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Doors of Perception, Porches of Reality?

If you had the misfortune to read my post on emoji's, you may have noticed in the end, it was maybe a little disingenuous, and could even be seen as my being a little hypocritical, even? But the real purpose was more to stir thoughts about these things, why they are, what it may mean, and what things may be lurking beneath the waterline. We all have different perceptions that let us look from different points of view. It has little to do with right or wrong, but much more to do with seeing there could be another way to see something. It doesn't mean one view is wrong, because there's another one as well! In fact, maybe the best truth we can find is by trying to see them all?

So I've been reading something of some of the posts recently, and noticing some common themes of a personal interest, and this is to do with the nature of perception, or more accurately, human perceptions.

How many times, have I seen both here, and much more, so many other places of all sorts, where an event seems to revolve around the fundamental issue of common understanding, and more importantly, the difficulty in reaching one, and worse, even having a way to know you've reached one, or haven't? In my personal world, this is much easier to see in action, because I'm made of nothing but words internally. I have no other way of thinking, so consequently the problem is simplified in understanding it's existence and nature. All of us who can read are familiar with using a dictionary - the key to a common understanding of the meaning of a particular word in a particular language. So in this hyper organised and defined world, surely there should be little scope for misunderstanding the written word, and thus any communication using that?

Well, of course not, and this would be a short and disappointing post if that was the case! ;)
In the immediate, we have to first assume that all contributors in a conversation, are both will to, and in fact have/do make sure their understanding of any words they use, are well established using that dictionary. How often is this likely to happen? Bar a deliberate exercise specifically planned to do this, I'd say very unlikely. What's much more likely, I propose, is that most members of the group will quite normally and apparently reasonably assume everyone already has those same definitions, and same unspoken agreements to work from that one source of truth.

But what is the reality of it, as compared with the above unspoken universal assumption?
Well is it an unspoken universal assumption? For starters! ("It is if I ruddy well say it is! Harumph!" :angry:)
Too easy - when has anyone here ever see that happen when a thread starts, and grows? There isn't even any mechanism to be able to do that in the first place, bar eveyone starting by declaring their context, and agreeing between each other! But how do they ensure they are agreeing from a level footing, even understanding? Back to the same problem! It's like explaining something by saying it was god. It may have been, but why is god there and why did she do it? (etc). A never ending circular argument. Like trying to have a pure logical debate when you have to start with an assumption, there's always a flaw.

So there's clearly some significant issues here, just on the point of the most basic level of understanding a single word. We're not complicating things by starting to talk about different dialects, with different spellings even whole different words, and many altered meanings, and ways of using them, and so on (and ignoring typos, misspellings etc).
They can be worked round, but how much work is that? Is anyone even prepared to take all that time or trouble. Would we even have the time and inclination to even talk, after all that? It's obviously farcical to expect this as part of a social interaction. Worse is those meanings defined in a dictionary, are composed of words. Do these need first defining to a common understanding? And how without using more undefined words?

And we're still working on single words at a time. How about we up the ante, and start trying to combine a few in a short sentence? Just by the numbers, even a two word sentence has thousands of possibilities, three words? Hundreds of thousands? More? Certainly more than I could count! How many could contain a word that may have slightly different meanings to one of more members of the group? And I'm sticking to a simple calculation that misses so much of the fine details of language, syntax, grammar, and all the things my English teacher felt weren't worth showing me (after all, I was bound to fail, so why waste his time? ;)). So just from basic arguments (flawed admittedly, but not so much that they don't show a trend).
"But Prof Boogs...", you cry (stifling the laughter all the while!) "...how could anyone have a conversation of any sort at all, at least based on text, and to be sure your idea's would apply very much the same to an aural conversation?", to which I'd reply "Shut up! You don't know what you'r... "That's very true! But ..."

So how do we manage to make sense of what we say to each other? Well, it's partly to do with our brains amazing ability to lie and twist and obscure and fake and cheat and ...
In essence, our brains are tuned to not be aware of these issues, or in fact to sort of gloss over them, blur the meaning into what we think it should be! I'm not describing this well, in part because it's a subconscious effect, we are unaware of it, just as we are unaware of all the massive amount of computing power that goes into our brain performing face-recognition, we are not aware of our brain putting knowledge into our conscious mind - it's just 'there' when it's needed!

But the meaning most normal people take from another's post has less to do with the sequence of actual words on the page than their state of mind just before reading it!
This may come across as rather contentious! Because our conscious awareness of these processes is limited, but our ego's, our conscious minds, are programmed not to accept this! We lie to ourselves in such a convincing manner, that almost anyone unfamiliar with the processes involved would find it anathema to even consider this! And indeed, this is why it works so well! And really this should be no surprise, because we experience almost nothing else, ever. This is reality to our minds! Having no innate understanding that it's impossible for us to see reality (in fact, it's an anti-evolutionary thing, it's been experimentally proven that an organism that can 'see' reality with it's senses and brain, has a far poorer chance of survival, than a creature which only see's an abstraction of reality, but abstracted to focus on the only parts that make a difference to survival and reproduction!

