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The Perceptual Revolution: escaping the prison of the human senses...

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  • Reb
    The Perceptual Revolution Escaping the prison of the human senses PART 1 OF A SERIES By Paul Rebhan www.bubblesofperception.com July, 2004 The world as we see
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 3, 2004
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      The Perceptual Revolution
      Escaping the prison of the human senses



      PART 1 OF A SERIES
      By Paul Rebhan
      www.bubblesofperception.com
      July, 2004

      The world as we see it is only the world as we see it. Others may see
      it differently. - Albert Einstein


      Human history is filled with many examples where ideas once thought
      to be unquestionable were subsequently overturned. There have been
      times where new insights dramatically changed previously held beliefs
      about the world, and where authorities in various subjects have
      claimed to posses ultimate answers, only to see those answers crumble
      in light of new discoveries.

      Examples abound. Scientists dismissed the idea of meteorites in the
      1700's because "rocks cannot fall from the sky." Until the discovery
      of microbes, most people had no idea that millions of tiny creatures
      lived on, and inside, their bodies. Early claims that moving magnets
      could generate electricity were ridiculed. A Nobel laureate once
      declared that it would be impossible to ever harness the power of
      atomic energy. Weeks before the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk,
      a newspaper article explained how such a feat was "scientifically
      impossible." Einstein showed us that perceptions of time could
      change dramatically from the way we experience it on earth, and the
      discovery of quantum physics showed that the previously held "laws of
      physics" ceased being laws at a certain level of smallness. More
      recently, it was stated as an undeniable fact that adult human brains
      could not produce new cells, until a 1998 study found otherwise.
      These examples and many others show us the imprudence of assuming
      absolute knowledge.

      The idea that knowledge in any area can be considered complete or
      absolute is appealing to many people, perhaps because it is somehow
      comforting. Yet, it is an idea that simply has no basis. Besides
      the long record we possess of humanity's overturned "certainties,"
      virtually all evidence and all forms of logic and reason contradict
      the very idea of absolute knowledge. What we generally refer to
      as "knowledge," "truth," "facts," "certainty," or "final answers"
      would be much more accurately described as "That which appears to be
      so, based on our current perceptions."

      In my book, Bubbles of Perception, I take a look at what happens when
      we combine the historical evidence of overturned ideas, the well-
      documented limits of the human senses, our continual expansion of
      perceptual limits through technology, and some exciting recent
      findings from the field of cognitive science. Cognitive scientists
      are amassing impressive evidence to show that every possible thought,
      concept and experience we have is clearly shaped and limited by our
      biological equipment. One of the leaders in this field, Dr. George
      Lakoff of the University of California, Berkeley refers to this
      as "the embodiment of the mind."

      This adds up to what I propose is an ever-evolving perceptual prison
      whose "walls" are constructed from the limits of our biology and our
      technology, and in which we are all prisoners. Our walls have been
      slowly expanding for a long time. Microscopes, telescopes, radio,
      infrared, micro-sensors and many other technologies have allowed us
      to perceive things beyond the limits of our physical sense organs.
      Electromagnetic transmission allowed us to surpass the biological
      limits of human communication. Computers have allowed us to process
      information of greater size and at greater speed than humans could
      otherwise handle.

      Now with the advent of biotechnology, genetic engineering and
      nanotechnology we are seeing the potential for direct enhancement of
      human biological functioning. As these technologies continue to
      expand at faster rates, so will our perceptual limits. We appear to
      be at the brink of a new era that I refer to as the Perceptual
      Revolution. It has the potential to redefine virtually every aspect
      of this experience we call life, and transport us to entirely new
      ways of experiencing it.

      A good analogy for this change might be found in the Ozark Cavefish
      (Amblyopsis rosae). This species lives in cave pools with no light,
      and as a result has evolved without eyes. Imagine if we could
      somehow interpret the brain signals of these fish. The concept of
      sight would probably be unfathomable because it is a sensory realm
      that these fish have never been exposed to. Imagine how dramatically
      it would change their perception of the world if they suddenly gained
      the tool of sight and light. What kind of additional sensory tools
      could we humans add that would dramatically alter our own perceptions
      of the world? Like the Ozark Cavefish that has no reason to even
      imagine the concept of sight, we may not even be able to currently
      imagine what additional realms surround, intersect with, or affect us
      in a myriad of potential ways.

