What We Discuss with Beau Lotto:
- Why our brains evolved to experience the world differently from reality.
- What Beau means when he says: “Choose your delusion or it will choose you.”
- How our experiences literally change our physical makeup.
- Why the more complex your environment is, the more complex your brain will be.
- How our assumptions control our perceptions and what we can do to break free from assumptions that don’t serve us.
- And much more…
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If you’ve ever read up on perception, or perhaps just made a cameo at Burning Man, you might be familiar with the idea that our eyes and ears don’t really see and hear. Our senses take in electrical signals that our brain decodes and creates pictures of inside our heads. This is why people can learn to see with their tongues, develop powers of echolocation to see objects when they’re blind, etc. In the future, we’ll most certainly have entirely new senses and ways to perceive the world around us, aided by technology.
On this episode Beau Lotto — neuroscientist, perception expert, and author of Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently — and I dive into why this is the case, explore why our shared (and unshared) delusions of the world are useful, and discuss some methods to develop new perceptions of the world that might serve us better. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
Lest you think from the intro that this episode is headed into dorm room pseudo-philosophical musing over reality only being in the mind, man, Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently author Beau Lotto has this to say:
“The world exists. There is a world out there. But we don’t see it as it is. This is not postmodern relativism. It’s not like every perception is as good as everything else — some perceptions are better than others. But it is the case that we don’t see the world as it is because we’re forever separate from that world. This isn’t philosophy; this is just laws of physics.
“All the light that’s coming around us, it’s bouncing off objects and then it’s changing when it hits an object, and then it comes to our eyes. But our retina has no access to the light directly, nor to the surfaces. All it literally has access to is energy. Energy’s out there. Electromagnetic radiation. Sound waves are out there. So you have all these vibrations and chemicals and energy, and that’s what we detect — so in the same way that camera’s detecting light, or radio telescopes are collecting radio waves. But that energy doesn’t have a meaning. It doesn’t tell you what to do. All it is is energy of different amounts. So your sensors detect that, and that’s like the metaphor: the eyes are like the keyboard is to the computer. The keyboard is detecting your touch, but it doesn’t make meaning of your touch. The rest of the computer does in a way.
“So the retina’s capturing this energy, and what’s more, it’s capturing a really small range of that energy. So we’re sensitive to an amount of light which is tiny compared to the rest of the amount of energy that’s out there. And then your brain has to do something with that, and that’s where your brain is actually constructing a meaning. And it’s that meaning that you’re seeing. You’re not seeing the energy. You’re detecting the energy, but you’re not seeing it.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about the difference between useful and meaningful when it comes to the constant stream of data our brains translate, why utility trumps accuracy in this translation from the standpoint of evolutionary survival, how we can test these concepts ourselves in the real world to better understand them, why people from different cultures recognize different sounds and even see colors differently, how technology will help us extend our senses and interpret external data in different ways, the uncertainty behind disempowerment, how we can use our understanding of the way perception works to choose our own delusions and reassign meanings, adapting assumptions and biases, and much more.
THANKS, BEAU LOTTO!
If you enjoyed this session with Beau Lotto, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently by Beau Lotto
- Lab of Misfits
- Beau Lotto at Twitter
- Science Is for Everyone, Kids Included by Beau Lotto and Amy O’Toole, TED Global 2012
- Optical Illusions Show How We See by Beau Lotto, TED Global 2009
- Do Our Senses Reveal the World — Or Do They Obscure It? by Beau Lotto, Big Think
- David Eagleman | How Your Brain Makes Sense of the World, TJHS 27
- Relativism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Blue or White Dress? Why We See Colours Differently by Karen Weintraub, National Geographic
- The Seriously Creepy “Two-Kitten Experiment” by Esther Inglis-Arkell, io9
- Shawn Achor | Why Success and Happiness Aren’t Mutually Exclusive, TJHS 144
- Conspiracy Beliefs Linked With Search for Certainty and Social Connection, Association for Psychological Science
- Cirque Du Soleil and the Neuroscience of Awe by Constance Grady, Vox