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Truth vs Reality: How we evolved to survive, not to see what’s really there | Donald Hoffman

Truth vs Reality: How we evolved to survive, not to see what’s really there | Donald Hoffman


Galileo was quite controversial, of course,
in his time, because he was claiming that something that we all could see with our own
eyes wasn’t true. We could all see that the earth doesn’t move
and that the sun, and moon, and stars go around the earth. And we believed that as a race for about 2,000
years. And Galileo was saying that your eyes are
lying to you. The earth actually moves and it’s not the
center of the universe. And he was put under house arrest for it. And we don’t like to be told that our senses
aren’t telling us the truth. And then Galileo took it another step. He said, it’s not just that our senses are
lying about movement of the earth, he said that he thought that tastes, odors, colors,
and so on reside in consciousness. Hence, if the living creature were removed,
all these properties, these qualities, would be utterly annihilated. That’s almost a direct quote in the translation. So he was saying that our senses are also
making up the tastes, odors, and colors that we experience. They’re not properties of an objective reality. They’re actually properties of our senses
that they’re fabricating. And by objective reality in this case, I’m
going to use that term in a very specific way. By objective reality, I mean what most physicists
would mean. And that is that something is objectively
real if it would continue to exist even if there were no creatures to perceive it. So the standard story, for example, is that
the moon existed before there was any life on Earth and, perhaps, before there was any
life in the universe. But it still existed. Its existence does not depend on the perceptions
of any creatures. And so that’s the sense in which I’ll talk
about objective reality. And what Galileo was saying was that colors,
odors, tastes, and so on are not real in that sense of objective reality. They are real in a different sense. They’re real experiences. And so I’ll talk about real experiences. So your headache is a real experience, even
though it could not exist without you perceiving it. So it exists in a different way than the objective
reality that physicists talk about. So Galileo was quite brave and quite out of
the box in his thinking by saying not only the earth in his movement, but even colors,
tastes, and odors are our perceptual constructions. But he wouldn’t go the next step. He wouldn’t say that shapes, and mass, and
velocities of objects, and space, and time themselves are our constructions. He thought that those were objectively real. So the shape of the moon, the position of
the moon, is an objectively real thing, including its mass and its velocities. So, this is a distinction that was later called
the primary and secondary qualities of distinction by John Locke. Primary qualities are things like position,
mass, shape, and so forth. These are presumed to exist even if no creature
observes them. Whereas colors, and odors, and tastes are
secondary qualities that are sort of mostly the contribution of our senses. And in brief, what I’m saying is we need to
take the next step beyond what Galileo said. It’s not just tastes, odors, and colors that
are the fabrications of our senses and are not objectively real. It’s, rather, that space-time itself and everything
within space-time– objects, the sun, the moon, the electrons, quarks, their shapes,
if objects have shapes, their masses, their velocities– all of these physical properties
are also our constructions. And I’ve come to that conclusion. It was a bit of a shock to me. We always assume that our senses are telling
us the truth. So it was quite a stunning shock to me when
I realized that maybe we needed to take a step beyond Galileo on this. And the reason I’m saying this is because
of evolution by natural selection. Most of my colleagues in the cognitive and
neurosciences assume that our senses tell us the truths that we need to survive. That seeing reality accurately will make you
more fit. And I would say that that makes perfect sense. The argument is that those of our ancestors
who saw reality more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw it less accurately
in the basic activities of life, like feeding, fighting, fleeing, and mating. And because they had a competitive advantage,
they were more likely to pass on their genes which coded for the accurate perceptions. And so after thousands of generations of that,
we can be quite confident that we see reality as it is. Of course, not all of reality. No one claims that our senses exhaustively
tell us all the truths about objective reality . But from an evolutionary point of view,
the idea is we see those aspects of reality accurately that we need to survive. And so when we see space and time, we see
physical objects with their shapes and motions, and so forth, we’re seeing truths, objective
truths. Truths about objects that would exist even
if no creature were there to perceive them. That’s the standard view. And it seems intuitively plausible– the argument
that I just gave is actually in the textbooks in my field. But it turns out that we don’t have to just
deal with plausibility here. Evolution by natural selection is a mathematically
precise theory. There is the field of evolutionary game theory
that was established in the 1970s by John Maynard Smith and has flourished. It’s now a very advanced and very interesting
mathematically precise field. It unites Darwinian evolution by natural selection
with the tools of game theory. And it’s very, very powerful. So we don’t have to guess or wave our hands
anymore. We can actually run simulations and prove
theorems about the effects of natural selection on our senses. We can ask a technical question. Does natural selection favor organisms with
sensory systems that tell them truths about reality, objective reality? It’s a clean technical question. And it turns out there is a clean technical
answer that comes from evolution. And it is quite surprising. I first started this about 12 years ago with
a couple of graduate students of mine– Justin Mark and Brian Marion. We ran hundreds of thousands of evolutionary
game simulations in random worlds with resources and creatures that had to forage for these
resources. And we played god. Some of the creatures got to see the truth. Others didn’t. And the ones that didn’t, we had them just
perceived the fitness payoffs. And we can talk a little bit about fitness
payoffs a little bit later. That’s a key, key notion in evolution. And what we found was in the simulations organisms
that saw the truth never out-competed never outperformed creatures in our simulations
that saw none of the truth and were just perceiving the fitness payoffs. So that gave me some confidence that maybe
there was a theorem here. And so I proposed a theorem to a very talented
mathematician named Chetan Prakash with whom I’ve worked for many years. Chetan and I discussed it, worked on it. And Chetan brought it home. He proved the theorem. An organism that sees reality as it is is
never more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality and is just tuned
to the fitness payoffs. Translated, that means if you see the truth,
you’ll go extinct. And so the question is, of course, what our
fitness payoffs? And what’s going on there? And it’s a technical term in game theory. The payoffs are what sort of drive the game. But I think an analogy can help. Think of life as like a video game. In a video game, you have to, in many video
games, you have to try to grab as many points as quickly as you can at the level that you’re
at. And if you get enough points in the minimal
time, you might get to the next level. If you don’t, you die. And you have put in some more money or start
