Friday, August 26, 2005

Is reality the same for everyone

A couple of weeks ago, Lewis Cunningham sent me an interesting URL. It was to an old article by Philip K. Dick, you can read it here. (warning, it is long!)

I really liked his short story about dog. Think about reality from the perspective of a dog for a minute, how might the world look different. To a dog, a garbage man might not be a “good person”.  From the perspective of the dog, perhaps a garbage can is a place his owners carefully place food and the garbage men are therefore thieves.  The author goes onto how the dog could extrapolate from this and how these extrapolations would seem sensible to the dog given the knowledge/view of reality the dog has.

He then wrote:

 And then I began to think, Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans.

And you know what, given the flury of activity over the last couple of days – I believe he has something there.  Some worlds are just very different from others. It would explain why two people can look at the same thing and see totally different meanings. It would definitely explain lots of things :)

It is a long and rambling article near the end, but the first parts at least are worth a read, something to make you go “hmmm”.



Anonymous Jeremy said....

Warning this is unrelated but interesting in a funny way.

This showed up in my inbox today:

Dear Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have purchased Expert One-on-One Oracle by Thomas Kyte also purchased books by Donald Burleson. For this reason, you might like to know that Donald Burleson's Oracle Silver Bullets : Real-World Oracle Performance Secrets (Oracle In-Focus series) is now available in paperback. You can order your copy at a savings of 34% by following the link below.

As Seinfeld would say...Who are these people?

Fri Aug 26, 09:17:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Warning this is unrelated but interesting in a funny way.

Actually, I think it is related. Reading the various exchanges between Tom and Don, I do get the distinct feeling that two people are looking at the same thing and yet are seeing totally different meanings.

Fri Aug 26, 09:45:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....

Interesting article, though it really really rambles.

I think that he, and you, are correct that peoples perception of reality is vastly different - and vastly skewed by understanding of words. How you understand, relate toand perceive language makes a huge difference to how you understand, relate to and perceive the world about you. This is probably the key insight of Wittgenstein's work.

On the whole though I find the extreme post-modern interpretation of this, that we all have our own independent worlds and cannot really communicate, just wrong.

Dick and Wittegenstein both, it seems to me, place undue emphasis on personal experience and too little on replicable results. I rather suspect that this is because they are essentially dealing with the nature of human experience and not with such less interesting realms as the behaviour of databases, or the performance of spacecraft or whatever.

I can't accept that how my database behaves is different from how yours behaves, because it is mine. I can accept that people have different experiences and social and political millieu in which they move, but for example _pga_max_size behaves the same way on all 9205 databases everywhere.

I'd suggest that a good rule of thumb is to be precise about clear technical issues, and to be generous about motives and behaviour. The former is a matter or record, of proof and exceptions; the latter implies judgement about motives, experience and others world views and background.

Talking about campaigns, poor judgement, malice, bad understanding, and so-on falls squarely into the latter category.

Fri Aug 26, 09:48:00 AM EDT  

Blogger yas said....

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words."
The paragraph beginning with this and the comments about TV are great.

Fri Aug 26, 10:05:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

Nothing new.

Somehow I'm reminded of the star trek episode with the half-blacks and the half-whites fighting through eternity.

my database behaves is different from how yours behaves,

Really is quite easily explained by all the other variables that are not held the same.

Fri Aug 26, 10:07:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

One of the statements/ideas/concepts that most impacted my communication was:

It is your audience's reaction that determines the intent of your communication, not the other way around.

For example, if you say something to someone as a compliment, "Hey, looks like you lost some weight." and they look at you with scorn interpreting it as an insult, "You thought I was fat before." Guess what? Your intent was to insult them. Sort of like that physics thing (Heisenberg?) where the act of observing something changes what you are observing.

Fri Aug 26, 11:01:00 AM EDT  

Blogger plasticpony said....

Fantastic thread!!!

According to PKD, our experience of database might be unique...

So, according to one's experience... probably silver bullets do exist, while according to another one's they might not be so good...

