Lessons from Optical Illusions

Optical Illusions warn us not to believe our eyes – what we see is actually not the truth! Besides using them to impress people with such simple magic acts, there are more lesson for us.

I first come across such optical illusion diagrams when studying ergonomics in engineering school.

What do you see?
The upper line is shorter than the lower line.
The same effect is created whether I use the arrows or the circles!

Even when I tell you that the lines are actually of equal sized, we still see them as one longer than the other. Our perception is some how distorted by presence of additional lines or circles.

However, if I introduce some key guide lines for comparing their sizes as shown the picture below, we can see very clearly:

What lessons can we learn from these diagrams?

Here are my suggestions or interpretation or implications:

  1. Additional information(represented by the arrow heads or circles) distorts our perception of the truth
  2. There are such things call misleading facts. Facts presented to distort the perception of truth.
    These are what the con man do to us. They present facts to lead us to draw our own conclusion that they set up.
  3. Getting additional information or facts may mislead us in drawing a wrong conclusion. Statisticians warn us that association may not reflect the cause and effects.
  4. Pruning away misleading facts help us to see clearer.
    If you can, take away the arrows and circles from the above diagram and you can see clearly for yourself.
  5. It is difficult for us to be objective.
    Our experience and mind-set has great influence in our perception of things. We have the famous saying of ‘we only see what we want to see’. Even though we know the lines are of equal sizes, we don’t see it!
  6. Look for guides or references or standards to help us ascertain the truth. (by drawing the vertical lines). When it is difficult for us to ignore the presented information, we want to use reference or guideposts to help us find the truth.
    e.g. when some money is mistaken transfer from one account to another.
    How can we tell it is an honest mistake or a intention stealing?
  7. Don’t Over Generalized
    Don’t get carry away to generalize that because information may distort there is no need to look for more information. This exercise just warn us that information may help clarify or distort. We need to be wiser.
  8. Recall from Stats that there are two types of error in drawing our conclusions
    • Type 1 false positive: saying it is a virus when it is not.
    • Type 2 false negative: saying it is not a virus when it is a virus.


When reading the news and posts of the social network, I should be

  • not to believe all of them as true. There are hoax, spam, disguised advertising and sabotages.
  • careful not to prejudge or be too quick to jump to conclusions.
  • know that I am prejudiced by my experience and mindset and need to seek multiple points of views.
  • have guide posts type of criteria to seek for more information and for filtering to get to the truth.
An example of non-intentional misleading conclusion can be seen at Fooling Ourselves and Others with Stats – Fertility Rate …

Lim Liat (C) 8 Jan 2013

The War of Tablets – Who will win?

The statement by Jeff Bezos of Amazon tells us that the war of tablets is not just about hardware. It is about the digital Eco-systems in which the tablet is only a link. It not just the initial purchase but the usage of it to gain access to the vast digital world of content and social connection that matters more. Who will win or loose will depend on how it is used. The digital world Eco-system is presented first. It is follow by my 4D Innovation Ecosystem model to help entrepreneurs to come out with their strategies for survival and growth. Looking at the leaders such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, and seeing their views, we get to understand their competitive position and advantages. Should Facebook join the war?

It is Not about Hardware Only

Invention doesn’t stop with the hardware…. We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices. If someone buys our devices and puts them in the drawer and never uses them, we don’t deserve to make money.- Jeff Bezos, Amazon.

The Digital World Ecosystem

The 4D Innovation Model and Strategies for Success

The Views of the Leaders

Amazon – Tablet as Extension of eBook Readers and Entrance to e Shopping
As shown in the mind-map above, Amazon is in the tablet game from its very successful eBook readers. But its specialized eBook readers can be easily replaced by the general purpose tablet like the iPad just as the successful Philips word processor equipments were replaced by PC’s later. But Amazon’s Android tablets are built for eBook reading as first priority. As entrance to its vast amount of content (besides eBooks, Amazon is now like a super mall), it must be cheap and good from the eBook and e Shopping points of view. Amazon will tilt its tablets to create an enchanting experience for e-shopping at its sites and for greater reading and watching pleasure.

