Thursday, 14 May 2009

My theory suggests that there is something not quite right with the "common-sense" approach to reality. When I discuss these issues with the public I find that most people assume that the world "out there" is exactly as their senses tell them it is. A classic example of this was the heated debate on this very subject that took place on the Graham Hancock site in April. it is clear to me that for many there is no mystery and that I am somehow a little bit crazy in the way I evaluate consciousness and its interaction with reality.

However I suggest that it is common-sense that is in error and that the masses are deluding themselves in their enthusiasm to remain in their "comfort zone". Indeed I find that sometimes people can become quite aggressive when I suggest that they reflect back on themselves and for a second or two evaluate the real nature of consciousness and perception.

An example of this is that a few days ago I was in discussion with my optician. He was testing my eyesight with all his latest equipment and in the course of our conversation I brought up the question of the "blind spot" in our field of vision. There is a blind spot in each eye where there are no photoreceptors. This is because there has to be a place where the optic nerve is positioned. We don't usually notice the blind spot. However it is always there. I mentioned to the optician that I thought it odd that the brain seems to "fill in the missing section of vision". The optician disagreed with me and said that there was no mystery at all. He explained that we do not notice it for one simple reason; what falls on the blind spot of one eye does not fall on the blind spot of the other. He added that because the eyes are in constant motion so that what falls on the blind spot now does not fall on it a second later. For him that was the simple answer.
This was a typical response of a professional who was dealing with an enthusiastic layperson. I was wrong in my assumption and his opinion was correct. There is no mystery. However there is, a huge one, and one that I guess either he was not aware of or simply wishes to ignore it because it simply does not fit in with the present scientific paradigm. I could have mentioned this to him but decided against it. After all, what would be the point?

So why am I so sure that he is wrong? Well, try this experiment. Keep your head very still and stare at a blank surface such as a wall. Close one eye. Now there will be no overlap of the fields of vision so one eye will not compensate for the other (the optician's central argument). As you are not moving your head there is also no overlap of monocular vision as your single eye stares straight ahead. But still there is no blind spot! In fact it is quite difficult to demonstrate the blind spot and this involves staring at an object with one eye open at a specific distance. So for me there can only be two conclusions to be made about the opticians response - either he knew that the mystery did exist and pretended it didn't or he was simply unaware that the "received wisdom" was wrong.

And this really is a huge mystery because it implies that the brain, not the eye, fills in the missing information. But what is weird is that it fills in the information so seamlessly that we do not notice it. We are fooled into believing that we have an unbroken field of vision.
The philosopher-scientist Daniel Dennett argues that the information is not "filled in" but it is simply ignored. But this does not make the process any stranger. This suggests that the brain can manipulate or field of vision to the extent that areas are "ignored". This still implies that what we actually perceive is not what the eyes actually "see".

Indeed the above is somewhat of an understatement. Again most people assume that what is focused on the back of the eye is what is "seen" in the brain. They are taught that the retina simply acts like role of film at the back of a camera. The light comes in through the lens, the photons/waves (see my recent postings on this additional mystery below) then land on the light sensitive film and an image is created. This photograph is then sent to the brain and "presented" to consciousness. However this "snapshot" analogy is totally inadequate.

The amount of visual information that lands on the retina is extremely limited. There are two retinal images, not one, and they are are distorted, tiny and upside down. In addition the resolving power of the eye is limited and non-uniform. Indeed outside of the high resolution foveal region, the retina is nearly colour-blind and its powers of descrimination are severely limited. On top of this, as the optician rightly pointed out to me, the eye is in nearly constant motion. This movement is called saccadic motion and involves the eye changing position three or four times a second. As a result of this the actual image that lands on the retina takes the form of a succession of of alternating snapshots and grey-outs.

The perception philosopher, Professor Alvin Noe of the University of California, does not share the comfortable world of the "guy down the pub" about the nature of visual perception and its implications for the ultimate nature of reality. In an essay called “Is The Visual World a Grand Illusion?” In a book of the same title, Professor Noe writes the following in relation to the mystery of who the brain "creates" a stable and enveloping visual experience from such limited data:

“How, on the basis of this fragmented and discontinuous information, are we able to enjoy the impression of seamless consciousness of an environment that is detailed, continuous, complex and high resolution? This is the problem faced by visual theory.”

ITLAD/CTF and Karl L LeMarcs' CtCw attempt to explain these anomalies of perception (and those of particle physics) in a totally new paradigm ... an uber-theory... collectively known as BIGTOE. We do seem to have a workable theory that can explain many, if not all, of these "Black Swans" that so irritate and annoy those, such as my optician, who pretend that they have all the answers and there are no problems with the present paradigm.

Rather reminds me of the position of scientists such as Ernest Mach at the turn of the 19th/ 20th centuries. For me these curiosities are the "photo-electric effect" and the "black body radiation" of the 21st century. They have to be explained in order for us to advance our understanding of consciousness and its relationship with the Phenomenal World.


ken said...

CG Jung says that all experience is psychic experience because everything we experience comes to us through the mediation of the psyche.

