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The Case Against Reality A professor of cognitive science argues against it

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posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 03:16 PM
This is one of the most interesting things I've read in awhile. I read it a few times actually and I must say, I don't agree with everything he says but this is the type of stuff I love. When people think outside of the box that everyone thinks their supposed to be in. It's a long interview but here's some highlights.

Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality.

Gefter: People often use Darwinian evolution as an argument that our perceptions accurately reflect reality. They say, “Obviously we must be latching onto reality in some way because otherwise we would have been wiped out a long time ago. If I think I’m seeing a palm tree but it’s really a tiger, I’m in trouble.”

Hoffman: Right. The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions—mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction.The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.

Gefter: You’ve done computer simulations to show this. Can you give an example?

Hoffman: Suppose in reality there’s a resource, like water, and you can quantify how much of it there is in an objective order—very little water, medium amount of water, a lot of water. Now suppose your fitness function is linear, so a little water gives you a little fitness, medium water gives you medium fitness, and lots of water gives you lots of fitness—in that case, the organism that sees the truth about the water in the world can win, but only because the fitness function happens to align with the true structure in reality. Generically, in the real world, that will never be the case. Something much more natural is a bell curve—say, too little water you die of thirst, but too much water you drown, and only somewhere in between is good for survival. Now the fitness function doesn’t match the structure in the real world. And that’s enough to send truth to extinction. For example, an organism tuned to fitness might see small and large quantities of some resource as, say, red, to indicate low fitness, whereas they might see intermediate quantities as green, to indicate high fitness. Its perceptions will be tuned to fitness, but not to truth. It won’t see any distinction between small and large—it only sees red—even though such a distinction exists in reality.

Gefter: But how can seeing a false reality be beneficial to an organism’s survival?

Hoffman: There’s a metaphor that’s only been available to us in the past 30 or 40 years, and that’s the desktop interface. Suppose there’s a blue rectangular icon on the lower right corner of your computer’s desktop — does that mean that the file itself is blue and rectangular and lives in the lower right corner of your computer? Of course not. But those are the only things that can be asserted about anything on the desktop — it has color, position, and shape. Those are the only categories available to you, and yet none of them are true about the file itself or anything in the computer. They couldn’t possibly be true. That’s an interesting thing. You could not form a true description of the innards of the computer if your entire view of reality was confined to the desktop. And yet the desktop is useful. That blue rectangular icon guides my behavior, and it hides a complex reality that I don’t need to know. That’s the key idea. Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. They guide adaptive behaviors. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be. If you had to spend all that time figuring it out, the tiger would eat you.

Like I said, it very interesting stuff and he goes further than most. He says there isn't any objective reality just subjective experience. I agree with him in part. Things like experience and consciousness are regulated to see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil by people who are reductionist. If you believe that everything can be reduced to the material and somehow the material gives rise to everything then experience is regulated to the firing of neurons. That I don't agree with in any way and I think materialism is dead.

He says everyone is having the 1st person experience and there's no reality outside of experience itself. This is true. My Mother recently fixed dinner for me and my Brother. We went over her house and she fixed 2 take home plates and the plates were different. My Brother's plate has stuff he likes and my plate had stuff I like. The point is, I will never know the experience he has when he eats those things. We both had Meatloaf but I will never know what he experiences when he eats Meatloaf or what it taste like to him.

This can be taken even further. What does my Mother look like to him? What experience does he have when he sees our Mother? How do we look to her? What does she experience when she sees us?

The point he's making is, that experience is the sum of what we call reality and it's only an approxamation of reality if there's such a thing as objective reality.

When 2 people look at the moon, I can only take it for granted that the person looking at the moon with me is seeing the same thing because we're both experiencing this in different ways that are unknowable. So the planet is like 7 billion black boxes of first person experiences. He even talks about Penrose and Hameroff.

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 03:16 PM

Gefter: I suspect they’re reacting to things like Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff’s model, where you still have a physical brain, it’s still sitting in space, but supposedly it’s performing some quantum feat. In contrast, you’re saying, “Look, quantum mechanics is telling us that we have to question the very notions of ‘physical things’ sitting in ‘space.’”

Hoffman: I think that’s absolutely true. The neuroscientists are saying, “We don’t need to invoke those kind of quantum processes, we don’t need quantum wave functions collapsing inside neurons, we can just use classical physics to describe processes in the brain.” I’m emphasizing the larger lesson of quantum mechanics: Neurons, brains, space … these are just symbols we use, they’re not real. It’s not that there’s a classical brain that does some quantum magic. It’s that there’s no brain! Quantum mechanics says that classical objects—including brains—don’t exist. So this is a far more radical claim about the nature of reality and does not involve the brain pulling off some tricky quantum computation. So even Penrose hasn’t taken it far enough. But most of us, you know, we’re born realists. We’re born physicalists. This is a really, really hard one to let go of.