over. And the idea is that life is like that. It’s like a video game, but instead of the
points in a game, we have fitness payoffs. Getting the right kind of food, high-quality
food, not eating poisonous things, breathing the right kind of air, finding the right mate
and so forth. These are all fitness payoffs that we can
get. And if we get more fitness payoffs than the
competition– it’s not like getting millions of fitness payoffs, you just have to do a
little bit better than the competition– then you have a better chance of passing on your
genes that code for your strategies for getting fitness payoffs. So you don’t go to the next level like in
a video game, but your genes and your offspring go to the next level. And so that’s, informally, the idea of fitness
payoffs. They’re what drive success or failure in evolution
and life. And what we discovered was two things– First,
that fitness payoffs themselves destroy information about the structure of the world. It’s truly stunning. Fitness payoffs depend on the state of the
world. And I can give you an example. So what is the fitness payoff of, say– I
like this example of a T-bone steak. Well, for a hungry lion looking to eat, that
T-bone steak offers a lot of fitness payoff. It will help it to stay alive and be strong. For that same lion that’s well fed and looking
to mate, the T-bone steak offers no fitness payoffs. And for a cow, in any state, a T-bone steak
is not a good thing. So the payoffs depend on objective reality,
whatever that might be, whatever the state of the world might be. And also on the organism, like lion versus
cow, its state, hungry versus fed, and its action, eating versus mating, for example. So fitness payoffs, as you can see, are complicated
functions. They depend on the state of the world, whatever
the world might be, but also on the organism, its state, and its action. And if we fix an organism, state, and action,
then fitness payoffs are functions from the world, whatever the world might be, into a
set of payoff values, say from 1 to M, fitness payoff values where 1 means you’re dead, M
means you’re getting the most you could possibly get. And what we’ve discovered is that function,
those fitness functions, almost surely destroy information about the structure of the world. I can give you a concrete example of what
I mean by that. So suppose– and by the way, when I said that,
I don’t need to know anything about the world. I don’t need to propose I know anything what
reality is. These terms hold anyway. That’s the nice thing about the mathematics. You might say, well, you know, how could you
prove such a theorem unless you know what the world is? It turns out you can. These theorems hold regardless of what the
world is. Suppose we take, for sake of argument, a world
in which there really is oxygen concentration. There is air and there’s oxygen. And oxygen concentration can go from 0 percent
to 100 percent. That’s what mathematicians would call a total
order 0 is less than 1 less than 2, all the way up to 100. That’s a total order. And it turns out that– so that would be a
structure in the objective world in this example. Now the percentages of oxygen that will maintain
human life is about 19.5 percent to 22.5 percent. If you get outside that range, you’ll be in
distress and eventually die. And so there’s this very narrow range of oxygen
concentrations that are useful for life. So suppose you had a creature that had only
two colors that they perceived. So a very simple creature. It just sees green and red. And let’s assume that we’re going to say green
is greater than red, just we’ll just put an order on green and red. We can put an arbitrary order on them. So green is greater than red. And suppose– look at two different creatures. One sees as much of truth as possible with
just two colors. In that case, you might use red for 0 percent
of oxygen to 50 percent. So red is for very little oxygen to medium. And green would be from medium to 100 percent. That way if you saw red, you’d know there
was less oxygen. And if you saw green, you’d know there was
more. And so you’re knowing as much about the truth
of the objective reality– namely the amount of oxygen– as you could possibly know given
the limits of your sensations. So that will be a truth organism. Now consider a fitness organism that only,
again, has two colors, green and red. To encode fitness, you could do the following:
Let’s use red for 0 through 19.5, which will kill you. And for 22.5 to 100, which will also kill
you. In other words, we use red for those amounts
of oxygen that will not sustain life. And we’ll use green for that narrow band from
19.5 to 22.5 that will sustain life. So if I see green, I know I’m good. I don’t need to change anything. I’m going to live. If I see red, I know I’m in trouble. I need to do something differently. But notice if I see red, I have no idea about
the truth, about how much oxygen there is. There could be 100%. There could be 0%. I have no idea. So that concrete example gives you an intuition
about why seeing the truth is a very different thing than seeing fitness and why that they’re
really at odds. They’re not the same thing. Our intuitions are, of course, if I see the
truth, that will make me more fit. And this example makes it very, very clear
that seeing the truth is the opposite in most cases of seeing what’s fit. And we were actually able to prove that–
this is now inside baseball language, but I’ll throw it out there– the set of fitness
payoffs, if the world has N states, N as in Nancy, and the fitness payoffs have M values,
M as in Mark. There are going to be M raised to the N power,
total fitness payoffs, very simple math, combinatorics. And you can for any structure in the world
that you want to consider, a total order, a symmetric group, a cyclic group, a measurable
structure, a topology, you can ask in each case how many of those M to the N fitness
payoffs will preserve that structure. Mathematicians call them homomorphisms. So the homomorphisms of a topology are what
we call continuous functions. The homomorphisms of measurable structures
are what we call measurable maps and so forth. It’s straightforward to show in each case
that the probability– well, nah, I wouldn’t say straightforward. If you a mathematician working with you, then
looking over their shoulder, it looks straightforward, but, of course, it’s hard work for the mathematicians. But it’s combinatorics. And some of the combinatorics is pretty straightforward
for mathematicians. In each case, we show that the ratio, the
number of homomorphisms, the fitness payoffs, that preserve the structure of the world,
that tell you something about the truth, to the total number of fitness payoffs, that
ratio– so the truth preserving payoffs versus all payoffs, we look at that ratio. And that ratio goes to 0 as the number of
states in the world increases and the number of fitness payoffs increases, and that means
the fitness payoffs generically destroy information about the structure of the world. Our senses will be tuned to the fitness payoffs. And being tuned to the fitness payoffs means
that you will not be tuned to the structure of the world, because the fitness payoffs
have lost that structure. And so that’s how devastating this is. So we’re in a dilemma here. We have two things that we deeply believe. We deeply believe in evolution by natural
selection. And we deeply believe in physicalism. That space-time and physical objects as we
perceive them are a true representation of reality as it is. Those two claims are in conflict. Both cannot be true. And that’s what we’ve done. I’m saying that space and time and physical
objects don’t exist unless they’re perceived. And someone might say, “Well, look, Don, if
you think that that train coming down the tracks is just some little thing that you’re
