Do we see reality as it is? A story of my sister’s computer
In conversation with an older sister who is in her mid 70’s, she mentioned that her go-to technical help for her computer (aka: her son-in-law) is recommending that she replace her Windows laptop with an Apple laptop.
There are many rationalizations for this changeover that are perfectly sensible, I’m sure, but, honestly, this is a big cultural shift. I made that switch 2 years ago, and I remember hearing clearly “Mom, it’s so intuitive!” at the very same moment I was staring at an incomprehensible icon that only made sense in retrospect. Didn’t feel intuitive to me.
That’s the cultural shift I’m talking about. When you have a different iconic language and different logic, it’s a different culture. Why ask a little old lady who types up the minutes for floor meetings to switch operating systems? No matter how simple it is to learn, switching cultures is not a stumble-free transition.
Then, this morning I watched a TED Talk by Donald Hoffman about how our brains construct reality (I posted the link on The Unmarked Path Facebook page). Stick with me here. He questions what is the connection between your brain and your conscious experiences.
Do we really see reality as it is?
What lens would you use to find out?
Hoffman looked to theories of evolution to see if natural selection favors seeing reality as it is, and discovered that, in fact, an ability see reality as it really is, is not favored by evolution. What is favored is fitness.
“We are inclined to think that perception is like a window on reality as it is,” says Hoffman. “The theory of evolution is telling us that this is an incorrect interpretation of our perceptions.”
“Reality is like a 3-D desktop that’s designed to hide the complexity of the real world and guide adaptive behavior.” He continues, “Space as you perceive it is your desktop and physical objects are just the icons on that desktop.”
I love this metaphor – reality as computer screen. The icons you see on your computer screen are there to hide the reality of bits and bytes and wires and electrical current that comprise your computer. They represent, but they are not, the task.
The reality of space, time and matter is the real source of cause and effect in our world, not what is represented in our brains. Our brains are only cells and neurons that create a series of mental models to represent reality.
As he says, “We are blind to our own blindnesses. When I have a perceptual experience I am interacting with reality, but that reality is nothing like what I’m experiencing.” Hoffman summarizes, “Once we let go of our massively false assumptions of our reality, it opens up new ways to think about life’s greatest mysteries.”
And for the current mystery, upgrading my sister’s computer, I would only invite those who are assisting her to look closely. Her reality may not be what you think.