Controlled Hallucination

in Deep Dives2 months ago

We do not perceive reality in its true form; there's a difference between what the eye sees and what the brain perceives. Evolution has given each conscious creature its own world-model and they all perceive reality in a way that's most conducive to their continued survival.

source: Wikipedia

In our everlasting scientific quest to understand the true nature of reality, we find ourself in ever stranger and abstract surroundings. Mathematics is often called the "language of nature"; it was Galileo Galilei that said "The Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics", and indeed the true miracle of mathematics is that with it we're able to describe and even predict aspects about the nature of nature. In the search for reality's fundamental structures and building-blocks, our senses are useless, even when aided by our most powerful technologies, and we're only able to describe in mathematics the "stuff" we'll probably never see with our own eyes.

With every new discovery or successful theory in modern physics, reality seems to become more unreal, or I should say more counter-intuitive, because what we see, or rather what we perceive in our minds, is nothing like what's really "out there". Not only physics drives us to that realization, evolutionary biology does so too. Our brains create a model of reality that enables us best to perform the tasks and make the choices that give us the best chance for navigating through and surviving in our physical surroundings. What we see are like the shortcuts on your computer desktops; you see the thing that gives you access to the application, and not the source code of the application or the bits and bytes that get pushed around the hardware. Likewise, we see a model that gives us access to the parts of reality that we need to survive, not reality itself which would be like the source code, bits and bytes; too complicated and probably too overwhelming for us to deal with.

Anil Seth, a British professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, argues that for us, conscious beings, reality could well be a "controlled hallucination." Our brains are predicting machines that constantly invent the world, correct our mistakes by the microsecond, and fills in gaps using previously stored data. He also speculates on the possibility of conscious machines and sheds light on the nature of the self, free will and the relationship between being alive and being aware. It's all in the video linked at the end of this post, and it's one I highly recommend you watch.

First I'll share some of the world's best known visual illusions, as they are one of the most fun and easy ways to prove that our perception differs greatly from what's actually "out there." There are countless optical illusions that trick our minds into seeing things and colors and even movement that doesn't exist in reality. I'll let you think about your lying eyes, but I hope that you understand you should believe their lies; when you see that bus speeding toward you, don't think "that's not really a bus", it'll kill you. ;-)

Simultaneous Contrast Illusion. The horizontal grey bar is the same shade throughout. Check this by covering everything except the bar.
source: Wikimedia Commons

Hering illusion. The two red lines are parallel.
source: Wikimedia Commons

Rectangles A, on the left, look much darker than the rectangles B, on the right. However, rectangles A and B reflect the same amount of light. The rectangles at A and B appear different, even though they are printed from the same ink and reflect the same amount of light.
source: Wikimedia Commons

An optical illusion. Square A is exactly the same shade of grey as square B.
source: Wikimedia Commons

This is not an animated .gif file. I promise.
source: Public Domain Files

Is Reality a Controlled Hallucination? - with Anil Seth

This is a redacted version of a post I originally released on Steemit in October 2018

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I literally just finish Anil Seth's latest book this morning! What a coincidence!