Multimodal user interface (MUI) theory

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Jun 29, 2021
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The case against reality by Donald D. Hoffman Subtitled “How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes”

  • Multimodal user interface (MUI) theory*: MUI theory states that “perceptual experiences do not match or approximate properties of the objective world, but instead provide a simplified, species-specific, user interface to that world.”
Perception is not a window on objective reality. It is an interface that hides objective reality behind a veil of helpful icons.
I take my perceptions seriously, but not literally.
startling “Fitness-Beats-Truth” (FBT) theorem, which states that evolution by natural selection does not favor true perceptions—it routinely drives them to extinction. Instead, natural selection favors perceptions that hide the truth and guide useful action.
Space, time, and physical objects are not objective reality. They are simply the virtual world delivered by our senses to help us play the game of life.
Physics and evolution point to the same conclusion: spacetime and objects are not foundational. Something else is more fundamental, and spacetime emerges from it.
Our senses report fitness, and an error in this report could ruin your life. So our senses use “error-correcting codes” to detect and correct errors. Spacetime is just a format our senses use to report fitness payoffs and to correct errors in these reports.
we differ from rocks in two key respects. First, we experience sensations. Second, we have “propositional attitudes,” such as the belief that rocks don’t have headaches we also have meaning, problem solving capability and enactors
Like a rock, we have bona fide physical properties. But unlike a rock, we have conscious experiences and propositional attitudes. Are these also physical? If so, it’s not obvious: What is the mass of dizziness, the velocity of a headache, or the position of the wonder why Chris won’t call?
Our failure to envision a mechanism does not preclude one. Perhaps we’re not clever enough, and an experiment will teach us what we can’t surmise from an armchair. After all, we invest in experiments because they often repay us in surprise.
Sperry’s explanation was simple and profound. When you fixate on the cross in KEY + RING, the neural pathways from eye to brain send KEY only to the right hemisphere, and RING only to the left. If the corpus callosum is intact, the right hemisphere then tells the left about KEY, and the left tells the right about RING, so that the person sees KEY RING.
What false assumption bedevils our efforts to unravel the relation between brain and consciousness? I propose it is this: we see reality as it is.
::Perception is always relative to WII. WII creates the context and filter for our perception::
::Placebo as example of reality models making reality::
beauty is a perception of fitness payoffs on offer,
The predictions of evolution about beauty are surprising but, as we will see in chapter nine, its predictions about physical objects are disconcerting: objects, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder and inform us about fitness—not about objective reality.
Genes don’t elbow each other directly. They do it by proxy. They boot up bodies and minds—phenotypes—and let them duke it out. Phenotypes that fare better at the brawl are, like their respective genotypes, said to be fitter.
I agree wholeheartedly with you that “seeing is an active, constructive process,” that what we see “is a symbolic interpretation of the world,” and that “in fact we have no direct knowledge of objects in the world.” Indeed I think perception to be like science: a process of constructing theories given the available evidence. We see the theories we believe. As you say, “seeing is believing.”
“Our minds evolved by natural selection to solve problems that were life-and-death matters to our ancestors, not to commune with correctness.”
Truth and fitness, they claim, are not rival strategies, but rather the same strategy, seen from different perspectives. Thus evolution cannot render an impartial verdict. This argument fails because it forgets a simple point about fitness: according to standard accounts of evolution, although fitness payoffs depend on the true state of the world, they also depend on the organism, its state, its action, and its competition.
::Fitness is a much more complex construction than the “truth” (epistemology) of reality (“ontology”). It depends on the organism (self), its purpose, perception of current position (itself dependent on its stock of value-theories), situational theory-of-action, and enaction::.
Evolution assumes that there are physical objects in space and time, such as DNA, RNA, chromosomes, ribosomes, proteins, organisms, and resources. It could not, without refuting itself, conclude that natural selection drives true perceptions to extinction. For then the very language of space, time, and physical objects would be the wrong language to describe objective reality. The insight that Darwin’s algorithm applies not just to the evolution of organic beings but also, with some changes, to a variety of other domains, is called universal Darwinism.9 (Richard Dawkins coined the term when arguing that Darwin’s algorithm governs the evolution of life not just on earth but anywhere in the universe.)
It is an abstract algorithm, with no commitment to substrates that implement it.
Evolution has shaped our senses to keep us alive. We had better take them seriously. If you see a fire, don’t step in; if you see a cliff, don’t step off; if you see a rattlesnake, don’t grab; if you see poison ivy, don’t dine. I must take my senses seriously. Must I therefore take them literally? No. Logic neither requires nor justifies this move.
an illusion is a perception that fails to guide adaptive behavior.
::I think the author has mistakenly conflated 3 ideas into one, and also left out one of the most significant elements to explain his hypothesis. He conflates perceiving apparatus (eg. His example of faeces eating animals), perception filtered by models of reality (I agree), and a solipsism that if we don’t perceive then it doesn’t exist. In the later case this is true in a sense of the “I” and the “situation”, but makes no sense to expand truth statements or hypotheses beyond this.::
::Our perceptions are mirrors of the intersection between our models of reality and reality itself.::
On Fuchs’s interpretation of quantum theory, known as Quantum Bayesianism (or QBism), quantum states describe not the objective world but the beliefs of agents about consequences of their actions.
people who are more aerobically fit make shorter estimates of distance than those who are less fit. This suggests that our perception of a distance depends not just on the energy cost, but rather on the ratio of the energy cost to our available energy.5
Most vision scientists who subscribe to inverse optics or Bayesian estimation agree that action and perception are intimately linked.
I suspect that, if we succeed in this enterprise, we will find that the distinction we make between the living and nonliving is an artifact of limitations of our spacetime interface, not an insight into the nature of reality. We will find a unified description for reality—animate and inanimate—once we take into account the limits of our interface.
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