Monday, May 16, 2016

H.P. Lovecraft and the 15-second Delay from Reality

Back in 1926, H.P. Lovecraft wrote the following words in his now famous short story "The Call of Cthulhu":

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

According to a 4-7-14 article published on, H.P. Lovecraft was absolutely right.

If we can believe the research conducted by a team of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, human beings are on a 15-second delay from reality.  Why would this be?  The simple answer:  To keep us all from going insane.

What follow are the first few paragraphs of the article:

"Scientists have revealed the human brain has a 15-second lag that helps stabilize incoming visual information, which we don’t notice bombarding us in the course of our everyday lives.
"Eyes tend to receive an enormous information load from dusk till dawn, and as one opens his or her eyes in the morning, the brain starts its intensive work, processing incoming pictures from the surroundings, including imagery from TV screens and computer monitors. 

"A team of vision scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed this secret of the human brain: To save us from insanity induced by a constantly changing torrent of pictures, shapes and colors – both virtual and real world – the brain filters out information, failing in most cases to notice small changes in a 15-second period of time.

"It actually means that what we do see is, in fact, a mixture of past and present. According to the research, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, stability is attained at the expense of accuracy. 

"'What you are seeing at the present moment is not a fresh snapshot of the world but rather an average of what you've seen in the past 10 to 15 seconds,' said study author Jason Fischer, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at MIT."

To read the rest of this article, entitled "Brain '15-second Delay' Shields Us from Hallucinogenic Experience," click HERE.

According to a far more recent article, cognitive scientist David Hoffman contends he has employed evolutionary game theory to demonstrate that "our perceptions of an independent reality must be illusions."  Here are the first two paragraphs of Amanda Gefter's 4-21-16 article entitled "The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality:"

"As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
"Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction."

Further along in the article, Gefter quotes Hoffman as saying:

"Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive.  But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know.  And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be.”

To read the entirety of Gefter's article, click HERE.

To read the entirety of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu," click HERE.

As an extra-special bonus, you will see below a sketch of the ultraterrestrial Cthulhu drawn by Lovecraft himself in 1934, the very first illustration of this most ubiquitous fictional (?) fiend....

File:Cthulhu sketch by Lovecraft.jpg

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