      This is not just an imaginary hypothesis. Theoretical physicists are
      now looking into the possibility that space is made up of many more
      than the three physical dimensions (and one time dimension) we
      currently perceive. If substantiated, these extra dimensions would
      mean that there could be any number of objects and activities all
      around us, or even passing through us, that we are completely unaware
      of - including objects we might refer to as life-forms or other
      beings.

      If our current perceptual boundaries can be expanded enough, I
      suspect that future generations will look back at us much in the same
      way that we look upon the Ozark Cavefish: as unfortunate creatures
      who did not have the necessary tools to perceive much of what was all
      around them.

      In part 2 of this series, I will discuss how Perceptualism can be
      useful in forming new perspectives about mysterious and highly
      debated subjects such as extra-sensory perception, telepathy and
      extra-terrestrials.
      - - - - -
      Paul Rebhan is the author of Bubbles of Perception: exploring the
      limits and the future of human perception. For more information, see
      www.bubblesofperception.com.

      This article is distributed as a public service, and may be copied or
      redistributed freely providing that it is unedited and the author is
      credited.
      # # #
    • Mary Jo
      Paul, I can certainly agree that we don t know everything there is to know. For some of us this is quite obvious. I respect thinkers and writers who aspire to
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 5, 2004
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        Paul,

        I can certainly agree that we don't know everything there is to know.
        For some of us this is quite obvious. I respect thinkers and writers
        who aspire to improve our human lot and seek answers to the questions
        further posed by science and philosophy. I look forward to the day
        when the typical non-analytical thinker attempts to answer problems
        with personal solutions rather than look to an utopian resolution or
        to some even newer age religion. Each new understanding brings the
        possibility of evolution or more fully realized intellectual
        potential closer. The biggest problem we have is assimlating and
        applying knowledge of currently perceived objects. In other words how
        do we relate to our universe and one another? In order for us to move
        forward in our direction of deeper understanding, we need both
        improved instruments of science, communication via dialectic, and a
        more fundamental 'perception' of our conscious minds. The brain is
        examining its mind is a difficult dilemma, but not insurmountable.
        The instruments and tests we create are not without bias since they
        are a product of and limited by our biology and philosophical
        prejudices. I'll read up on Lakoff and maybe have something more
        cogent to offer. Here are some links if anyone is interested in Dr.
        Lakoff's ideas:

        <http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/lakoff/lakoff_p1.html>
        <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lakoff>

        The observation of phenomena will always be relative to the observer.
        The observer needs to be more fundamentally defined by science and
        philosophy.

