Sunday, 21 October 2012

BELIEVING IN A RED PIXEL


The computer gaming industry was launched using just a few primitive elements.


Two or three colored pixels were all that was necessary to construct a story in the minds of viewers: a red pixel might represent a missile trying to knock out that green pixel before it hits blue pixel earth.

Later would come photo-realistic graphics, complex story lines and motion sensitive technology.  But the most important step-- turning viewers into believers-- was achieved with just a few basic visual symbols.  Our imaginations did the rest.  

It's amazing how a visual image--even a single red pixel--  gives our minds a starting place for belief in scenarios where mere words might fail to persuade.   Even the most far fetched ideas become more plausible once we can visualize them.

The newly released movie Argo tells the true story of the rescue of American diplomats hiding in the Canadian embassy in 1979 after  a mob of Islamic militants took over the US embassy.  To smuggle the diplomats out of Iran, A CIA “exfiltration” expert made up a wild story about the diplomats being a movie crew scouting locations in Iran for a Hollywood space fantasy called “Argo.”

As one film critic recounts:
“You don’t have a better bad idea than this?” a State Department official asks the CIA.  ”This is the best bad idea we have,” is the reply....   They can’t fake any of the usual identities for the Americans because they are too easy to disprove.  The normal reasons for foreigners to be abroad — teaching, studying, aid — are not plausible.  Only something completely outrageous could be true.
But how to persuade the fanatical Iranian border guards who were skeptical of all foreign devils?   Why should they believe such a far fetched tale?  Because the CIA showed them Jack Kirby's concept drawings for the "film."


They really liked the drawings.


Once the guards saw the pictures, they were able to visualize the movie and became persuaded.  They let the diplomats go.  Whether you're playing video games or smuggling hostages out of Iran, the principle that "seeing is believing" pays off time and again.  People who dismiss pictures as the mere illusion of reality underestimate the reality of illusion.