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Anil Seth
Reality Is Not What It Seems – and Neither Are You.

To say “it’s easy to overlook the fact that our perception isn’t the same as reality,” is perhaps the greatest understatement of all time. It’s almost impossible not to overlook it. Not overlooking it takes dedicated effort which still only allows us to overlook it for brief periods.

Everything we experience, from sounds, to smells, to the words on this screen, even the feeling that we are a single cohesive self, is a construction of the mind. An attempt to make sense of an influx of various vibrations and energy frequencies. This article by Anil Seth captures the idea with an eloquence I’ve not seen before:

…imagine being a brain. There you are, locked inside the bony vault of the skull, trying to figure out what’s out there in the world. There’s no light in the skull; there’s no sound either. It’s completely dark and it’s utterly silent. Your eyes and your ears just deliver streams of electrical signals to the brain.

These signals don’t come with labels attached – “I’m from a cat! I’m from a coffee cup!” – they are just electrical signals, signals which do not themselves have any shape, color, or sound. Therefore, in order to figure out what’s out there in the world, the brain has to combine these ambiguous sensory signals with some prior “expectations” or “predictions” about the way the world is. And that’s what we perceive – the brain’s “best guess” of the causes of its sensory signals.

Why our senses are fine-tuned for utility, not for ‘reality’.

Cognitive neuroscientist Anil Seth on the gap between conscious experience and objective reality:

…I’m also not saying that everything is in the mind. I think this is an important qualification or distinction. ‘There is an objective reality out there, at least as far as I know. But it’s how that reality appears in pour experience which is always a construction.

Watching the conversion of meditative and scientific views of perception is really exciting.