So when we communicate, in fact we are adjusting the meaning to fit our preconceptions to a large degree! We don't place our eye's on the first word, then work in sequence through to the last. We let our eye pick out words and short phrases out of the post, because they fit our preconceptions of the sort of answer the other person is likely to write!
There is of course more to this, relating to how our eye's work, and even how our vision works - which is not as many think; our eye's are not a camera's view on our world, with a panorama being projected on our visual cortex like a movie on a screen. Hold your hand out in front of your face as far away as you can, and stick your thumb up. Look at your (hopefully) normal sized and shaped thumbnail. That is about how much your eye's can really see at any one time! This presents a fundamental question should you care to ask it of yourself. And that is how is it, you can see everything in front of you, all at once in real time? How can that be possible then?

Guessed it yet? You can't see all that of course! You think you can! Your brain is a complex simulation of your environment, and it's not just a map as you know them, it's very much more like the virtual world of a 3D first-person computer game! And all those objects in your vision are really taken from your vast database of memories and logical constructs etc. Just as a generic barrel in a game will be the same virtual object description used countless times in lots of places; you see a TV in the corner of your living room, but you're 'seeing' a stored abstraction of what a TV is, with an overlay of detail from where your (nail-sized) camera scanned it last. And when you're not staring at it, it becomes that slightly 'blurred' definition of a generic type of TV again. The effect, in part because the brain has nothing to compare this to, is as convincingly 'live' as it's possible to be, from your perception. I'm sure much of this, to most people, will be likely to be rejected out of hand with little real conscious thought and examination, because that's what you brain does. It absolutely does not want to show you reality! Remember when it was discovered ChatGPT would lie to make it's user happy, if it had to! And the lies were so well crafted, even some of the people it lied about, believed it until they could check from reliable records! Well, your brain, also a neural network learning system, does it a few thousand times better! (or so!). A fascinating area that goes into this is the study of real hallucinations (a digression for a moment...)

When people experience real hallucinations, not those from hallucinogenic drugs, but genuine hallucinations. Often what people see in these, are objects/animals/people/etc. who appear in every way to be as real as anything else in their vision, not blur, no distortion, the only way to know these are not real, is by what they are. They may be normal looking people, but only 2 foot tall, otherwise perfect in every way as looking real! They maybe full-sized, but each having a large chess-piece for a head, as real looking as you could imagine! What this implies is that what you see in your vision, may have little bearing on what is actually there, or at least the reality of what's there. We may see, and feel, something entirely different than, say, an alien who can visualise every aspect of reality (no colour for instance, colour is a consistent hallucination to allow the mind to detect different wavelengths of visible light in a way that provides the best advantages for survival). But that's totally anthropic.
(Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote some very interesting books about this and similar matters of perception. If this area is of interest I would recommend trying some, such as the appropriately named: Hallucinations. Also the author of the more famous "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat!" (I kid you not! :)))

So back to that chat room then - the truth of it, is you have little control over what your eye will see, where and what it looks at, you only have the impression of doing that (very convincing impression, but still ...). In actual fact, if you can immobilise your eyes (or close one and immobilise the other) you will go temporarily blind because the brain can't move it (undetectably) everywhere it needs to to be able to construct that virtual world you actually live in! I found this hard to believe when I first heard about it because the brain says otherwise, but on seeing how this is done, and not wishing to accidentally pop my eyeball out of it's socket :eek:, I decided to take it on their word, and not test this fact myself! (To be fair, this was being demonstrated by senior university researchers, so I had little reason to doubt this, but I've very careful in what I choose to use as source material to feed and build my ideas, so I mention this here).

In the end, it's matters of common culture and society, and education, and all the other parts that bring us together in what we consider to be a shared community. But our actual meanings taken from others writings, are quite contentious when it comes to how we've actually made those meanings. If, for example, one member of the group tends to have ideas that another member frequently finds unhelpful, or unusable, or has some other significant issue with, when that other person reads their posts, they will be predisposed to take a certain meaning from them. Their brain will try to find messages within the post that agree with their preconceptions. Their eyes will rove the text almost at random, flitting here, then there, faster than they can detect, or know is happening. To them, they've read that post carefully and objectively, because that's how powerful our subconscious can be. And it's that very power that contains the flaws in our ability to communicate (and other matters, but they are out of scope here).

Now to just balance that lot a bit, although this goes on all the time, undetectably, we do surprisingly well for it, and many of the gaps in understanding, often are not critical, but they can explain why we can find it so hard to come together and gain a proper understanding that's truly common to each, instead of us thinking we both understand as the same! Look at the state of the world, and apparent madness that goes on. And they also show us how we can get along so well in such huge communities where we no longer know each other, and much more importantly, don't rely on each other for our immediate survival. These are things that build very strongly bound communities, but when they reach a certain size, that immediacy between people breaks down. So it's out brains ability to fudge the issue that lets us appear to understand each other and have the same values and thus cohesion, where that may not be real!

If all this is correct, would that not provide many an explanation as to why humans find so much trouble understanding and agreeing with each other when it comes to the more formalised communications between governments? Maybe what we need to do, as a world of separate societies/countries who can't come together, is develop new methods of communicating, artificial one's, that hold in their very structure the parts needed to allow us to find common definitions for our communications. Just as science has become the most productive area of progress in our societies, because of it's understanding of human flaws, and the imposition of a carefully thought out artificial treatise on how to make progress without the irrational intervention of human psyche's.
We have so many issues between us, surely cutting out a source for accidental misunderstanding, especially one we often are unaware of and hence more vulnerable to, could only help bring a disparate world together?


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