When I was working at James Cook University in Townsville, North Queensland, Australia, I used to drive my 4WD Suzuki down through the sanddunes to a deserted beach at the weekend, for peace and a quiet beer. One time I took my friend Geoff Tollefson with me, and as we walked on the beach I made the following suggestion ... "Spread wood glue all over a towel, then lay it glue-side down on the beach to dry; when the dried towel is lifted off the beach we'd know what the beach looks like from underneath." Geoff was suitably bemused. I now see that suggestion as an instance of a general principle that my brain naturally adopts - always try to see things from your own perspective and also from the converse perspective, in order to get a fuller understanding of whatever is being considered. Note that the "converse" is not the same as the "opposite" - it's not a case of being contrarian, but rather viewing things from the other side.

Examples include:

  • Debates with friends. Don't argue your point until you have tried to understand why your friends are making their point.

  • Political attitudes. Don't disparage a political viewpoint until you tried to understand why other value that viewpoint.

  • Looking in a mirror. You expect to see your reflection, but what does the mirror see?

  • Nationalism. Famously by JFK, "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country"

  • Eating If you enjoy eating something, wonder what it feels like to be eaten.

  • Looking at fish in water. I used to tell my SCUBA students who wondered why I shaved every morning when out on the Great Barrier Reef, "If you want the fish to look good for you, you'd better look good for the fish" (but really it was because a mustache stubble makes your mask leak :-).

  • Talking to your stuffed toys. If you want them to listen to you, you'd better listen to them (of course you might have to hold up both sides of the conversation).

Remember, if you don't walk over to take a look from the converse side, sooner or later you'll be forced to get into your karma and drive across. The sudden change of view could be quite shocking.

Geoff Sutcliffe, December 2022

The Mac's Eye View

A classic example of a converse point of view came into my head when I was working at JCU. I noted how we (computing geeks then, almost eveyone these days) spend hours each day staring at screens, and of we do nothing for a while the screen goes into screen saver mode. I wondered what it looks like from the converse perspective of the computer. Back then the Mac 512 and Mac Plus were hot desktop computers, and I loved them (I wrote my PhD thesis on one!). One of the fun screen savers available wa fish swimming back-and-forth on the screen. Using the graphics packages that were available back then I created this "Mac's Eye View" ...

... when I'm working

... when I'm screen saving