Altered state of database may have a more 'psychedelic' meaning...

Forgive me... it's late on friday...


Fri Aug 26, 11:10:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

> It is a long and rambling article
> near the end,

You expected anything else from Philip K Dick? They guy was one of the truly original thinkers of the 20th Century (his novels from the 1950s about how game theory could be applied to politics are almost too painful to read in today's world of minable marketing databases), but like all such his mind also wandered a lot!

Fri Aug 26, 11:26:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

>Altered state of database may have a more 'psychedelic' meaning...

Hmmm...maybe the larger question is...does the data in our databases know that our world exists?

Fri Aug 26, 01:30:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

does the data in our databases know that our world exists?

you just made me think of tron :)

Here is a guy with too much time on his hands

Fri Aug 26, 01:38:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

Or Do Databases Dream of Electric Sheep ? Good enough for a movie.

Fri Aug 26, 01:53:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

interesting read...some thought provoking concepts on modern day social and ideological conditioning...however I found this article more reflective on the 'reality' of the Power of Quantum Computing(will the lowly binary bit go the way of the dinosaurs)

...gotta good laugh from the cartoon at the end.

Fri Aug 26, 03:19:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Tom Best said....

And then there was the day that SMON became self-aware...

Fri Aug 26, 04:22:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Derek Jensen said....

I have thought of a similar thing from time to time, but more related to sensation.

Do we all experience sensations in the same exact way? For instance, how do you know that the way you perceive the sensation of "hot" or of the color "green" is the same as I experience it?

The organic basis of nerves and our brain very strongly suggest that except for people suffering certain maladies, that we do in fact experience sensations in the same way. However, I find it interesting that this is something we can never possibly know for sure.

Furthermore, I'm not sure if this is really deep or merely trivial.

Sat Aug 27, 01:43:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I have thought of a similar thing from time to time, but more related to sensation.

funny, when I replied to Lewis, I myself wrote:

thanks, that was neat.

I've always wondered if "red" looks red to you like it looks like to me. Different perceptions of reality, that would explain a lot about some people :)

I have the same thoughts if you will. Does red look the same to everyone.

Furthermore, I'm not sure if this is really deep or merely trivial.

If true, I think it would explain alot about the "left and right" side of discussions.

Sat Aug 27, 05:29:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Noons said....

Have a look at the entry for 24th Aug in Shrek's:

Yup, the native Americans thought about this one a long time before any of us...

Sun Aug 28, 08:52:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

that we do in fact experience sensations in the same way.

no, we don't. I think you may be seeing that suggestion because the science is still at a very general level, so mass media represenations skew towards generalities. Or maybe you are just missing that quantitative differences in sensation can become qualitative - particularly pain. Repetition and experience can alter any type of sensation.

But it is easy to demonstrate varying perception even in a given person, as in the various perception links on this blog. Beyond that, even undergraduate biology majors learn about overlapping color receptivity among photoreceptor compounds, and how differing ratio's of those compounds affect frequency sensitivity. And there's more.

Don't we all know color blind people?

Howard, as usual you are correct. I don't see that anyone is excusing DKB with this, I think that they are just trying to put some of the (sometimes ridiculous) postings into a rational context so we can deal without flamage.

I like shrek's Aug. 22 entry :-)

Mon Aug 29, 04:26:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

From National Geographic Kids magazine:

Ask a friend to say "white" ten times. Then ask you friend to say "white" ten more times, only louder. Now quickly ask this question: "What does a cow drink?"

This demonstrates brain priming.

Tue Aug 30, 10:23:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I don't see that anyone is excusing DKB with this

No, I certainly wasn't trying to excuse him. Given that I have a four-year degree in mathematics, I definitely prefer Tom's methodology over Don's. Any time I find myself slipping into that "Rule of Thumb" / "Silver Bullet" mindset, I just visit AskTom to get myself back on the straight and narrow.

Tom, I'm definitely looking forward to your new book.

Tue Aug 30, 11:21:00 AM EDT  


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