        Mary Jo

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Reb" <rebatrebfile@y...> wrote:
        > The Perceptual Revolution
        > Escaping the prison of the human senses
        >
        >
        >
        > PART 1 OF A SERIES
        > By Paul Rebhan
        > www.bubblesofperception.com
        > July, 2004
        >
        > The world as we see it is only the world as we see it. Others may
        see
        > it differently. - Albert Einstein
        >
        >
        > Human history is filled with many examples where ideas once thought
        > to be unquestionable were subsequently overturned. There have been
        > times where new insights dramatically changed previously held
        beliefs
        > about the world, and where authorities in various subjects have
        > claimed to posses ultimate answers, only to see those answers
        crumble
        > in light of new discoveries.
        >
        > Examples abound. Scientists dismissed the idea of meteorites in
        the
        > 1700's because "rocks cannot fall from the sky." Until the
        discovery
        > of microbes, most people had no idea that millions of tiny
        creatures
        > lived on, and inside, their bodies. Early claims that moving
        magnets
        > could generate electricity were ridiculed. A Nobel laureate once
        > declared that it would be impossible to ever harness the power of
        > atomic energy. Weeks before the Wright brothers flew at Kitty
        Hawk,
        > a newspaper article explained how such a feat was "scientifically
        > impossible." Einstein showed us that perceptions of time could
        > change dramatically from the way we experience it on earth, and the
        > discovery of quantum physics showed that the previously held "laws
        of
        > physics" ceased being laws at a certain level of smallness. More
        > recently, it was stated as an undeniable fact that adult human
        brains
        > could not produce new cells, until a 1998 study found otherwise.
        > These examples and many others show us the imprudence of assuming
        > absolute knowledge.
        >
        > The idea that knowledge in any area can be considered complete or
        > absolute is appealing to many people, perhaps because it is somehow
        > comforting. Yet, it is an idea that simply has no basis. Besides
        > the long record we possess of humanity's overturned "certainties,"
        > virtually all evidence and all forms of logic and reason contradict
        > the very idea of absolute knowledge. What we generally refer to
        > as "knowledge," "truth," "facts," "certainty," or "final answers"
        > would be much more accurately described as "That which appears to
        be
        > so, based on our current perceptions."
        >
        > In my book, Bubbles of Perception, I take a look at what happens
        when
        > we combine the historical evidence of overturned ideas, the well-
        > documented limits of the human senses, our continual expansion of
        > perceptual limits through technology, and some exciting recent
        > findings from the field of cognitive science. Cognitive scientists
        > are amassing impressive evidence to show that every possible
        thought,
        > concept and experience we have is clearly shaped and limited by our
        > biological equipment. One of the leaders in this field, Dr. George
        > Lakoff of the University of California, Berkeley refers to this
        > as "the embodiment of the mind."
        >
        > This adds up to what I propose is an ever-evolving perceptual
        prison
        > whose "walls" are constructed from the limits of our biology and
        our
        > technology, and in which we are all prisoners. Our walls have been
        > slowly expanding for a long time. Microscopes, telescopes, radio,
        > infrared, micro-sensors and many other technologies have allowed us
        > to perceive things beyond the limits of our physical sense organs.
        > Electromagnetic transmission allowed us to surpass the biological
        > limits of human communication. Computers have allowed us to
        process
        > information of greater size and at greater speed than humans could
        > otherwise handle.
        >
        > Now with the advent of biotechnology, genetic engineering and
        > nanotechnology we are seeing the potential for direct enhancement
        of
        > human biological functioning. As these technologies continue to
        > expand at faster rates, so will our perceptual limits. We appear
        to
        > be at the brink of a new era that I refer to as the Perceptual
        > Revolution. It has the potential to redefine virtually every
        aspect
        > of this experience we call life, and transport us to entirely new
        > ways of experiencing it.
        >
        > A good analogy for this change might be found in the Ozark Cavefish
        > (Amblyopsis rosae). This species lives in cave pools with no
        light,
        > and as a result has evolved without eyes. Imagine if we could
        > somehow interpret the brain signals of these fish. The concept of
        > sight would probably be unfathomable because it is a sensory realm
        > that these fish have never been exposed to. Imagine how
        dramatically
        > it would change their perception of the world if they suddenly
        gained
        > the tool of sight and light. What kind of additional sensory tools
        > could we humans add that would dramatically alter our own
        perceptions
        > of the world? Like the Ozark Cavefish that has no reason to even
        > imagine the concept of sight, we may not even be able to currently
        > imagine what additional realms surround, intersect with, or affect
        us
        > in a myriad of potential ways.
        >
        > This is not just an imaginary hypothesis. Theoretical physicists
        are
        > now looking into the possibility that space is made up of many more
        > than the three physical dimensions (and one time dimension) we
        > currently perceive. If substantiated, these extra dimensions would
        > mean that there could be any number of objects and activities all
        > around us, or even passing through us, that we are completely
        unaware
        > of - including objects we might refer to as life-forms or other
        > beings.
        >
        > If our current perceptual boundaries can be expanded enough, I
        > suspect that future generations will look back at us much in the
        same
        > way that we look upon the Ozark Cavefish: as unfortunate creatures
        > who did not have the necessary tools to perceive much of what was
        all
        > around them.
        >
        > In part 2 of this series, I will discuss how Perceptualism can be
        > useful in forming new perspectives about mysterious and highly
        > debated subjects such as extra-sensory perception, telepathy and
        > extra-terrestrials.
        > - - - - -
        > Paul Rebhan is the author of Bubbles of Perception: exploring the
        > limits and the future of human perception. For more information,
        see
        > www.bubblesofperception.com.
        >
        > This article is distributed as a public service, and may be copied
        or
        > redistributed freely providing that it is unedited and the author
        is
        > credited.
        > # # #
      • louise
        Another sad scientist writes (-: Like the Ozark Cavefish that has no reason to even imagine the concept of sight, we may not even be able to currently
        Message 3 of 3 , Jul 5, 2004
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          Another 'sad' scientist writes (-:
          Like the Ozark Cavefish that has no reason to even imagine the
          concept of sight, we may not even be able to currently imagine what
          additional realms surround, intersect with, or affect us
          in a myriad of potential ways. If our current perceptual boundaries
          can be expanded enough, I suspect that future generations will look
          back at us much in the same way that we look upon the Ozark
          Cavefish: as unfortunate creatures who did not have the necessary
          tools to perceive much of what was all around them.

          Louise writes:
          I'm looking at you intellectualists now, and waiting for some sign
          that you actually want to live in the given three dimensions first.
          And people imply that I'M the racist!!!
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