To Believe what One Sees

//To Believe what One Sees

To Believe what One Sees


A simple example for discussions sake.

  This video has been seen 362,057 times. If we are to assume that only 1/3 of those are unique hits (to be conservative, I’m sure most are) we are left with 120,000 people and some change.

  Imagine a situation where a 120,000 people all say something is true. These people then support their statement by saying they all saw the thing they state is true.

  This is not entirely a hypothetical, in human history we have had dozens of nearly timeless stories that are entirely supported by eye witness testimony. Stories told by people in a position of respect (I’m looking for a different word by I’m quite tired). It’s said that obviously these things must have happened because people saw them happen.

  But of all the different forms of evidence in court, eye witness testimony is the weakest. Each time we recall a memory we reconstruct it to the best of our abilities. Every influence we’ve had prior and after that event ends up molding how we perceive and event to have gone down. In the court of law if you are asked what person you saw kill someone you may point at the accused merely because seeing them in the high stress environment has replaced the original killer with their image in your mind.

  This isn’t a pleasant thought to people, to think that our memories are not as true as we feel them to be. It is another example of the ever dangerous cognitive dissonance. Instead of accepting this to be the case we will, more often than not, alter our actions upon the new data as if it were entirely true. It’s completely understandable as well, if you can’t trust your memories then what can you trust (Hint: Video tape)?

  I won’t beat around the bush anymore, I’m obviously talking about magicians, prophets, and all the other “mythical” events of human history. The most powerful of these events all occurred during a period when we had no infallible data collection devices. No video, no photo, and no DNA (ok this one can be bunk). These also are the most powerful moments in human history, because for some odd reason people are willing to put the most importance on information gathered from the least accurate tools in front of them (well technically in them).

  I would hazard that people should be skeptical of any information built solely upon the foundation of eye witness testimony. I base it off a structure of living I call the “What Is versus What If.” It’s a rabbit hole I’d prefer to save for a day that I’m not drunk with exhaustion. (It was barely summarized in the previous post, maybe sometime this weekend)

  Our brains demand patterns, patterns make things easier to process, I can see a dozen different faces in the rotary sanded steel bathroom stall door at work. I kid you not, if I took an image I could outline face after face, in some cases entire busts of a human torso and head. When people looked to the stars they saw outlines of animals, items, or even gods. When people look to the clouds they see shapes, figures, etc. A collection of cut hair falling on the floor could end up reminding you of Arizona.

  Streamlined mental systems is what kept your ancestors from taking too long to process that a Tiger was trying to rip their ass off. It’s a vital part of our early survival and something we should look at with a bit of humor. However humans need to overcome these fragments of our ancestry. If we are truly higher beings, cognitive powerhouses, we need to identify the biases of our senses and use tools and systems to overcome them.

Illusionary Servant  Otherwise the con becomes far too easy. Once someone knows they can show you a square convince you to think it is a cube they’ll keep doing so. Eventually your world is built on a house of cards and the slightest vibration from reality can bring it all crashing down.

Note: I love illusions, having my own biases tricked to convince me the impossible is impossible is a beautiful thing in the right context. But when the world is at the whim of fantasy it is in for a harsh surprise when reality slaps it upside the head.

By | 2012-01-03T20:21:46+00:00 January 3rd, 2012|Journal|Comments Off on To Believe what One Sees