Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Machine Panic

(originally posted at

on the train today i had a panicked moment.  i was reading steven pinker's "how the mind works" - the chapter entitled "the mind's eye" - which is on vision and perception.  a particular passage affected me:

"Of course, we don't perceive infinite possibilities [of what an object is, based on retinal images]; we home in on one, generally close to the correct one.  And here is an opening for a crafter of illusions.  Arrange some matter so that it projects the same retinal image as an object the brain is biased to recognize, and the brain should have no way of telling the difference."

I put the book down in my lap as the train pulled into a station.  I was reflecting on what this *truly* means, when I glanced to my right... Just in time to catch the image of the sleeve of a man's shirt as he was stepping off the train.  And my entire mental being seemed to just halt and crash.

It was overload.  The knowledge of how vision was possible - how incredibly complex in order for it to work properly.  Some might say God has blessed us.  I choose to remain in awe of the way our eyes and brains evolved in tandem to work this way.

I forced myself to breathe, and continue reading.

No comments: