On August 15, 2013, David Pogue wrote a blog post about Enchroma’s new lenses that correct for color blindness. His conclusion: “[I] was floored. I mean, I had a visceral reaction to what I saw.” But he also concluded that $600 was too steep a price to bother keeping them.
(image: www.enchroma.com via nytimes.com)
Comments from others (posted on Enchroma’s site) describe a similar visceral reaction and talk about goosebumps. The language in Pogue’s blog is atypical. Though he is always informative and entertaining, he generally maintains a journalistic detachment in his writing. Not so in his August 15 post where his language is emotional and descriptive.
The highlight came on Day 4 of my tests, when my kids discovered a rainbow arcing across the sky, pointing and exclaiming. I looked. With my own eyes, I could barely see it. Maybe there was a soft arc of yellow, but that was it.
Then I put on the glasses. Unbelievable! Now I saw two entire additional color bands, above and below the yellow arc. It was suddenly a complete rainbow. I don’t mind admitting, I felt a surge of emotion. It was like a peek into a world I knew existed, but had never been allowed to see.
Commenters on Pogue’s site spoke of crying while reading his blog post. Most expressed disbelief that he would find $600 too expensive, given the cost of corrective lenses for other eye maladies. Others, though, felt that their color-blind world was their world and not deficient at all.
What about Bob?
I am red-green color blind. I am a “strong deuteranope.” It’s who I am because it is the way I was born–with my M cones somehow different from the majority of the population. It was not a choice, it was me.
And that’s how things were until Friday when I read about the glasses and Pogue’s (as well as his readers’) experiences and thoughts. Though expensive, I could afford the glasses. But would I want them? I certainly don’t need them. Would they make my experience of life and the world better? How? Worse? How?
Being open to the choice involves seeing the color blindness that was/is WHO I AM as a deficiency– SOMETHING I HAVE (or worse: something I suffer from). Deuteranopia becomes something to correct. Let’s not underestimate the gravity of this as a “mere” language game (who I am vs. what I lack vs. what I suffer from). This is all about language, as it turns out. Absent human interaction and the need to communicate, the distinction between whether the chair is brown or green might not matter. The supermarket manager provides the food I eat, so I’m not going to die from eating the wrong color berry. I know which light is which on the traffic lights (the bright gray light means go, the middle yellowish light means go faster, and the other light means stop).
Rather, when I tell Jenny that her phone is on the “green sofa,” only to find out that it is chocolate brown, we’ve now spent four extra breaths describing something that two non-color “deficient” folks would have spent one on.
That said, I know where the hawk is while driving down the road, and she can’t see it. It’s in the trees, there! Sure, I don’t know if it’s a Cooper’s Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk, but I see it long before others. Likely resulting from my greater honing of pattern-recognition, contrast and shape dependence, and other things that accommodate for lack of color distinction. Would Enchroma’s lenses compromise my ability or enhance it? Not sure, but it doesn’t feel like a deficiency in that light.
The next post, I will talk more about the weekend I spent deciding whether or not I should order a pair of the glasses. In the meantime, if you want to know what I see, the most helpful distinction I’ve seen is at vischeck’s site (I’m a deuteranope) and in particular at the strawberries in Alex Wade’s example. If you are not color-“deficient” like me, the two pictures will look identical or very nearly identical. A description of the phenomenon with the color spectrum and a simulation is less accurate (as I perceive it) though it gives some explanation of the phenomenon and science behind my sight.