You Fillet my Senses, Like a Magnetic Greyfield #21 #cong23 #reality

Synopsis:

Our senses keep us alive, but they don’t tell the truth. And can diverge to hold different realities in the same body.

Total Words

1,219

Reading Time in Minutes

5

Key Takeaways:

  1. Reality is shaped by our perceptions and can be easily confused.
  2. Evolution has given us the ability to see things that aren’t there.
  3. Our perceptions are subject to alteration, influenced by factors like evolution and sensory variations.
  4. Splitting the corpus callosum can lead to differences in perception and even personality between the brain hemispheres.
  5. This suggests that reality is subjective and can vary, even within the same body.

About Will Knott:

A nerd who usually asks questions and changes things.

Contacting Will Knott:

You can contact Will via Bluesky, Mastadon and LinkedIn.

By Will Knott

Reality is an agreement based on our perceptions, barely. But we can confuse our senses.

The image above is a “Necker Cube”. It’s a simple line drawing of the edges of a cube. But is the square on top the front or the back? Look at it, and watch it flip to the front and the back over and over while you observe it. Your experience changes, but the image does not. Which one is “real”?

The ability of your brains to see non-existent monsters hiding in a bush is an evolutionary advantage… The cautious monkey survived better than the reckless one. Just ask the mice (1). The effect is seeing things that are not there. Also our perceptions are incomplete and can be altered.

By altered, I’m not speaking about imbibing interesting chemicals (not even on unusual mushrooms found on a geology tour), I’m talking about evolution.  You cannot see in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. At least most of you can’t. Aphakia (2) is a condition in which the crystalline lens is absent from the eye, which results in blurry vision, and ultraviolet light not being filtered from the eye. So some people have something in common with insects and reindeer (3). Others of you are colour blind. Either way, the agreed definition of “red” can be disputed for varying degrees of red apples.

Perceptions are not reality. “Red” is a convention that gets disagreed with the further you drift away from the central FF0000 point. There is no agreed edge to hot, cold, bitter or sweet.

And you can experience a world of no colour. Hemi-achromatopsic via transcranial magnetic stimulation near the V4 area of the left hemisphere to cause temporary impairment, will cause your red apple you are looking directly at, to have the colour drained away from its right hand side and fade to grey until you stop the impairment. (4) (If you stimulate it, things just get trippy).

Our senses have evolved to tell us what we need, not to tell the truth. It’s not unfair to think that our senses speak to us in metaphor. It’s a desktop interface hiding the command line processing that exists in the microscopic and the macroscopic fields, while we toil in the emotional ones. However we still need to treat the interface seriously.

Bitter exists to inform us of potential poison. Fitness beats truth, because it lies enough to use proxies to keep us alive, even if you like lemons. And colour interpretation is an indicator of ripeness, or warnings.

Brain mappings, or mis-mappings lead to synesthesia. This is the “condition” where your senses are mixed up due to overlapping brain processing areas. Sounds have shape or colour. Numbers have flavour. These people have different interfaces to reality, but its not an impairment. (interesting for brain mappings, the part of the brain that processes nerve feedback from the genitals are beside the area that processes nerve feedback from the toes 5). We do not have a formula to calculate our experience of tasting an apple. But butchers can sometimes discover things, frequently the discovery of the brain control areas occur while the brain is open for other reasons.

Joseph Bogen and Philip Vogel earned the nickname “the West Coast butchers” as they intentionally, and with care sliced the brain of Bill Jenkins in half in the February of 1962. And Jenkins quality of life improved. In the decade that followed, they split brain after brain. Each person they operated on suffered from severe and intractable epilepsy. Their logic was that the seizures were due to a car crash of signals in their brain, and by performing a corpus callosotomy the collision of neural activity was halted.