So again, what he's saying is true. What I'm experiencing now, typing this post is a singular, first person experience and reality and each person reading or responding to this post will be a separate expereince and reality and each person experience will be what's true.

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 03:36 PM
I often think about perception. Do each of us have the same mental image of a color. We have learned that light of a certain wave length has been given a name but do we all perceive it in the same way.

An if we don't, what does that state about an art painting?

Interesting subject.

I still lean toward the simulation.

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 03:55 PM
a reply to: roadgravel

Do each of us have the same mental image of a color.

Try this: Take a bright white piece of paper and look at it. Now, cover one eye and look at the shade of white; then, reverse and look at it with the other eye. Are they the exact same white? For me, there is an ever so slight difference, so I'm never sure which white is the right white.

OP, really cool. Gurdjieff speaks a bit about perception and Jeanne de Salzmann has an interesting take on this in the book, "The Reality of Being." ...I'm reading it for the 6th time now. It is so simple that I thought it was too complicated at first. Such is perception.


posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 03:58 PM

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 04:04 PM
a reply to: roadgravel

There is a saying, "There is no such thing as coincidence" - ARE YOU LIVING IN A COMPUTER SIMULATION?

The author is faculty at Oxford, philosophy. His argument:
1. Civilizations that are post-human, near zero percent
2. Civs wanting to run a simulation of their ancestors, near zero percent
3. Civs having the ability to run a simulation, near one percent

His thinking is if we don't do ourselves in and if we don't want to run a simulation then we are alone in this cold universe. But if even a tiny fraction has the power to do so, then they would create and run a simulation as some kind of history lesson of their struggles. And that is where we find ourselves, living in a simulation experiencing the pain of being human.

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 04:13 PM

That's Nick Bostrom work, I believe.

That also brings up the point of is reality really reality. Or can there actually be, let's call them, hard and soft realities.

Which loops it back the the old, what is reality.

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 04:14 PM
Good find and very plausible . Normally these types of arguments originate from fringe scientists but every response he has giving is valid.

When I saw the title I thought this will be a joke but it's more about the lack of a need to perceive reality, rather than there is no reality. The questions asked were that of a good sceptic and the answers are even better.

Thankyou for the interesting read.

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 04:25 PM
a reply to: roadgravel

Yeah, infinite regression is a problem with the simulation argument. You get out only to find that THAT one is also simulated... kind like surviving Invasion of the Body Snatchers only to be pointed out by one.

OP, thanks for the post! Like being pushed and challenged about reality! Makes the day more fun!

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 05:14 PM
a reply to: neoholographic

I'd like to point out this:

You just 'thought' it was meatloaf..

We will laugh about this later, because if You read this We are connected forEVER due to Bell's Theorem..

Enjoy Your pork chops..


posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 05:17 PM
a reply to: neoholographic

Could this be summed up as "I think therefore I think I am"?
edit on 28-4-2016 by Abysha because: Clarity

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 05:18 PM
Hes not saying objective reality does not exist and its only subjective... take the desktop he mentions the object is the computer existing in 3 dimensional space, on or off it is there, the subject is the desktop the folder the color blue and well it just gets Ocaam swinging his razor deeper and deeper into the subject of all that can be experienced and surrounding that initial object encompassing that area of space called a computer... of course that object name itself cannot actually be defined in and of itself, as it obviously has to become subjective to get a name a form and a function.

Like the example you mentioned about meatloaf and your mom and brother... the historical buddha said there is but one taste of all of experience and it is like salt... meaning there is really no difference in the object in reality other than the conditioning of subjectivity in which we create a differentation giving it a personal quality through ego, instead of what it actually is... and in doing so that is just a delusional self supporting construct of bias or duality. objectively, you and your brother have a mother and thats the reality beyond that is just subjective distinctions to be made, like what encompasses being a mother... etc etc and how each is going to have a distinct reality yet a common percetion as to what is accepted in a shared experience or disagreement as to what that subject is or isnt.

In either case it does not make it any more objectively real when adding on such distinctions... it is what it is and obviously help just makes it something else.

Belief is even worse of a delusion, as the is no object to be experienced and yet people are still subjected to it, live fight and die over a immaterial concept intangible like grasping thin air and calling it the all knowing being that created everything... and the Victrola dog cocks its head sideways trying to understand wtf one is even talking about.

