It’s Not That Easy Seeing Green

From an article in yesterday’s New York Times:

Take again the case of color and wavelength. Wavelength is a real, physical phenomenon; color is the brain’s approximate, slightly incorrect model of it. In the attention schema theory, attention is the physical phenomenon and awareness is the brain’s approximate, slightly incorrect model of it. In neuroscience, attention is a process of enhancing some signals at the expense of others. It’s a way of focusing resources. Attention: a real, mechanistic phenomenon that can be programmed into a computer chip. Awareness: a cartoonish reconstruction of attention that is as physically inaccurate as the brain’s internal model of color.

The crucial point, in one sentence:

The brain computes models that are caricatures of real things.

Of course, many Buddhists and mystics and philosophers and others have been saying this for centuries (only they say it in Sanskrit instead of scientific language, which makes it easier to read), but it looks like science is rapidly catching up.

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2 thoughts on “It’s Not That Easy Seeing Green

  1. Thanks for the pointer. I liked “Another reason is that to predict the behavior of other creatures, the brain needs to model their brain states, including their attention” — which seems quite close to what is connoted by caricature, a cartoon version of another person.

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