creating on the fly, you’re making that up, it’s just an icon in your desktop, or a symbol
in your virtual reality, why don’t you step in front of that train? And after you’re dead, and your ideas with
you, we’ll know that that train was real and it really can kill.” And I wouldn’t step in front of the train
for the same reason that I wouldn’t, for example if I’m, say, writing an email. And the email icon is blue and rectangular
and in the middle of the screen. That doesn’t mean the email itself on the
computer is blue and rectangular in the middle of the computer. So I don’t take the icon literally. It’s not literally true about what’s in the
reality. But I do take it seriously. I would not drag that icon to the trashcan
carelessly. If I drag the icon to the trashcan, I could
lose all of my work. So I take my icons seriously, but not literally. And that’s the case with the train as well. Evolution by natural selection has shaped
us with perceptions that are designed to keep us alive. So if I see a snake, don’t pick it up. If I see a cliff, don’t jump off. If I see a train, don’t step in front of it. We have to take our perceptions seriously,
but that does entitle us to take them literally. So another objection is, I look over there
and see a train, and I ask all of my friends, they’ll also say that they see a train. So given that we all see the train, surely
that means that, therefore, there is a train in objective reality. There really is a train. And that seems very compelling. Of course, we all look, we see the moon. We all agree that there is a moon. So therefore, the moon must really exist. But again that’s a logical error. In the visual example that we looked at earlier
with the cubes that were floating in front of the disks, we all would agree that we saw
a cube. But we would all agree that the reason you
saw a cube was because you created the cube. The cube doesn’t exist unless you create it. So the reason we agree about trains, and the
moon, and cars, and apples, and so forth is because we have a similar interface. We’re constructing similar objects. And because we construct our worlds in similar
ways, we tend to agree. Although 4 percent of us have synesthesia
and can view the world in very, very different ways from the rest of us. So the bottom line is agreement only means
agreement, it doesn’t mean that we’re seeing objective reality. Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore
I am.” And that does raise a really interesting question
about consciousness and what we call the physical world. A physicalist would say, “Look, I know about
things like umbrellas, and the moon, and rocks. I mean all of this concrete, stable stuff,
I know about that reality. But when you talk about consciousness and
conscious experiences, I’m not sure that you’re really talking about anything real. It might just be an illusion. It might be a figure of speech. We could be very, very deeply wrong.” So that’s the view of most of my hard-nosed
physicalist colleagues. “I know about this physical world out there. That’s really solid. It’s something we can really look out and
test. This stuff about consciousness is airy fairy,
wiggly. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s too squishy for me.” But there is a completely different point
of view. It’s to say, “Look, when I look over here,
I’m having an experience, say, that I would call an apple. And so I know that I’m having an experience. And when I close my eyes, my experience of
the apple stops. Now I’m just experiencing a gray field. And you want to tell me that, in fact, there’s
a red apple that still exists even when I’m perceiving a gray field. Well, that’s actually more than I know. All I know is that when I open my eyes, I’m
experiencing a red apple. And when I close my eyes, I’m not. It’s an extra step. And it’s a big jump to say that experience
of the red apple is actually true of a real red apple. And that red apple still exists even when
I’m stopping, when I don’t have that experience. That’s more than I know. I think it’s far less problematic and less
going out there on a limb to just say I have my experiences. And I don’t know what the objective reality
is that’s out there.” So physicalism is actually a stronger and
more problematic claim. It’s saying that there is a reality that in
some way matches our experiences and continues. I’m just saying we have these experiences. So the “cogito, ergo sum” that “I think, therefore
I am,” I think Descartes wasn’t just talking about thinking in the normal sense of like
abstract cogitation, doing reason. I think he was talking about perceiving. And in that sense, I would say yes. I’m having experiences. I’m perceiving. My, thoughts my rationality, I’m experiencing
that as well. That’s the starting point. And I would say I wouldn’t go all the way
with Descartes. He says therefore I am. I don’t know what the word “I” refers to there. Certainly conscious experiences seem to exist
from that. The “I” may be another construct, another
symbol that I make. So the symbol that I call Don, the I, may
not be absolutely necessary for the experience. So I don’t know if I’d go all the way with
Descartes on that. But I would go part of the way and say, yes,
saying that there is a world of experience is going less out on a limb than saying that
there is a world of objective objects that resembles my world of experience, in addition
to my experiences. So in my own scientific investigations, I’ve
proposed a very controversial theory. And I’ve gotten lots of very pointed and sharp
criticism, some in print, some published, some in person. And what I found is I’ve learned a lot from
each of the criticisms. In many cases, they forced me to think about
an aspect of the theory that I had not thought about that way before. And in some cases, they put me into days of
doubt, where I was looking at that part of the theory, wondering about it, and then either
revising the theory or realizing, “oh, wow, the theory has resources that I didn’t realize
to deal with that problem.” And that’s the power of a nice theory, by
the way, a mathematically precise theory. When you write down the theory, the theory
then becomes your teacher. It becomes smarter than you in a way. When Einstein wrote down the equations of
general relativity, he did not know that they entailed the existence of black holes. In that sense, the equations were smarter
than Einstein. Einstein didn’t believe in black holes for
decades. The equations were very clear that they could
exist. Einstein said, no. And it turned out Einstein was wrong and the
equations were right. So it is very interesting. We do these theories because we can learn
from them. But when you have criticisms, it forces you
to– it forced me to examine parts of my theory very, very carefully and ask, “Is this correct? Do I need to revise? Or are there the resources within the theory
to handle this objection?” And in many cases, I discovered new strengths
in the theory that I hadn’t known before. And then I would use them later on as advertisements
for the theory: “You might say such and such is a problem, here’s the answer.” And that often, then– a lot of my colleagues
now when I talk with them, I know the first 10 objections they’re going to have because
I’ve been given those objections. I’ve thought about them. So I give them the objections. I give them the answers. And so it forces the discussion to a new level
which is good. All the easy objections, quote unquote “easy
objections” are taken out of the picture. Let’s go deeper. Give me an objection I’ve not heard before
so I can learn something new. And that’s sort of the attitude. Take the objections. Learn from them. It’s always a growing experience. If you have the attitude “If someone is disagreeing
with me, no, I’m not going to listen to that,” that’s when you stop learning.