But there is a thing ive mentioned several times called tropes, it is a recurring theme making up basically all stories... like boy meets girl, boy losses girl, boy gets girl back and happily ever after... how many stories have followed this exact trope? or line of objectivity... the subjects well give boy a name give girl a name place them in a setting give them the adversity show the struggle show the reunion and the happy ending and well how all that fleshes out causes the person whatching the subjective lose the objectivity or under laying trope or basic frame work all that conceptual ladder was built upon.

Everything conditioned is subject to dependent origionation... the frame work covered up, seeing the man behind the curtain in all things without being conditioned to the subjectivity 24-7 365 is the basic equivelent of awakening or enlightened mind. Of course it takes a lot of practice but is very easily grasped problem is that very grasping is the trap itself... as it requires the subjective concept to understand then the objectivity to see all arising for what it is then letting it all go as it arises. Whats left is a pure cognition and mental quiessence not hindered or hampered by any conditioning what so ever... or free from suffering.

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 08:04 PM
First off, love your threads, NeoHolo... meaning I love the subject, too!

Well, we most definitely all are experiencing a "simulation" of our environment filtered through imperfect biological/cognitive filters... there is a truth there...

for example, our feet, due to gravity, experience a different time than our heads do, being usually further away from the gravity well... and all our senses are approximations of a small portion of the information flying out around us and we're waves moving through a stormy sea of bigger waves... but the "waves" might not truly exist, either!

There is another lecture on Youtube given at Google headquarters where the mathematician proves that either there is NO actual universe we are in, or there are many of them.. .so multiverse or no-verse, no in-between.

If no-verse, then that would fit the simulation option as it's all consciousness .. .doesn't make it less "real" for anyone freaking out there... just means that what we agree to as reality is different than we commonly think.

A rock can still smack you ... but, rather than meaning it was/is a hard rocky rock, it just means that you convinced you (or your consciousness) well enough to crush your imaginary skull... heh.

Maybe, anyway.. but veeeery likely.

SO row, row, row that boat....

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 08:31 PM
a reply to: Baddogma

Its really both... but one is reality beyond all distinctions as one individuality or energy, and then with bias multi so reality one singular reality... but with about 7 billionish people experiencing reality through those filters or attachments to various concepts making up a wholly individual reality then 7 billionish multiverses yet all operating roughly in the same dimension collectively agreed on as planet earth for an accepted generality in common... yet that is simply a name to describe an object or the subject mostly agreed upon as a coexisting reality for an affirmed reality... when it could be called planet Banana or planet sand grain or whatever name as that doesnt really describe it any more than Earth except the number of people agreeing to that term as the reality.

So both yet not both...

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 08:47 PM
a reply to: BigBrotherDarkness

The worse thing? I understood and agree with you completely!

Mmm... also wanted to say "love your work" here over the years, though I miss the avatar with the eye!

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 09:06 PM
a reply to: Baddogma

eh that agreement doesnt really change anything does it? In other words no biggie although some may not care for me that much, so hey that was your choice to out yourself also I dont know who those people are but im sure they are around like cliquing in the night vat muses zey make... its all good its just life and one commonality we all breathe and if not nothing to be scared of except that bill to plant em or vase em unique flowers just the same...

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 09:30 PM
Sounds like a big dose of mental mastrbation to me.

Don't get me wrong I like thinking about ideas involving the true nature of perception or the existence of free will and ect almost as I like to mastrbat ... but at the end of the day in eather case I've accomplished just about the same thing ... nothing.

The dude might be right; but what has he accomplished besides waisting hia time?

Much of theoretical quantum physics has gone down this rabbit hole in the last few decades and we don't have much to show for it. Sure there are black boards full of math proving and disproving how many dimensions there are ... but has any of it helped us build a better mouse trap?

I'm not saying that work shouldn't be done; just that with all our bright minds jumping into that sexxy science are we missing out one something by not having enough of these guys working in the classical "real" world side of the disapline?

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 10:28 PM
This is like a scientific approach to the Buddhist idea of "emptiness"... which in my understanding basically says that things only have the meaning or value that we give them. I prefer the much simpler "Perception is everything".

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 10:50 PM
Cogito ergo sum is dead.

If it ever lived.

posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 11:11 PM
a reply to: neoholographic

The problem with his argument is that the radical conclusion doesn't follow from the premises.

He says our view is not in concordance with "reality". Ok, his argument seems pretty persuasive to me. But why does that mean that reality is vastly different than our perception? Why not like a torrented compressed movie versus the Bluray quality version. You could never totally recreate the Bluray from the ripped version, but that doesn't mean it doesn't closely approximate the movie. There's no reason why an internal reality would vastly depart from external reality, sure there could be compression quirks that pop up, there's a lot of loss on wavelengths, etc, but I just don't see why that means nothing exists the way we think it does.

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