When the callosum is cut, the hemispheres can no longer consult themselves and come to an agreement. If Bill closes his left eye and is shown the word “key” and is handed a bowl of objects to pick with his left hand and is told to pick out the object he read, he could pick out a key. With his left hand however, no idea. Show only his right eye the word “ring”, and we would pick out a ring with his right hand, even if he could have picked up the key. The left brain keeps secrets from the right brain. (6)

So one half of the brain is determining reality differently. It can continue to the point where each half develops personality differences. This can reach the point where one side is an atheist while the other is devout. (7)

If reality is able to be distinctly perceived in one body with the same history and genetics, then the closest we can have is just an agreement.

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxoplasma_gondii

Toxoplasma gondii makes mice bravely reckless

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphakia

Usually caused by a cataract operation, or trauma. However it does occasionally occur during foetal development.

3 https://www.brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/vision/2017/what-can-animals-sense-that-we-cant-071317

What Can Animals Sense That We Can’t?

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_cortex#V4 The V4 area

Desimone, R., Schein, S. J., Moran, J., and Ungerleider, L. G. 1985. “Contour, color and shape analysis beyond the striate cortex,” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/4024463/#:~:text=The%20corticocortical%20pathway%20from%20striate,inferior%20temporal%20cortex%20(IT)  Vision Research 25: 441-52; Desimone, R., and Schein, S. J. 1987. “Visual properties of neurons in area V4 of the macaque: Sensitivity to stimulus form,” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3559704/  Journal of Neurophysiology 57: 835-68; Heywood, C. A., Gadotti, A., and Cowey, A. 1992. “Cortical area V4 and its role in the perception of color,” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1403100/  Journal of Neuroscience 12: 4056-65; Footnote taken from “The Case Against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes” by Donald D. Hoffman.

Desimone, R., Schein, S. J., Moran, J., and Ungerleider, L. G. 1985. “Contour, color and shape analysis beyond the striate cortex,” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/4024463/#:~:text=The%20corticocortical%20pathway%20from%20striate,inferior%20temporal%20cortex%20(IT)  Vision Research 25: 441-52; Desimone, R., and Schein, S. J. 1987. “Visual properties of neurons in area V4 of the macaque: Sensitivity to stimulus form,” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3559704/  Journal of Neurophysiology 57: 835-68; Heywood, C. A., Gadotti, A., and Cowey, A. 1992. “Cortical area V4 and its role in the perception of color,” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1403100/  Journal of Neuroscience 12: 4056-65; Footnote taken from “The Case Against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes” by Donald D. Hoffman.

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantoms_in_the_Brain

“Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind” by  V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee

6 http://people.uncw.edu/puente/sperry/sperrypapers/70s/173-1973.pdf

Sperry, R.W. 1974. “Lateral specialization of cerebral function in the surgically separated hemispheres”

7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvf4seEFtnY

The Curious Case of the People With Split Brains

8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFJPtVRlI64

Split brain with one half atheist and one half theist

We’ve changed.. #27 #cong20

Synopsis:

This virus has changed our lives, but a vaccine will reset most things. However the office may not be the same, and our cities should not be.

Total Words

1,163

Reading Time in Minutes

5

Key Takeaways:

  1. You’ll get your lives back, but city and office life should be more complicated

About Will Knott:

A nerd who usually asks questions and changes things.

Contacting Will Knott:

You can follow Will on Twitter.

By Will Knott.
We’ve changed…

When 2020 started, I did not foresee us fighting a war against a virus, while wearing masks on the streets and with light wielding robots fighting on our side. To be honest, if you described the things we all did in 2020 to our 2019 selves, it would be the basis of a comedy sketch.

It is even harder when you remember just how little the pandemics of the past changed us. Not the changes from the 1918 Spanish Flu, most of lessons we forgot, the conclusions of this 2007 paper outlining the 1918 recommendations in a modern setting are forehead smacking obvious now, but were definitely ignored. But looking back at the history of modern pandemics, we just ignored the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and went on with our lives.

1914-1918 and the massive casualties of world war one brought about massive societal changes. The changes brought from the second world war caused even more societal changes, to the point where we stopped measuring by regal generations and switched purely to decades. Yes folks, we are well past society 3.0. The actual 3.0 was the Iron Age. We are leaving the silicon age behind and are transitioning through the cloud to the quantum.