100 thoughts on “Truth vs Reality: How we evolved to survive, not to see what’s really there | Donald Hoffman”

  1. The path of a water skier behind a motor boat, roughly tracks the path of the boat, but is not identical to it.
    Is our perception of the world loosely coupled to it, as is the skier's path loosely coupled to boat's path, or is it completely decoupled?
    Many people could probably accept the former, but the later would be highly counter-intuitive.

  2. The more we progress in all our knowledge the more we realize we don't know anything. Understanding the orgins of things that govern and dictate our perception of human origin and purpose. This should be the driving factor behind everything we do. Because without knowing this, we are then functioning devoid of any knowledge of our true purpose, and we will continuously pursue what we think is true happiness

  3. There were situations in commercial advertising that brought attention to the circumstances of "Truth in Labeling", a legal matter of principle, that is related to WYSIWYG expectations. It's very easy to mislable/misattribute cause-effect phenomena of identity and process/function, eg wave-particle probability in potential possibility positioning, at the finest scales of quantum orbital in resonance imaging.

    If as a result of the misattribution of phenomena to "outside intent", the human cultural behaviours are now antiquated institutional anthropomorphic identities and practices of the kind Galileo confronted, then the theory and experiment sciencing that reduces empirical beliefs to a cultural inquiry into Truth in Labeling practical purposes, that is all there is to do, (overstatement of simplicity).

    So, in support of the topic, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet", and a big cat can perform the same immanent death function whether or not it's got a name, label or local identity, ..that disregards global/contextual truth.

    Quantum Dualism, or mathematical functionalities of pure relative motion such as Einstein believed in, are forever incomplete as theoretical identities, particularly if the context, (self-defining modulation is not either a real infinitesimal or notional object), is the cause-effect modulation of Singularity positioning that is the mathematical objective limit, Eternity-now, confining the theory to Actuality, here-now-forever. We should at least be aware of the reasons why the Observable Universe is functionally, a "known probability stratum of uncertainty", Math-Phys-Chem and Geometry in Spacetime.

  4. I don't have an accurate representation of reality, except for the theorem I proved that I don't have an accurate representation of reality. That's convenient. If fitness payoff destroys the information about reality, is that claim itself just optimization of the fitness payoff function and has nothing to do with truth about reality?

  5. I'm very skeptical of any evolution simulations that try to prove anything beyond simple principles because we have very little clue on how environment interacts with our biology and specifically genes, to produce a more fit offspring. Heck we can't even figure out how our sexuality works, the major principles of producing offsprings. However, I'm puzzled why there's a need to run a simulation in the first place. Evolution, by its very definition, does not claim reproduction to be a correlation function with "reality". It only claims that those who produce (statistically) more offsprings, get to move on. That's it.

  6. How can anything be 'objective'?
    What perspective are you going to use to verify the objectivity of any experience?
    To postulate the existence of any experience without reference to the perspective from which the thing is being experienced…is delusion.

  7. When you hardcore reality man bread pie, but that truth broke in the back window and you couldn't do nothing about it, not even shots kiddo boy……

  8. Navigators didn't believe that, outdoorsmen who lived with the stars didn't believe that! NPC's believed that maybe.
    Only a few churchmen did not believe Galileo

  9. Probably right I've heard this before, not culling the defective, protecting and helping the weak! Has done us much harm! Generational welfare alone is genocide for the human race! Encouraging the bottom 1% to breed

  10. He's a con man. Doesn't the world have enough of these?

    His is an argument that, a priori , assumes the flow of ratiocentric logic about the reality of the very structure of the material substrate (in the process of evolution) and indeed logic in general, is an accurate one.

    Is it?

    Only from that platform could one say, one way or another, that accurate information about objective reality enhances (or not) an organism's chances of furthering the species.

    As to the specific observation that some organisms get no long-term survival boost due to better "seeing" reality more accurately than many others (and how the hell can he know his observation is correct even if he has the grand panoramic view of evolution to view as if viewing a painted diorama???), he assumes that the input and data from learned individuals poring over paleontology and microbology and genetics, et. al., research is accurate.

