A Bird in the Hand. Knowledge is a Static Binding.

An old thought experiment asks, if a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? The traditional answer is no, there is no sound without a vibration on an ear drum. The answer is easily proven wrong. The experiment presupposes the existence of a tree and a forest. Since these energy patterns exist when no one is around to see them, then the sound of the tree falling exists too.

Human knowledge in the brain is a static binding. The concept of binding is commonly used to refer to the covering that holds the pages of a book; that, or a device used to attach skis to boots. Binding is used here in the first sense, the idea that human experience in the brain is a limited and static capture of things compared to the original, much like a book. The universe is a big place, much bigger than the lifeworld of human experience. Humans are not routinely conscious of phenomena like radio waves, x-rays, and germs. We miss sights and sounds, and smells and tastes that our sense organs cannot detect. There is a threshold at which something becomes noticeable — the softest sound we can hear, or the slightest touch we can feel. Anything less goes unnoticed. Think of all the context that is lost. A bird in the hand is only worth half of one in the bush.

Vision begins with sensation. Light begins a process of transformation as it enters the eye. The cornea focuses the light. The pupil is controlled is by the muscles of the iris to optimize the light, enough for vision without overexposure or damage. The cornea and lens work together to adjust the focal length of the image being formed on the retina at the back of the eye. Photoreceptor cells called cones and rods give an image color and shadow. In the short time it take for an image to form on the retina it has been transformed.

From the retina the image is carried through the optic nerve to the brain for more processing. Perception is the brain’s interpretation of what we sense. For example, the brain attempts to organize sensory information into groups. If multiple dots are seen close together they are grouped into a single bundle for quick processing.

After visual and perceptual processes, the brain encodes information into memories. Short-term memories are translated into long-term memory in the hippocampus. Visual and auditory and other sensory information are combined into a single episodes of memory. The smell of the forest evokes a visual memory of a glade. The memory is personalized.

The eye operates like a camera. It is better in some ways. The lens in the human eye can focus quicker than a camera. But it still operates like a camera, producing a reduced image compared to the original. The retina is like film. Accuracy varies with lighting and resolution depends on the film format or number of pixels. The brain is more efficient than a camera at a price. The brain selectively stores data that it considers important, leaving the rest to be filled in by inference. Any image in the brain is a limited and static capture at a point in time. It is a binding, a copy with error. To a degree, every memory is wrong, an illusion, a lie. Truth is not in the brain — it is out there in the world. A bird in the hand is only worth half of one in the bush.

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