humans. Your rods and cones don’t care about conceptual frameworks. They have been honed by evolutionary processes to perceive the visible light spectrum.

The visible light spectrum. As you can see, it’s not just three colors. Sourced from https://www.quora.com/Are-there-colors-that-exist-beyond-the-known-light-spectrum-that-have-not-yet-been-detected .

There aren’t many secrets hidden in our inability to see into the infrared or ultraviolet and beyond. We aren’t nectarvores, so perceiving UV radiation wouldn’t help us find food. Infrared might be useful for perceiving warm-blooded prey in the dark, but humans are chiefly diurnal omnivores. I’m pretty sure living outside around surfaces that absorb sunlight would result in infrared visual pollution anyway, especially during the hot part of the day.

“And I also took in another study,” he continued, “that … our eyes are kind of like mirrors in a sense to where they perceive things and then they flip. We take in the information upside down and then the brain flips it right side up so that we can see it right side up … and I was like, if we take in the raw visual information upside down and mirrors portray things in reverse, then they’re not real. We’re living in the Matrix.”

That’s… not a study, Jaden. I’m pretty sure that’s on charts in an eye doctor’s office. The brain flips your visual field to compensate for the fact that light passing through the lens of your eye forms an inverted image on the retina. Barring vision problems, the end result is a lossless replica of what’s interacting with light in the real world. Any bias in terms of how the image is interpreted is solely based on the individual doing the seeing. A mirror subtly reverses right and left orientation, but presents an image that’s otherwise accurate. And an image being flipped, mirrored, or refracted does not automatically imply that the content of that image is corrupted or intended to deceive. Nowhere in any of that process does the possibility of human existence being a simulation enter the picture.

I Am Not A Human And I Don’t Speak English

“That’s true! That’s true!” he said. “Because I’m not gonna be categorized as a human. Oh, humans are supposed to do this or act like this or people are supposed to act like this or people are supposed to be this. I’m my own thing. Don’t judge me off some standards that were made up before I was born. I’m doing my own thing.”

Either this is subconscious bristling at the weight of expectation he lives under, or Jaden conflates humanity with cultural expectation. It’s an irrationally dumb correlation, but I’m optimistic. A rich grown man stamping his feet at basic discourse like a contrary three year old will yield rich lulz in the years to come. Selective blindness like this is what happens when nobody calls you on your shit.

The biggest flex anyone will ever have is dying.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, that was a sad one,” he said. “But it’s true. Because when someone leaves, that’s when everybody starts to care about them.”

Everything old is new again. This doesn’t just apply to people, you know. You won’t truly realize how good those potato chips are until you’ve eaten them all. Isn’t that heartbreaking?

If A Cup Cake Falls From A Tree How Far Away Will It Be From Down. #Jupiter

“That one? I really don’t know where my head was at with that one,” he said, laughing. “Yeah, I love that one. That was like an abstract painting in the form of words. The visuals that get created in your mind when you say that sentence, I created those visuals in your mind.”

It’d be more dignified to blame a fat-assed blunt for this one, Jaden.

The more time you spend awake the more time you spend asleep.

 “The more time you spend awake, the more time you do spend asleep,” he noted. “I mean that’s just a fact. But like, I just fucking need to … as soon as I say it, then it becomes like a novelty thing. Then it becomes something that’s super funny. It’s super true though.”

Jaden Smith has never known insomnia. Jaden Smith has never known hardship. And Jaden Smith has never learned how to think contemplatively or question himself, his world, what he reads, or his motivations. I was going to say that if  critical thinking keeps eluding him, he’ll pump for conspiracy theorists in a matter of time. But the album he released last year basically confirms he’s a 9/11 truther. And he’s barely 20 years old.

Teach your kids how to think.