    Is it? If he thinks so, how can he know that presuppositions have not altered his findings? Are other explanations out there? Likely so. The human brain is but one of many mechanisms for survival, like horns, sharp teeth, and maternal care of young. It may very well be that it, and its associated consciousness, is an epiphenomenon of the interaction of genes, with no specific direction or goal, as Richard Dawkins pointed out. That it renders no long-term solutions to the rough and capricious metaphysical nightmare that is Life on Earth, is no big surprise. Even the mighty carnosaurs are gone. On a long enough timeline, everything falls apart.

    But in any case, his is an old, old, hack: Deny reality by appealing to the apparent contradictory nature of how things seem, or perhaps linguistic con games, but in turn, defaulting to logical findings pulled from…reality.

    Yes, reality is filtered variously by various organisms and indeed intraspecies, etc. Golly gee, no! Has anyone in the natural sciences truly doubted that?

    Some organisms have a "darkling" view of reality, say, as with other vertebrates. Some others, like worms and microbes, mere shadow and chemical detection. We operate at different levels. True.

    But his take delves into mysticism rather too easily, of the variety where the observer creates reality, and other such ghostly Copenhagenesque nonsense that is not supported in other important aspects of everyday life where the power, if real, would truly come in handy to play. Like, say, perceiving myself into winning the lottery, or becoming the go-to guy for young female Swedish hot tub enthusiasts.

    The "observer creates reality" notion is just spooky action at the micro (quantum) level, and yet oddly not the macro level (where most of us in the workaday world spend our thoughts and indeed our very lives). This would tend to indicate that this merely means we don't have it pat down yet as to what is going on in some micro interactions–not that observations "create" reality at that level. Or any level.

    This kind of chicanery reminds me of the proffys in the 1960s and 70s who got their weed-headed students into funky bull sessions about how, as language "shapes" reality, can we say now that uttering "The cat is on the mat." might not mean that a dear little fluffy pet carnivore is plunked down relaxing on a piece of fabric on the floor, but rather that perhaps some sentences are mathematical in essence, representations of the Universe, and so the cat IS a mat. And the "matness" is "catness", in vital essence, materially.

  11. Money is an abstract concept created by man, you can live without money, but cant survive without it in the modern world/hell we created.

  12. Imagine that absolute Truth revealed Itself to you. And although It is totally abstract, and cannot be represented by mathematics, you would be able to see which theories are headed in the correct "direction" and which are not. And you would know the very Meaning of Life. Such is the case….for those with ears to hear. Give me a "click" for more…..

  13. The biggest "reality" that many evolved/naturally selected selves don't realize is not-self, i.e. everything or the whole universe is one unified, ever-changing thing, and separation of one into separate things is generated in the mind for the purpose of survival. As long as we live, we are forced to often see everything from the self and "divided stuff" perspective.

  14. There is no such thing, as death. Just a label called life. Reality is incomprehensible with out buffers to support your construction of thought. That's why he seeks to explain things, so he can understand them as a shared experience. You are like a television show that is being consumed for mindless entertainment of overlords. You mustn't forgo yourself to sustain someone else's perceptions. The cow must not willingly offer itself to the lion. However the cow will be the downfall of all lions. To much pure oxygen will awaken us to the real world. Lol this is fun.

  15. Anyone else find them selves in this cycle…..Meditate- become happy and content but less motivated….Lose motivation – become unsuccessful. …..become unsuccessful – become stressed /unhappy. Rinse and repeat .

  16. Restricted vision fitness payoff strategy may be theoretically optimal for survival of individuals – but not for the species as whole. That's likely why evolution has promoted the possibility that at least a limited population will seek deeper/broader truths. Those people help protect the species as a whole from new large scale events that the restricted vision folks could never foresee.

  17. This sounds so similar to Jordan Peterson’s conception of reality. But in the case of Peterson it’s not that we don’t perceive what is true but that truth must be redefined to mean that thing which we perceive that gives us a survival advantage. Like Nietzsche’s idea that truth is that which serves life.

  18. Fitness beats truth (FBT) looks as one step too far from the wise and commonsensical Interface Theory of Perception {in very short, our perceptual systems do not provide a veridical representation of objective reality). It looks that the current assertion in the video (Fitness Functions almost certainly destroy information about the world) goes well beyond the FBT itself. How would you qualify your approach. Is it the result of a fitness function within the systemic of scientific academia and university world, and should therefore « do better » (interestingly vague terminology). Or is it the pursuit of theorem based truth that takes us even further away from a veridical representation of objective reality. I clearly fail to grasp your intent, despite seeking. Any light?

  19. "…that Will itself, the Will to Power—the unexhausted, procreating life-will…And this secret spake Life herself unto me. "Behold," said she, "I am that which must ever surpass itself.
    To be sure, ye call it will to procreation, or impulse towards a goal, towards the higher, remoter, more manifold: but all that is one and the same secret…And even thou, discerning one, art only a path and footstep of my will: verily, *my Will to Power walketh even on the feet of thy Will to Truth!*…Thus spake Zarathustra." – Friedrich Nietzsche

  20. "How we evolved to survive by sensing what's really there, and beyond what can be seen… like a Jaguar watching you from a tree branch, or a snake you don't know is there but react to…"

  21. "Truth never changes. Truth's that change are just transient shadows our mind has projected, to some degree of satisfaction as representatives of things which are actually beyond our comprehension, or logical skill level according to some standard; and are therefor not truths at all, but transient beliefs. Pi is truth, 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 377 610… is truth. Unchanging pillars of Gods creation. That which is true does not require your belief for it to have existence or meaning. You require said belief only if you have yet seen it for yourself, and wish to benefit from the kind of metanoia that comes from understanding eternal truth; and so turning away from ignorance of it, which allows you the chance to return to alignment with creation and the movement of God's will through us and on earth. Belief is like standing in the glow of the light, understanding is like becoming the beacon that emanates it. Hosanna! S"

  22. In terms of fitness payoffs and truth-preserving representations, you are analyzing a static case when you say the truth-preserving set is worse. In the case where one has to be prepared for changing sets of fitness payoffs that could potentially encompass any elements of the truth (pre-existing diversity as a preparation for an unknown future), I would bet that the truth-preserving representations would start to win out, as they have the potential for adaptation to any new shift in payoffs. In fact, only the totally truth-encompassing representations, when evaluated against ALL possible payoffs, can cover them. Am I missing something? I realize that this is not the question asked, exactly, but in a sense is a more relevant and real-world scenario where payoffs can change.

