Think you understand vision? Think again.


This Ted Talk is a must see:

 http://www.ted.com/talks/pawan_sinha_on_how_brains_learn_to_see#t-10188 

The demonstration of how motion makes it possible to parse out shapes and objects out of random blobs of color and why newborn eyes present out of focus content to the early brain to make that easier is incredibly enlightening. It opened the door to making it possible for older children to learn to see when they acquired sight at a later age – totally debunking the dogma that once you reach a certain age, development of the vision system stops. Bullcrap. We simply needed to learn how the brain learns. It turns out that the brain is much more clever than many of the egocentric scientists think.

I find it difficult to understand why humans embrace an all knowing attitude. This is true in religion, medicine, science, art, etc. in that people at the top of their game want to demagogue the way things work with some sort of de-fact-o certainty. Think about that religious guy burning a kids abdomen to get the demons out of a kid with cataracs. I’m sure he was absolutely confident that what he was doing was absolutely the right thing. We see this over and over an all of the disciplines. Doctors will express with certainty how long someone has to live when they acquire a certain disease. Indeed, saying any condition is incurable is the height of egocentric dogma. It is preposterous!

Nobody knows anything with absolute certainty. We can surmise expectation based upon study and observation and anticipate that things will continue to happen a certain way. But when you scale things down to the quantum level, anything is possible. Perhaps not likely – but possible. Theories change as new information becomes available. We’ve barely scratched the surface after years of genetic study.

I’m ranting because the human vision system continues to be viewed in such simplistic terms. We have these biomechanical sensors in our head that send electrochemical signals to our brains for processing. The Ted talk above points out that the signals sent mean nothing without the brain sorting the information coming in in a way that can be interpreted and understood. Our eyes don’t see anything. They present blobs of color in the form of electrochemical impulses that the brain interprets. Think about it! Blobs of color and luminance information coming in from two forward facing sensors that the brain converts into tangible perceptions. With stereopsis vision, we think we see the space between things because our brain converts the data into that perception. What we perceive is not real in my opinion. If we really did see all of the space between things that would be so much information that all of the brains on the planet couldn’t process it.  Our brains employ a sort of data compression that eliminates things that evolution deemed unimportant.

The human vision system is miraculous in its complexity and the more we learn and understand, the more we realize just how much we don’t know. This is my point. Indeed, just as we found out with the Hubble telescope when we pointed it to a tiny part of the darkest part of the sky and exposed the image sensors to gather light over a few days – over 2,000 galaxy’s were observed! We begin to realize that all of human knowledge combined is but a spec compared to all there is to know.

I submit that we should reflect on our ignorance and be humbled along with motivated to seek knowledge with passion while keeping our ego in check. What we discover might be important – but there will always be more to discover. I don’t believe in certainty except that I am certain that there is no certainty.

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