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Updated on October 6, 2008

Perception: The Flawed Mediator

Perception: The flawed mediator

Billions of people around the world base the decisions they make every day, be they mundane or of real importance, on the basis of what they think is correct or true. It is vitally important that we realize the true nature of perception and how that effects how and why we make certain choices. We should also consider the consequences of basing decisions and making choices that lead to actions based on what one perceives to be true and accurate information.

In order to understand these processes and their implications it is critically important that we begin to understand the nature of perception; and the intrinsic problems associated with basing our actions on what we as perceive as individuals. Perception is a function of the human mind and it’s never ending quest to assimilate and organize the endless torrents of information gathered by our various sensory organs. To be concise, the job of perception is to gather, organize, and then construct a reality, in which we can function. A reality, I believe, to be essentially a virtual one; an incomplete representation of physical reality.

For example when you look at a painting on the wall, in reality all that your eyes can determine about it is an arrangement of shapes and colors. When this sensory input is received by our brain a set of programs assimilate this information and organize it in a way you can comprehend. The end result is you “see” the painting. This biological function which is an integral part of our awareness and decision making abilities, we commonly refer to as perception. All sensory information received by the brain is processed in a similar manner before being integrated into our consciousness. For normal everyday life this is a very useful tool, as it enables the massive amount of information your brain receives into a manageable coherent reality.

The problem is that in order to do this, your subconscious disregards information it deems extraneous. While this allows for a smooth running system, it also creates a dangerous precedent because we do not have direct control over what information is disregarded. By filtering out a majority of the sensory inputs you receive there is inherently a difference between what reality is and the reality your conscious brain constructs. It is important to realize that the majority of people are only aware of a small portion of reality; and their concept of what is real and what is not is most assuredly flawed.

A great example of this are optical illusions; which take advantage of your subconscious minds shortcuts in order to produce impossible images and figures, or three dimensional shapes on two dimensional media. This flaw in the translation from total sensory awareness to the reality we experience is the way in which the information we receive is integrated, a process which is unique from person to person.

Right and Wrong: A Physical Impossibility

One would think that it would not occur, to a normal person, that something such as the meaning of right v.s. wrong could be equated to the laws that govern our physical reality. So aren’t we all glad that I am not a- normal person. This is but a brief glimpse into the slurry of thoughts that transverse the synapses of my mind. It would be my pleasure to relay the true depths of my thoughts and what I see to be a simple reality. An existence that needs no questioning, a purpose that can be clearly defined and serve as an inspiration to the masses.

However if I were to delve into the depths of my existential thoughts I am afraid I would lose many of your along the way. You see the path is not clear; the complete model of reality has yet to coalesce in the depths of my mind. Should I decide to relay to you the truth; the probability that the wrong path is being followed and the wrong truths being told is absolute. Our very existence could change for naught but an utterance of words.

What I have for you at the moment is a question that may seem simple yet its one true answer is an enigma. The question is, in any given situation, who is in the right and who is in the wrong. The simple answer to this question has always been- the winner. The winner writes the law; the winner writes policy; the winner writes history.

This questions answer should not be so easily accepted and taken for granted. For the true answer and the truth behind the question relates directly to the very nature of humanity. It offers an explanation of our violent history, current conflicts and the question of our future and survival.

If you take mathematics as a precedent; the only human discovery that is considered both infallible and also universal, meaning there is always only one correct solution to any question or equation. Math, unlike any other language, would be the same for an alien species as it is for us. Life as we know it is governed by math though its various offspring; chemistry, physics, quantum mechanics etc. Essentially our physical reality is headed down a path of pure logic governed by mathematical equations. We, however, have thrown the empirically illogical human element into the smooth, sleek path of logic governed by the unchangeable laws of the universe.

What does logic; math, reality and the human element have to do with how we differentiate between right and wrong? Because our reality as we know it is governed by an exact set of laws; it only seems logical that these laws can assist us in deciphering this paradox. In physics it is known the threat perspective of a single observer does not equate to the true state of reality.

The simplest example of this is the following scenario; if you throw a ball you are bound to see the ball moving away from you, as you consider yourself stationary. You would be certain of these facts, the ball is moving and you are not. However, if a stationary observer were in space seeing you throw the ball as the earth passes, to the stationary observer both you and the ball would appear to be moving. Conversely to the observer on earth the stationary observer in space would appear to be moving. So whose observation is right? The truth is both observers are correct in their observations as they are relative to themselves.

If we then compare this to how we interpret right and wrong in terms of faith, policy, and other human social creations; we see the human element come into play. Because of the countless configurations of the human brain, created by multitudes of experiences and lessons one learns through life’s journey. That is what makes humankind so amazing, despite our billions of differences there are similarities encompassing entire regions of our planet. Through these similarities we get governments, consumers, sellers, fighters and peace keepers. It is also these differences, on a grand scale, that cause and have caused the greatest atrocities in human history.

The difference between right and wrong is perspective; yet unlike perspectives defined by mathematics; human perspective is governed by the individual, specifically the configuration of neural networks in our brains. What this means is not quite so simple. Literally as far as you or I are concerned there is no true right or wrong answer when the question involves anything but mathematics or sciences based wholly on mathematics. This is because, like we discussed earlier, individual perspective is based on the collective life experience of an individual including their feelings and moral obligations; all of which are subjective. Therefore any decision based on human perspective of any given situation is a decision based on nothing but information tailored to suit an individual based on his or her experiences, ideas and values. Due to the inevitable variation in life experience, genetics and biology, most individuals, even twins raised together, will have a different perspective on, or experience of reality.

What this means for us as a species is that each side in a conflict firmly believes they are correct in their actions are in the right. So if both sides think they are correct how then, are we to proceed if every decision we make is potentially the wrong one because it is based on emotion, experience, and belief? I can’t tell you, because for all I know terrorists are right. I know they believe they are, but I also know and believe I am correct in my conclusion they are evil. Now you can see my quandary; life altering, reality changing, important-could end the world type decisions are being made based solely on an illogical, biased, non uniform and wholly unreliable system, commonly referred to as the brain. There has to be a better way, how is one to make a good decision based on poor, inadequate, or simply inaccurate information? You tell me.


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