ANS52(3-4)95-104 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas...

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Activitas Nervosa Superior 2010; 52 :3-4,95-104 95 S ENSORY E XPERIENCES AS C RYPTIC S YMBOLS OF A M ULTIMODAL U SER I NTERFACE Donald D. Hoffman* Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, Irvine, California 92697, USA Received June 22, 2010; accepted July 2, 2010 Abstract According to current theories of perception, our visual experiences match or approximate the true properties of an objec- tive physical world. Ecological optics claims this match is direct, unmediated by psychological or computational processes. Computational theories claim that this match is indirect, the result of sophisticated algorithms that instantiate, e.g., the inferential methods of Bayesian estimation. The assumption of all of these theories that there is an objective, i.e., mind independent, physical world has proved incapable, so far, of yielding a scientific theory for the mind-body problem, a scientific theory of the relationship between conscious experiences and the brain. Therefore I explore, instead, the pos- sibility that sensory experiences constitute a multimodal user interface (MUI) between the perceiver and an objective world, an interface useful precisely because it does not match, approximate, or resemble that world. I also explore con- scious realism, the ontological claim that the objective world itself is comprised entirely of conscious agents. Together, MUI theory and conscious realism provide a straightforward solution to the mind-body problem, and entail epiphysical- ism: physical objects, such as quarks and brains and stars, are constructed by conscious agents, but such physical objects have no causal powers. Key words: Consciousness; Computation; Sensory Experience; Mind-Body Problem INTRODUCTION How does human vision work? What is the relationship between our visual experiences and the external world? The typical answer of non-specialists is that vision works like a camera, objectively reporting the shapes, colors, textures, motions, and lighting of the objective physical world. Our visual experiences, like the images from a camera, depict this physical world with high fidelity – except perhaps for the occasional optical illu- sion that usually occurs only in a psychologist’s labora- tory, and simply because the eye has been deliberately tricked. Current theories of vision agree with the non- specialist’s claim that our visual experiences depict the objective physical world with high fidelity, but disagree with their claim that vision achieves this result by work- ing like a camera. According to these theories, it is true that the eye operates, to a first approximation, like a camera, with a lens that focuses an image on its retina; but the eye is just the starting point of vision. The retina of the eye has hundreds of millions of neurons, and their outputs are sent to the visual areas of the brain, which together engage roughly fifty billion neurons and twelve trillion synapses. In this regard, vision is not at all like a
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ANS52(3-4)95-104 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas...

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