Mystery: the scalpel that split consciousness -- Beauty: sirens of the gene -- Reality: capers of the unseen sun -- Sensory: fitness beats truth -- Illusory: the bluff of a desktop -- Gravity: spacetime is doomed -- Virtuality: inflating a holoworld -- Polychromy: mutations of an interface -- Scrutiny: you get what you need, in both life and business -- Community: the network of conscious agents -- Precisely: the right to be wrong.
Does natural selection favor veridical percepts—those that accurately depict objective reality? Perceptual and cognitive scientists standardly claim that it does. Here we formalize this claim using the tools of evolutionary game theory and Bayesian decision theory. We state and prove the “Fitness-Beats-Truth Theorem” which shows that the claim is false: If one starts with the assumption that perception involves inference to states of the objective world, then the FBT Theorem shows that a strategy that simply seeks to maximize expected-fitness payoff, (...) with no attempt to estimate the “true” world state, does consistently better. More precisely, the FBT Theorem provides a quantitative measure of the extent to which the fitness-only strategy dominates the truth strategy, and of how this dominance increases with the size of the perceptual space. The FBT Theorem supports the Interface Theory of Perception, which proposes that our perceptual systems have evolved to provide a species-specific interface to guide adaptive behavior, and not to provide a veridical representation of objective reality. (shrink)
The possibility of spectrum inversion has been debated since it was raised by Locke and is still discussed because of its implications for functionalist theories of conscious experience . This paper provides a mathematical formulation of the question of spectrum inversion and proves that such inversions, and indeed bijective scramblings of color in general, are logically possible. Symmetries in the structure of color space are, for purposes of the proof, irrelevant. The proof entails that conscious experiences are not identical with (...) functional relations. It leaves open the empirical possibility that functional relations might, at least in part, be causally responsible for generating conscious experiences. Functionalists can propose causal accounts that meet the normal standards for scientific theories, including numerical precision and novel prediction; they cannot, however, claim that, because functional relationships and conscious experiences are identical, any attempt to construct such causal theories entails a category error. (shrink)
Psychophysical studies of change blindness indicate that, at any instant, human observers are aware of detail in few parts of the visual field. Such results suggest, to some theorists, that human vision reconstructs only a few portions of the visual scene and that, to bridge the resulting representational gaps, it often lets physical objects serve as their own short-term memory. We propose that human vision reconstructs no portion of the visual scene, and that it never lets physical objects serve as (...) their own short-term memory. (shrink)
It is fruitful to think of the representational and the organism-centered approaches as complementary levels of analysis, rather than mutually exclusive alternatives. Claims to the contrary by proponents of the organism-centered approach face what we call the “basketball problem.”.
Vision scientists standardly assume that the goal of vision is to recover properties of the external world. Lehar's “miniature, virtual-reality replica of the external world inside our head” (target article, sect. 10) is an example of this assumption. I propose instead, on evolutionary grounds, that the goal of vision is simply to provide a useful user interface to the external world.
What differentiates expressions of pain from other facial expressions? Which facial features convey the most information in an expression of pain? To answer such questions we can explore the expertise of human observers using psychophysical experiments. Techniques such as change detection and visual search can advance our understanding of facial expressions of pain and of evolved mechanisms for detecting these expressions.
Pylyshyn's target article argues that perception is not inferential, but this is true only under a narrow construal of inference. A more general construal is possible, and has been used to provide formal theories of many visual capacities. This approach also makes clear that the evolution of natural constraints need not converge to the “veridical” state of the world.