Beau Lotto – Optical Illusions Show How We See
October 11, 2009
While the subject of “illusion” has been broached several times before within the pages of this blog – see “The Illusory Atom” and “Probably The Best Optical Illusion I’ve Seen In A While… And The Idea Of Priming!“… This is still a very important idea that I will come back to time and again… For it will allow us all to further develop a better understanding about the way in which we perceive our surrounding environment, the world current affairs and the way we perceive the actions of others i.e. family, friends, work colleagues, strangers, public figures and politicians… And it will even show us that what We sometimes “See” going on in nature is actually a result of the way in which we perceive the world around us, something that Werner Heisenberg beautifully demonstrated to us all with his “Uncertainty Principle.”
Here Lotto presents to us an idea that is not simply just about colors… It is also a powerful analogy that can be superimposed onto the multifarious ways in which we see the world around us i.e. the way in which we perceive our country, our “enemies” and our friends, all of which affects our ability to live and make changes in our daily lives, as well as changes in the vast interconnected network of Life here on planet Earth. Our perceptions drive our actions and dictate how we act in the world at large. And yet, as we have seen in some of the previous blogs here, perceptions are sometimes arbitrary and conditioned. Context is often defined by others… We continually use “memes” that have been passed down the line to us via our parents, media, hearsay and everyday social interaction, to act with and guide us through current situations… And why shouldn’t we? After all, they worked for those of whom we learnt these actions from… As they are hear today telling us of their “beneficial” use. But… What I want to ask here, is are they relevant to the present moment? Because to follow blindly, is simply to be lead into actions that serve no real purpose within the present, as we saw in the blog entitled “Evidence For Humans Being ‘Meme Machines’?”
We, being capable of probing thought, should go deeper than this… We should ask why certain memes are more infectious than others, in much the same way as being able to understand why a particular virus might be more infectious than others – see the blog entitled “‘Infectious’ People Spread Memes Across The Web“. Because when we understand this, we have the potential to become the “humble” custodians of this oasis suspended in an inky black void of space and time… Why? Well the answer is simple… As we are beginning to see, by searching the stars for other Earth like planets, Life really is a rarity in this universe. And once it gets a foot hold, it needs to be cared for and nurtured into a state healthy being… If one Life form becomes too arrogant, forgetting this interconnectedness of all things i.e. the vast array of strange attractors which interact in a dance of complexity over the surface of this planet… And in forgetting this, decides to take over most of the planet’s resources, using them blindly without a thought for the future of the planet… Then is surely like a cancerous cell that over replicates and dominates a body… And we all know how this ends.
To truly See this, we need to understand and challenge the “context” i.e. that “light”, in which we view things. We need to become completely aware of the moment in which we are in… Because once we do so, we leave by the way-side a limited preconditioned array and basis for our actions that serve no purpose other than to dredge up irrelevant past actions… And – perhaps it relates ourselves to the avarian “copy-cat” parrot… Not very hopeful thought really – to be compared to a “bird-brain”. As if we continue to live like this, we can only ever hope act within parameters of old, continuing conflicts of yore (war, prejudice, hate, etc…) that bring the pain of the past back into the present i.e. we carry these old hurts on chains of a “tit-for-tat” mentality that we learnt in the school playground. We need to understand the subtlety and sensitivity of our perceptive stance – see the blog “Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I.”
When we truly understand the context in which we view things, and become humble enough to question the validity of our own perceptions… And therefore, the validity of our resulting actions that arise from these perceptions… Then perhaps we might be able to change how we act in the world… And possibly… Even hopefully… Change the world around us! And do so for the better of all Life here on Earth, preserving that delicate balance that supports us all… In a way that allows us to come from a place of Love and understanding. If you haven’t done already, I would highly recommend that you see Peter Russell’s video entitled “The Global Brain.”
Greed and need are two totally different things. And when we understand all of this, one day we will actually be able separate the two ideals, harboring a cautious mindfulness for the former, and a healthy understanding and open embracing for the latter – whereby we will start giving to people/animals/eco-systems in “need”… And not place anymore strain by simply acting on media-portrayed-memes based solely on “greed”.
Anyway… On with Lotto’s enthralling lecture… Given at TED.
Beau Lotto’s color games puzzle your vision, but they also spotlight what you can’t normally see: how your brain works. This fun, first-hand look at your own versatile sense of sight reveals how evolution tints your perception of what’s really out there.
About Beau Lotto:
Beau Lotto is founder of Lottolab (nothing to do with the lottery game of the same name, might we add), a hybrid art studio and science lab. With glowing, interactive sculpture — and good, old-fashioned peer-reviewed research — he’s illuminating the mysteries of the brain’s visual system.
“Let there be perception,” was evolution’s proclamation, and so it was that all creatures, from honeybees to humans, came to see the world not as it is, but as was most useful. This uncomfortable place — where what an organism’s brain sees diverges from what is actually out there — is what Beau Lotto and his team at Lottolab are exploring through their dazzling art-sci experiments and public illusions. Their Bee Matrix installation, for example, places a live bee in a transparent enclosure where gallerygoers may watch it seek nectar in a virtual meadow of luminous Plexiglas flowers. (Bees, Lotto will tell you, see colors much like we humans do.) The data captured isn’t just discarded, either: it’s put to good use in probing scientific papers, and sometimes in more exhibits.
Outside the studio work, the brain-like (that is, multidisciplinary) organization is also branching out to bigger public engagement works. It’s holding regular “synesthetic workshops” where kids and adults make “color scores” — abstract paintings that computers interpret into music, as with scrolls fed to a player piano. And lately they’re planning an outdoor walkway of color-lit, pressure-sensitive John Conway-esque tiles that react and evolve according to foot traffic. These and Lotto’s other conjurings are slowly, charmingly bending the science of perception — and our perceptions of what science can be.
Lotto teaches at University College London.
To find out more about Beau’s important work in these troubled times of varied perceptive stances, please visit his Lotto Lab website here.
And to find out where I originally sourced this video from, please click here.