  23. "Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter was just energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves." – Bill Hicks

  24. You are thinking about the objective reality of an Apple VS. the Subjective reality of an Apple… They aren't the same. One is sensory input from our eyes or our mouths, and the other is chemical connections in our brain that we call memory. The two can't be the same, but they can have the same meaning, which is arbitrary… depending on experience… Apples we have eaten, or have learned about… are good to eat. Does this Apple fall into our experience of Apples that are good to eat. It's a survival comparative structure… Do it correctly and you survive, you thrive… animals that survive and thrive sufficiently have more chances to mate and pass their genes on… Survival has nothing to do with sanity, but only to do with judgement based on experience. Can I eat this Apple a survive? That's it. You don't need massive amounts of intelligence, just some learning, some experience, with eating Apples.
    I once though that, for every poison, for every deadly food, someone in our history had to eat that and die… or get sick… And someone had to experience that illness or death, who survived.
    Sanity or insanity has nothing to do with the outcome. Or… a sane person can eat a bad apple & die the same way a Moron would.

  25. SB 4.29.2b: Everything happening within time, which consists of past, present and future, is merely a dream. That is the secret understanding in all Vedic literature.
    http://Www.vedabase.com/en/sb/4/29/2b

  26. Human life is far more complex than this. Reducing life to a game is ridiculous. Human consciousness, language, culture and social living make life far more complex than any Mathematical game can cater for.

  27. 'Fitness Payoff' is not the opposite to 'Truth'. 'Fitness Payoff' is a subset of 'Truth'.
    'Fitness Payoff' can be better understood as 'Relevant Truth'.

    Seeing the oxygen level that is most conducive to our survival as green and everything else as red is just as true as seeing the highest 50% as green and the lowest 50% as red. They are BOTH true representations of reality. The only thing that has changed between these two examples is the relevance.

    Truths that are more relevant to our survival are obviously going to be made more salient to us over the course of natural selection.

  28. The individual experiences less truth (fitness payoff) accuracy than the collective. Thus we are a social species.

    If I am understanding the implications of all this, it's that we should occupy some state between a rational pre-frontal cortex and our animal instincts. Or just die off and quit playing.

  29. 19:40 what about the passengers in the train, do they need to fear they are not real because the train is not? and now, the one run over by the train is dead. he's spread out all over the place. the passengers – even those who didn't take notice of the accident in the first place – agree that a man was overrun by the train they were sitting in. So they have different perceptions and different vantage points but they ALL agree?

    I think the only way around that is saying: not only the train is "unreal" but everything and especially everyone else is "unreal" as well except yourself because you think therefore you are (real).

    And as for the Moon. There's plenty of photographic evidence that it actually exists. Not EVERY photo can be a fake. Unless digital cameras have consciousness as well, or is it because they were made by conscious beings?

  30. Our sense can never decide on the true nature of RELATIVE movement. Whether the earth is rotating on its axis or whether the entire universe is rotating around the earth it would appear the same.

  31. Side note: Abiogenesis is false. Natural selection occurs within a species but one species does not morph into another. Darwinism is largely a religion. See "Signature in the Cell."

  32. So Dr. Hoffman. What are the mechanisms of your simulation, and you are claiming to have proved an existentialist question with math?

  33. Surely, all of this is already known. It should be well known to everyone how limited our senses are & how fallible the human brain is.

  34. As I've been taught, and what is re-iterrated repeatedly by those who talk intelligently about scientific method, is that what we, as a species, describe as reality are nothing more than rigorously tested models that are based on observations of properties that are, themselves, also defined by using a model of objective reality. Any first-year physics primer begins, Chapter 1, with a lengthy discussion on how the basic physical units such as length, weight, time, and so on are defined to begin with i.e. that we can define it at all; there is also discussion about the evolution — the history — of the models that achieved the current definitions (the kilogram, I think, being the last unit to have a basis in mathematics or a natural process). Fuethermore, the descriptions of the natural world are just that – descriptions and the naming of phenomena that, hopefully, amounts to a more accurate description that also describes a larger set of observations of phenomena in objective reality. It appears to me, though, that a tacit humility is shared amongst scientists of note such as Sean Caroll and occupying positions in the STEM Dept. of Univ. Of Nottingham; namely, that these are about as good a model of reality as we have thus far_. We have hardly scratched the surface of gaining certainty as to the true nature of reality as well as eliciting answers to _most of the questions we might might pose of it.

    Biologically-speaking, those who have had (and continue to have) better models of reality, will likely do better, evolutionarily.

    Those models don't necessarily have to do with reality in-itself. They just have to be "accurate enough" to the domain and rigors of the creature in question, and in our case, a good-enough model for what it takes to thrive (whatever that — thriving — may mean), wherever one is while living out their life in 2019 — good, bad or no science at all.

  35. My only stipulation would be that fitness payoffs are not exactly destroying information. I thiiiink we're trying to say that fitness payoffs select against the ability to render information accurately. And also…I'm there. I'm right there. How do we deal with just about everything we think being wrong? How do we deal with empiricism and a pursuit of that truth reducing fitness?
    I'm gonna go sit in a goddamn pond

  36. This is the mechanism they use to trick you. Luckily for real humans it doesnt work, only works on those domesticated filth mimicking their masters. I think we call them pets.

