What is the point of sight? It’s a costly endeavor; it commands approximately one third of your brain’s volume and up to two thirds of your cognitive processing power. But what is it meant to accomplish? Intuitively, the answer seems obvious: sight is meant to accurately represent the world around you.
Right? Take a closer look.
In his extraordinary TED Talk, “Do we see reality as it is?”, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman explains his research, which suggests a very different answer: The purpose of sight is not to accurately portray some objective reality (if there is such a thing), but instead to further the evolutionary goals of survival and reproduction. Put another way, our minds are less concerned with getting it “right” than they are with getting it “useful.” Our visual system is designed, Hoffman argues, to augment the information about the world that we perceive with our eyes, not to faithfully represent it.
Hoffman’s Talk is inspiring—he exemplifies the indefatigable drive of human curiosity, the power of the human mind when set to scientific inquiry, and the limitless potential of their nimble conspiracy. At the same time, the Talk is humbling and cautionary. Humbling because it exposes the fragile vulnerability of our most basic knowledge, what we think we know of sight itself. Cautionary for much the same reason.
Above all else, however, I find great optimism in Hoffman’s TED Talk. If we can understand how our minds create personal, virtual realities that we perceive as truth—in our sight and otherwise—we can live with awareness of our role in the creation of those realities. With that awareness, we can choose to hold ourselves accountable, choose how we want to live our lives in every moment.
What do you think? What’s your favorite TED Talk? Join the discussion and let me know. I want to hear from you!
Join The Conversation
I want to hear from you.
Whether you’ve attended one of my speeches or consulting sessions, ordered Eyes Wide Open, seen my TED Talk, read one of my blog or social media posts, or you’re simply visiting this site, I want to know what you think. Make a point (big or small), share a story, offer criticism, ask a question—whatever suits you. I’d like to start an open conversation, so I’d appreciate your permission to share your submission in the future—anonymously, if you prefer. Even if I can’t share your thoughts with others, however, I still want to hear them, so please do tell me what’s on your mind. Thank you.
Share Your Story
Use the form below to share your thoughts with Isaac.
Though Isaac tries to respond promptly to everyone who reaches out, we are a very small organization and sometimes it can take us a while to respond. We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.