Apple – Tablets as filling the gap between iPhone 4″ and Mac Big Display
Apple iPhone comes from iPod (music player), iTouch (no need for PC to buy and play songs). iPhone is but iTouch with phone communication add-on. iPhone is a cloud device and not a phone. Nokia saw the world as phone and expanded from phone but was too slow to reach the cloud of digital content and social connection. iPad is just filling up the gap between the small display of iPhone and the large and not too mobile Mac Notebook. Steve Jobs did not think there was a need for a smaller device in between. Cook thought they should protect themselves from others and come out with iPad mini. But iPad mini is still slightly larger than the other, 7.9″ vs 7″ and it was intentionally for preserving the display of iPad 2 experience (smaller but no loss of display content), showing Apple’s tight adherence to user’s experience. Smaller, lighter, cheaper but no other inconvenience caused. A good guide for all others to follow.

Google – Tablet as a device to Connect to its Organized World of Information
Google is still very much information base rather than quality music(Apple) or quality video(Amazon’s intent) base. A great strength is its open standard based vs Apple more proprietary iOS and iTunes store. It is expanding in many directions to establish itself as the main key player in the digital world since its search engine is under challenged from many others, like Microsoft’s Bing and others. Google with its innovative culture will continue to come out with many offerings and may be one of them will make it great like their search engine. For Google then, the tablet needs to be as flexible as possible to do all the wonderful things that they are coming out with. Their mind-set is still very much consumers base and one way of expansion is go into the corporate business with better security and management tools and give Microsoft and IBM some challenges. However, being an open platform, there will be some new entrepreneurs that will fill up this gaps well.

Microsoft – Extending from PC Desktop
Microsoft is trying very hard to extend its dominance on and from the PC desktop. The Apple and Android phones and tablets show that you don’t need the complexity of the PC to get things done. Windows8 is integrating phone types apps on the old windows. I am not sure you need to integrate them for the general users; may be for the developers for ease of development of apps. If any user find the phone or tablet apps are not powerful enough for their use, I don’t think anyone want to go into the Windows to get the things done. He could just look for and buy a better apps that can do the job. It any job cannot be done easily on a 4″ or 10″ screen, then go to the PC or Mac to do the job. The job is not for the tablet or phone. Microsoft is an incremental innovator as many have shared. They may not be the first but they have the track record to outdoing the first. eg IE over Netscape, Excel over Lotus 123, Word over Word-perfect etc. Can it do it again with Windows 8? It is a very long and hard catch-up for Microsoft and its partner like Nokia to do.

The Value of Social Connection and Network – Should Facebook join the war?

We don’t just go into the Cloud to get information and buy things. One of the killer apps of the internet is eMail. The greatest past time now for most people is chatting and connecting with other people. The leader of this Social Network is Facebook. I did not mention it in an earlier post of this because Facebook is not yet in the Tablet War. Does Facebook need to be into the hardware device as well? The common wisdom of the past tell us that hardware is a cut-throat commodity business and businesses are advised to go into software and services like IBM, Xerox etc. But recent stories show that Samsung, Apple and even Microsoft Windows 8 Surface are having great margin of 50%+. Samsung is have great success with its Android devices. So should Facebook go into the hardware game as well like Microsoft? Apple Steve Jobs is famous for integrating software, hardware and design. Google acquiring of Motorola Mobility may show that they also ascribe to Jobs’ view too.

The Advice – It all depends

My advise is that it all depends. It depends on where you want to play in the big digital Eco-system market place. It depends on your relative strengths with respect to the market you want to play in. Our strengths are not what we think but should be measured externally from the market, against our competitors and from the eyes of our customers. Our strength is not just because we can do it but rather we can do it better than others. It is easy for us but difficult for others.

Back to Facebook, for the time being at least, its business is social connection, the bigger the world the better for him. The more the devices that can access it the better. The keys then are for Facebook is to continually offer better social connect experience, new ways of non-intrusive and embedded ads, and define standard interfaces for all others, hardware or software vendors,  to connect to them. The greater the size of those who can access Facebook, the greater the size of the potential market, and with its large installed base, the greater is its ability to fend off the competitors like Google+.  There is perhaps no need to come into the hardware game unless there some new innovation that need that … but such devices is really against the spirit of social connection. Let others build the roads and bridges, the cars, boats and planes into your wonderful kingdom of best social connection experience.

Lim Liat (C) 9 Nov 2012 on a Windows8 machine.

Revision 2 10 Nov 2012.