  37. I still don't see Galileo N2 here, but rather a wishy-washy blah blah blah.
    When the miss-presence of a train (with closed eyes/ears/…) and therefore its not existence will be taken literally I'll come back to see.

  38. yeah , you remind me that i keep seeing a miracle (alphabet / word) and keep ignoring it because of a very few cases of not understanding and of course the protection from ‘maybe it’s made by the enemy to impose it on us so they might feel superior’ , yeah but , what if , what if it’s made by them , i’m still gonna try recognize it and talk about it , and most likely i don’t want it , call it my own , but i’m still gonna try recognize it as it is beautiful

  39. I'm interested in the ideas he wants to communicate, but I'm having trouble following him. He needs to be more concise and get to his examples and proofs more quickly. He's clearly smart but not a born communicator.

  40. Idk. To me, life is not like a video game. Video games are a lot like life. Mankind always seems to be trying to replicate God's works… which makes sense. So here we are wondering if what we know as "existence" is real or not. REAL…REAL-ity. I feel like many of Mister Hoffman's questions will be answered when he passes into the spirit world because, I believe, most spirits will believe that survival will be satisfied by obtaining knowledge and dealing with emotions there just like we think we need food and drink to exist here.

    My argument is that what we are witnessing is very real just like it will be after we die but we just won't be witnessing it from a physical creature's body any longer. And because we won't have one, we won't be able to 3d it any longer. No more 3d avatar. But we still get to play! We'll discover there's been a translucent avatar all the while. The one you'll know personally through consciousness and sleep because it'll be you. In fact, we'll realize, eventually, that the spirit you is far more real than the physical you based on time. And the spirit you does have a body. So I would suggest imagining all your same wonders in comparison between those two perceptions. As if I was a human and/or as if I was a spirit because we don't become spirits, we already are and that's why we long for Truth and Love as well as food and water but we don't need any of it to exist.

    Here's what I've been wondering…
    Where does the other side of the particle go? That's what I want to know. Why does it simulate its partner, from where it came, regardless of the distance between them?

  41. so that is why people with schizophrenia perceive senses the way they do. There is also research in biomes and how that affects mental health.

  42. "Organisms that saw the truths". Hmm. Truths as defined by who? If the theory is correct, then surely it disqualifies the research.

  43. I saw this question recently; "A man discovers a cave, and in that cave are the skeletal remains of a human. On the wall is written four words, what four words?"

    My answer was "I think therefore I"

  44. I prefer Sean Carroll's theory that there is no collapse of the wave function. The 'Many Worlds Interpretation' sits better with me – Everything is always there.

  45. Does Donald Hoffman think we mistake what we see THAT often? Or that our minds access memory in a detached icon-based way? I’m sympathetic to his point but our minds aren’t exactly a desktop screen – a desktop screen has 0% intuitive action potential. It has 0% abductive reasoning ability. While Donald runs his computer simulations, humans all over the world know loads of things intuitively they can’t explain. These aren’t delusions simply built for survival instead of accuracy. When a firefighter hears a certain kind of creak – he doesn’t know why, but he knows to get everyone out of the building – and sure enough – it collapses right as they leave. That info isn’t a mere survival adaptation – it’s a very rich, deep, and accurate unconscious / intuitive assessment which he can’t explain.

  46. I don't mind adverts at the beginning or the end but having them in the middle is really distracting/annoying.

    Would it be possible to change this for future videos or even on this one.

    Many thanks

  47. Information is never destroyed. That is the central item in the hawking vs suskind debate. The math says no, information cannot be lost or destroyed.

  48. I would like to know more details about these evolutionary game simulations in random worlds? how exactly these were run?

  49. Even within its own seemingly flawed context, the red green analogy seems invalid? The argument is that the 50/50 split has more truth knowledge than the small green % oxygen version. But this seems false. Both creatures would have the exact same amount of truth information. They both know the levels of oxygen in the environment from 0 to 100 at all times. Each has slightly different tuning, ie one has small but detailed portion and a large un-detailed portion, the other has more evenly split portions of info. But the sum total for both creates remains the same. If this is the case then the fit for purpose might still be an argument but the levels of truth can no longer play a part.

  50. very interesting stuff. Some have written that his communication is perhaps no the best, but I think he is remaining understated in order to minimize any misinterpretations along the lines of quantum foo-foo etc. Each point is taken to the point of near undeniability if you attend carefully, but not reduced to a Tedx.

  51. Except Think and Am are also subjective.
    If reality is just math and perspection is random, you don't truly exist at all. The thoughts going through the brain you are experiencing could also be quantified as simple probability. Your perception of having done anything at all could be false.

  52. interesting arguement

    whilst i can see how in a particular organism, natural evolution would favour those organisms more tuned to fitness goals over those more tuned into reality, and how this might lead to loss of information about the world (wasn't sure of the maths presented but if an organism is more tuned to fitness than reality then by definition it doesn't know reality as much as it would if it had been tuned into reality, this is my understandng of loss of information), it is still a pretty big leap to suggest that this means that physical objects don't exist until we percieve them.

    the arguement presented gives an indication as to how it is that things that we percieve may not be true, and this is confirmed in cases like our senses decieving us, but we have reasons to see how this is the case. in the case of physical objects not existing until we percieve them, this is just speculation, it may be true, or it may not, the argument presented is just the possibility of this being the case, not that it is the case itself.

  53. "Objective reality" and "Ultimate truth" are a term without substance. Real purpose of science is not searching for a "Truth", but producing algorithms that allowed predict future, optimise our actions and increase our chances for survival.

