Aged to perception

dustBy the time you read this post, the current fad of the moment that spawned it will have passed and there’ll be a whole new craze sweeping the internet to keep us amused. There’s more than a little irony in that, since this particular post is essentially about time passing.

As I write, everyone I come across seems obsessed with Micro$oft’s HowOldRobot – the web app that checks out the faces in any image you care to send it, and magically hazards a logical guess at the gender and age of the subject. Inevitably, this crossed over into SL, with residents by the score asking the poor thing to come up with ages for their avatars.

Resisting the temptation, (well, at first anyway), to upload myself into the matrix and ask for a robotic age appraisal, I instead tried to mislead this technological marvel by challenging it to sex and guess the age of Lego figures and the people featured on the Sgt. Pepper album cover – not too successfully, I might add. However even I eventually succumbed, with entirely predictable results.

agesAs I suspected, this particular use of technology is, at best, unreliable… or should I say crap, because that seems to be the overall feeling about it from the world in general too. My estimated ages ranged from a lithe 20 to a rather disappointing 44 and in a least one case, I swapped gender too.

I know what you’re thinking – did I really expect a computer programme to be able to accurately suggest a human attribute pertaining to a computer-generated, and wholly unreal, picture?

Well, actually, yes… The thing is, we humans do it all the time, especially when it comes to SL. I’m willing to bet that every one of us, even if only in our own mind, has ascribed a particular age to each of the avatars that we spend our time with inworld; an age that is wholly independent of any knowledge we may have of the real person behind the avatar. I have friends inworld, for example, who are retired – even drawing a pension – yet my mind chooses to believe the illusion that their avatar’s appearance presents, and I see them as people in their late twenties and early thirties. Similarly, I have a friend whose avatar looks to be around 16 years old, and that’s how I perceive them, even though I know that in reality they are much older.

It’s no surprise to me that many of us consciously choose an avatar with a physical appearance that can often be decades younger than the real thing. Perhaps it’s to do with vanity, or trying to recapture lost youth, or maybe we just think younger avatars look better, but whatever the reason, in doing so we do a great job of convincing those around us that we really are as young as our avatars look.

And, we successfully fool ourselves too!

How many of us act our age in SL? And is that our real age, or our assumed age? Somehow, possessing the virtual attributes of youthfulness seems to release the inner child trapped within our adult bodies. That’s not to say we can’t act youthfully in the real world, but those occasions we do are perhaps less common than we’d like to think they are. We’ve all argued that inside we’re still a teenager, but apart from the odd occasion we feel we can get away with it in RL, it’s only really in SL that we really do act as if we’re still teenagers! I’m convinced this is something to do with looking the part – a youthful body seems to inspire a youthful outlook, and a youthful outlook inspires youthful activity – and as far as I’m concerned, that’s no bad thing.

agenoHere’s the weird thing though: Although I have little problem pinning down my friends and acquaintances’ avatars to particular ages, I honestly couldn’t tell you how old Seren is meant to be. Sometimes I think twenty-something, other times thirty-something, but I really can’t pin it down – and neither it seems can the age robot.

It makes me wonder how old others perceive me to be… so, over to you!

How old do you reckon?

s. x

Television man is crazy saying we’re juvenile delinquent wrecks
Oh man I need TV when I got T. Rex
Oh brother you guessed
I’m a dude dad
Mott The Hoople – All The Young Dudes


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