24 March 2008

Look carefully

  • Mar 24, 2008

Look carefully.

Wait, actually go up and watch the video before you read the following text.
Let it buffer fully before you begin it, you don't want it pausing in the middle.

No, really.

Otherwise you’ll ruin it. It’s really short, honest.
Go back and watch, and once it's done, then scroll down here and read the rest of this post...
I'll wait...

OK. I’m going to bet you missed it.
Everyone does.

You’d think something so out of the ordinary would stand out, right?

Their point is that when you are driving you are expecting cars, not bikes, and that you need to be consciously aware of the possibility of bikes, so that you don’t run into them.

I’ve seen this demonstration before, on TV.
In addition they had a person go up to a receptionist. The receptionist said they had to get some papers from under the desk, and when they stood up again, it was a different person.

Sometimes a twin in different clothes, sometimes someone who looked different but in the same clothes.

No one noticed that either.

In addition to reacting to things you don’t notice (like a bike in the street)

This has serious implications for the justice system.

Certainly something like a crime in progress would be a suitable distraction from seeing all the details. Yet the most valued evidence is eye witness testimony.

If there is gunfire and shouting and confusion going on, one of the robbers could be a moonwalking bear, and we might not notice.

Consider the simple optical illusion - usually nothing more than a way to amuse grade schoolers, but it has similar implications about our minds.

The Ancient Greeks were aware of this. When they built the Parthenon, they built it deliberately imperfect - they curved the floor and other lines a tiny bit; exactly enough to compensate for the optical illusion that makes a perpendicular line among a row of straight lines appear curved. So from a distance it appears perfect, but only because of the flaws of human perception.

But even more, consider your own mind and perception.

We usually look at this academically, "people" are like that. "People" have unreliable memories, faulty perception, fail to notice certain details. No, its not just people. Its you. You, reading this right now. Its me. Its individuals, and no one is exempt.

Which begs the question, how sure are you of... well, anything, really? How do you know it’s true?
Of course drugs and insanity and religion make people "know" things which are really not true, but how much of what you remember really happened, or happened exactly the way you think it did?

I wonder if its ever reasonable to be 100% confident.

Trust no one. Not even yourself.

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