I wonder if the way we deal with the outer world should not imitate the way we deal with the inner world, the unconscious. It seems to me that the basic premise of how we deal with the two is diametrically opposed: we ASSUME we can directly experience the outer would and ASSUME that we cannot directly experience the inner world. What would happen if made the latter assumption the basis for the natural sciences, physics, chemistry, &c.?

In other words, my "seeing" what I'm typing on my computer screen right now is no different than my "seeing" the leaking pipe in my dream last night. Neither is more "real" than the other and both need to be realized as being mediated through our psyche.

Jung does give physicality to the unconscious; he says that the archetypes are autonomous and have a life of their own. So, to carry the analogy forward, there is some physicality to the words on my computer screen but to think that I know what they are and from where they come is as ridiculous a statement as to give one definite meaning to the pipes in my dream.

CDM said...

Tony: What came to mind for me when reading about this idea of a "blind spot" in our vision field was a funnel.

Take, for example a simple funnel that captures liquid poured into in. All the liquid, including that which might have been seen to "hit" the area of the funnel which represents it's very centre ( the optic nerve here, in the analogy ) gets funnelled through the "hole" in the funnel.

If the retina acts like a funnel,the center of the funnel being like the optic nerve, it seems to me there would be no blind spot in the "data" that gets funelled through the funnel, so to speak.

In other words, the optic nerve, if you like, like the narrow part of the funnel, merely carries the concentrated data.

How could the optic nerve then, or the narrow neck of the funnel, possibly have any blind spots ( in the case of the optic nerve ) or "blockages" ( in the case of a funnel )?

ken said...

CDM: Your funnel analogy is very much like the lens of a camera which takes all the light hitting it and transports it to the film. There is no "blind spot" in what hits the film. But the optic nerve is like a blank spot on the film itself - a section that has no light-sensitive material and so does not "record" the information that hits it. So, the information that gets to the brain does have a blind spot.

CDM said...

Ken: Yes, that is now dawning on me as being the case. See the Forum discussions ...



Anthony Peake said...

KEN; Delighted to have you involved again. You have been much missed. As usual your comment goes right to the nub of the matter.

Indeed in your response to one of our newer members (welcome to the "inner sanctum" of the Blog, CAM)pointed out exactly what my response to his interesting analogy would have been. The mystery is how the blind spot is not perceived by consciousness.

Cam said...

Tony: Perhaps it has something to do with pixels and the missing "dot" is not only too small to notice, unless carefully looked for ( only noticeable there with only one eye open, as well ) but the other pixels perhaps shine enough "light" around the "blank spot" to literally fill the spot in with their "radiance".

One might ask, also, what appears in total darkness, for one eye.

Would there perhaps be a speck of "something" there ?

Thx - Cam

NB: I've chanegd my blogger id to "Cam" from my initials "CDM"

Sister Soul said...

i understand all too well delusion, comfort zones, and trying to spread 'the wisdom'. and i know this is wholly dependent on my perspective atm, there really any *error* to any of it?

i'm funny with the ideas of 'reflection'...albeit full of many lessons, the two images can bounce back and forth off one another for infinity. not really leading anywhere at all. i've come to settle on sharing the idea of a "non-reactive" i have issues with the concepts of right & wrong...does not so much require more "insight" per say, more figuring and factoring, but as a sounder starting point...i feel it's in the PAUSE. the quiet moments which there can be no reflection w/out. that's difficult enough for most to grasp the importance of, especially nowadays when so much is measured on "performance", and everyone is hungry for Truth (tm).

anyway...just thinking outloud. new to your work and skulking about here & there. impressive.

something i resonate with. not sure i want to 'define' it. :)

Karl L Le Marcs said...

FORUM: The Mystery Of Vision - The Blind Spot [by Tony]Not sure how I missed this thread but there is probably a certain irony in that!

Ok, blind spots ARE what they are said to be; namely the area on the retina without receptors that respond to light as it is this region that the optic nerve exits the eye on its way to the brain. So why isn't this blind spot a permanence in our vision?

Well, the eye, even in semi-rest state can be in vibration up to 50 times per second and if you consider how much of a panorama of vision we have through such a small aperture it should be clear that even the slightest movement in the eye will translate to a wider visionary shift; therefore as the eye is in constant motion, in order to fix on the blind spot requires concentration and deliberate focus of the eye. This CAN be done but certainly NOT for a long period of time.

This, I assert, is primarily because the eye is in such constant movement and owing to the temporal time delay between what is objectively observable and what is then presented to subjective consciousness, what we actually perceive is a rapid series of still images (see Roger Penrose's OR theory for this process, again up to 50 times per second) and thus when these still images are viewed in sequence, any blind spot is literally filled in by the eye movements and also what is called Bayesian Theorem, which really deserves a post of its own but in essense says that Consciousness as perceived by us subjectively is largely made up from probability.

Bayesian Brain theory (named after the largely unknown but no less brilliant 18th Centurty German Mathematician Thomas Bayes) conceptualises the brain as a probability machine that constantly makes predictions about the world and then updates them based on what it senses. This suggests that our Consciousness on viewing the rapdily presented to consciousness still images will either fill in the blind spot with the data from surrounding stills where the eye was in a minutely different position, or via Bayesian Brain it will in fact predict that it should be filled in which is then confirmed on later stills.