I love TED.com. Along with Academic Earth, I spent far too little of my precious hours over the summer watching lectures on everything from Qur’an-based comic books to game theory to sex and human nature (without having to take ANTH104).
So it came as a wonderful surprise to hear TED is coming to Penn! On Octobter 1st, TEDxPenn – an independently organized TED event created by Penn undergrads to share innovation, knowledge and research within the Penn community – will make its way into the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. And in honor of the upcoming TEDxPenn event, I thought it appropriate to discuss one of my favorite TED talks and TED.com’s relevance to, well, everyone.
The talk was given by Beau Lotto, creator of Lottolabs, a hybrid art studio and science lab. Mr. Lotto, in a matter of 16 minutes, manages to bring to light (pun intended) intriguing epistemological questions.
Much of my intrigue comes from his conclusion that:
The senses aren’t fragile, […] instead, the brain evolved to see the world in that way it was useful to see in the past. And how we see is by continually redefining normality.
In that regard, the conclusion may imply that there may not very well be a distinguishing factor between reality and imagination. So long as it is normal to your perception, you can sense what you may. In an easy example, the color I see as green may very well be red for you, but we both call it green – and neither of us have any way of knowing if this is different or not.
Extrapolate this further and you get something like the Matrix, or Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (I know this thanks to 1/3 of my major being Philosophy), where mental captivity is what is defined as normality, and so your brain perceives what is “normal” as what is “real.”
What is “real” may very well then be the bigger question…or the question that doesn’t need to be answered – as you’re already seeing the world in the way that it was useful to see it.
So take solace in knowing that even if your perception of reality isn’t the ultimate truth, the things you experience aren’t any less extraordinary (like going to TEDxPenn).