  54. It has some theoretical basis from the domain of signal processing too. It goes like this. Our senses are transformation functions that transform the input space to another space, where the same data can be used for extracting meaningful features. Notice that I used the word 'meaningful' which automatically means that there are certain parts of the input space that are not meaningful. Hence, this transformation is a reduction transformation, or a lossy transformation wherein much of the original data is lost. Now the question is, how does our senses know what needs to be kept and what needs to be thrown out? It does so in a algorithmic way which follows from a class of algorithms called 'the genetic algorithm'. Mutations of certain aspects of the sensory functions are randomly chosen and their success and failure rates are measured over thousands of years. Whether to keep the trait or discard it, is taken care of by Darwin's natural selection mechanism, wherein a trait not conducive to the survival of the species is slowly slowly killed off, at each generation and after a few hundred generations, they are completely eliminated. So, as Prof. Hoffman said, this has nothing to do with accurate representation of reality. In fact, to truly make sense of reality (and not go extinct), we must have a low resolution version of reality that which is geared towards species survival.

  55. All is Mind. You are not the body. This is knowable. In reality you don't die. This place is a lower manifestation, known as Pinda. All the greatest truth-knowers are able to die in their bodies (yogis) and travel to the upper regions. This will be accepted one day, but not until it is clear your current level of understanding is irrelevant. Find the Supreme; find Samadhi. Aho

  56. The electromagnetic spectrum our eyes detect, the particulate matter our noses and tongues detect, these things do objectively exist. Color, smell, taste…these are just our words to describe the means by which we have evolved to experience objectively real phenomena. Certainly my eye and brain may process the color of the sky differently than somebody else's, but what we're processing is objectively real…as demonstrated by the fact that we both process it. For that matter, countless studies…including those on perception of color, smell, taste, and so on…objectively demonstrate that other species we generally consider to be non-sentient also experience these phenomena.

    Dr. Hoffman is unwittingly demonstrating the proverbial, "Putting the cart before the horse." When one dedicates one's life to the study of subjective experience, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that most things couldn't be subjectively experienced by multiple people if they didn't objectively exist. His theorem only drives home the point that Natural Selection is not just about Advantage vs. Disadvantage (See Also: Logical Fallacy; False Dichotomy); Biology includes countless examples of Neutral quality…offering neither advantage nor disadvantage. Evolution is full of organisms that don't "sense" things perfectly but "sense" them well enough. There are countless objective realities throughout the universe, the understanding of which offers absolutely no Evolutionary advantage…or disadvantage. Moreover, as Dr. Richard Dawkins' book "The Selfish Gene" demonstrates, Natural Selection is not about individual genetic heredity; it is a Theory of population dynamics wherein survival of a group (rather than the self) is the ultimate, albeit unconscious goal. That survival may involve a trait that sacrifices bite strength in exchange for a larger cranial space, but the environment itself doesn't change because of that trait. In the context of Dr. Hoffman's theorem (not to be confused with Theory), our ability to subjectively "perceive" reality doesn't actually change the objective reality itself. His disks and cubes example is faulty because it is specifically designed to use "tricks" of Evolutionary Psychology that could only have been developed if there were reference points in objective reality. Our minds "create" the cube because the optical illusion is designed to make us do so, based on the objective understanding that cubes do in fact exist, and only those who have ever observed one will fill in that image.

    His example of Oxygen concentration is egocentric. It assumes that no life could exist outside the level that supports the life that does currently exist. However, Evolutionary Biologists…and Theoretical Physicists for that matter…overwhelmingly agree that if the environment were other than how it is, different organisms would evolve to exist within that system. It's not that 19.5% – 22.5% is necessary for LIFE; it's just necessary for OUR life because we evolved in an environment where 19.5%-22.5% is the oxygen concentration level. I get that his point was, "You don't have to understand the WHOLE truth to survive; you just have to understand the RIGHT RANGE of truth." I agree with that conclusion, as demonstrated in my second paragraph. Unfortunately it largely defeats the first ten minutes of the video because it makes an argument that objective truth actually does exist; we just don't need to subjectively perceive it all in order to survive. That's very different from the idea that Life, the Universe, and Everything only exist to the extent that we perceive them.

    That's why, contrary to his claim, we…scientists…generally don't believe that the physical properties of the universe exist as we perceive them. Perhaps he should have brought in some actual Biologists or Physicists (or even other Psychologists) in on his research…rather than just mathematicians and computer modelers. They would very quickly point out that History is replete with examples (like Galileo) of how our perceptions demonstrably don't represent reality. Again, he employs a False Dichotomy; Natural Selection versus Physicalism. In fact, generally speaking, those who accept Physicalism…like the Church in the time of Galileo…are less likely to accept Evolution, and vice versa, even to this day. That's because Physicalism is actually Science! Science seeks to look past "perception of reality" to discover actual reality, often by employing experiments and tools that have nothing to do with what's needed to survive. That said, having embraced the fact that what we subjectively perceive doesn't necessarily reflect reality has allowed our species to flourish to such a point that the planet itself can no longer sustain it. Ironically it is those who refuse to embrace objective reality and refuse to modify their individual (and collective) behaviors that may just bring about that "point of no return".

    As with String Theory (which is technically still only a Hypothesis) the computer models and mathematical computations are solid, but the observable data don't support it. I'm sure he's a brilliant Psychologist, but his understanding of Evolutionary Biology, Physics, and basically every other scientific field are demonstrably rudimentary. For that matter, if I close my eyes and can no longer see an apple in front of me, but somebody else next does not close their eyes, if they say the apple is still there, it would be irrational to conclude that they're lying just because I can see it. OPEN YOUR EYES, DOCTOR! Funny that he would also reference Black Holes…something we can't see but which are very definitely real!

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