However, this is supposed to be about what is going to change. How our lives will revert to a “new normal” after the vaccines do their job (ignoring the Charles Stross-ian nightmare scenario of a limited effectiveness). Well, for a lot of us, we get our old lives back. In some places, they already have their old lives back (we see you New Zealand, congratulations).

Travel and tourism will return (but there will be more airport health checks). The Craic Economy of music and cinema opening nights and restaurant meals and nightlife will return. And the slightest sniffle will see facemasks.

Not everything will reset back. Part of that will be work and cities.

We have an unscheduled experiment of working from home on our hands. Broadband is an essential service! And we’ll all dutifully return when the all clear set of jabs arrive. Right?

Well, maybe not.

Anecdotally, productivity has stayed steady (somehow), and depending on roles, some are preferring the new now. There are friends of mine, usually tech and programming, who are enjoying home-work (and the ability to lower the volume of irrelevant meetings they are encouraged to attend but not interact with). Others (oddly, managers) are really missing the interactions in the office.

Why does an office exist? In the past, work could not be organised to run remotely. Now it can. There are some workplace things that can’t be done at home, lab-work (actually..,), secure meetings and office romance. Is it for convenience, tradition or control?

Work from home measures emptied offices across the globe, and made us realise that the shelf stacker is essential. The pandemic hollowed out the cities. But a city without tourists and office workers had impacts. If you build a section of a city for a now absent daily grind, removing the grinding makes a lot of patron-free shops (even if they can open) and lots of suddenly available parking. The shell needs to be un-hollowed, and getting more people in there. In short, cities shouldn;t be high-rise business parks.

It will be interesting to see if our cities turn into a collection of 15 minute towns, something for the better. In that respect, Ireland may be lucky. Most of our cities are, in an international perspective, large towns. Outside of Dublin, the republic’s cities are almost 20 minute towns, small changes are needed. There may need to be a crackdown of apartments being rented out on a daily basis to tourists, but that’s a legal area I’m not going to write about. Reintroducing and encouraging accommodation above the shops is probably a good starting point. When the Ballymun Towers first opened, they opened without amenities, we should not need to re-learn that lesson.

Caution will be heeded. The traditional office pool vanished in the 1960s, the individual office started to vanish around the same time, even the cublical farm went open plan. Ideal for the spreading of viruses, as the first few weeks after the return to school taught us. When the return is called, it will be decades before a return to laptops on a long row of benches or tightly packed desks. Some offices will close.

Which means that for some, the lure of high-end offices may go away. No high end canteens, shared games rooms and an array of healthy options (with a bowl of sweets). If children couldn’t safely go door to door for sweets, do you really think there will be desk to desk trips?

On the note of children, remember that Santy is a special case. As a “jolly old elf”, it turns out that elves are immune, why else would some people (aka fools) allow them on their shelves? Also, it appears that he happens to follow all the guidelines for pandemic deliveries. Besides, there may indeed be more than one.

Smaller towns will be more important.They may turn into 15 minute cities themselves (of 5 minute for some places). Co-working spaces are expanding across smaller towns (low commute, work near home, but have home-life separation), but it’s early days and how safe they are is currently unclear. In the past, they were designed for small groups or the self employed, in the future, it may be an expanded workforce for employees. Working from home is less than ideal if you are sharing with a couple of others, some of use will be running back to the office. But, these shares are usually due to house prices and the move to cities. What if your trip to the city office isn’t necessarily a daily trip to the city office? A weekly one? Or a monthly one? Would you need to move to the city, rather than want to? Will universities spread lecture halls to Zoom in the future with occasional practicals?

The new rush hour in cities may be for the weekend of fun and bump-n-grind rather than the morning and evening for the daily grind. It’s an interesting recasting of our lives, one where we get to really know our neighbours once the masks can come off.

And the guards can come off, but be prepared for the next pandemic. Even if it’s not for another 100 years (or 2039).