We All See The Future Like Dick's 'Prethink'
According to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assistant professor Mark Changizi, we can all see the future; we do it every minute of every day.
His argument is drawn from facts about neural processing; it takes about one-tenth of a second for the brain to actually perceive - make sense - out of the data that the eyes send to the brain.
If that's true, how can we do things in real-time, like catch a ball? According to Changizi, our visual system has developed the ability to overcome this gap by presenting a constant projection to the brain. Our brains take the information that our eyes provide, and then present us with a projection of what things will look like in one-tenth of a second.
So, we're constantly seeing the future.
Using this idea, Professor Changizi was able to explain and systematically organize more than fifty types of visual illusions. He says that these "illusions" work because the brain is helplessly projecting what it believes will be happening in the near future.
For example, consider the Hering illusion shown below. The red lines are perceived as curved. This illusion occurs because our brains are predicting the ways that the underlying scene would change if we were moving in the direction of the vanishing point presented by the radial black lines.
(The Hering illusion)
He calls his hypothesis "perceiving-the-present" and presents his findings in the May-June issue of the journal Cognitive Science.
“Illusions occur when our brains attempt to perceive the future, and those perceptions don’t
match reality. There has been great success at discovering and documenting countless visual
illusions. There has been considerably less success in organizing them,” says Changizi, who is
lead author on the paper. “My research focused on systematizing these known incidents of
failed future seeing into a ‘periodic table’ of illusion classes that can predict a broad pattern of
the illusions we might be subject to.”
Naturally, this hypothesis is embraced with delight by science fiction fans. Philip K. Dick's marvelous 1954 story The Golden Man presented the idea that it might be possible to "prethink" like Cris Johnson.
"He can look ahead. See what's coming. He can - prethink. Let's call it that. He can see into the future. Probably he doesn't perceive it as the future."
"No," Anita said thoughtfully. "It would seem like the present.
What would happen if we could expand our ability to prethink?
"As he develops," Baines said, "as his race evolves, it'll probably expand its ability to prethink. Instead of ten minutes, thirty minutes. Then an hour. A day. A year. Eventually, they'll be able to keep ahead a whole lifetime..."
(Read more about prethink)
Find out more about "perceiving-the-present" in Crystal (Eye) Ball: Study Says Visual System Equipped With “Future Seeing Powers” (pdf); see also Changizi's website.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/22/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )
Related News Stories -
Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.
Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.
Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.
Researchers Create Bowls, Coils, Ripples Of Living Tissue
'... biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Elon Musk Seeks To Create 1941 Heinlein Speedster
'The car surged and lifted, clearing its top by a negligible margin.'
Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.
Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell
Art imitates life imitates art.
Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.'
First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.
VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.'
Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop
SF writers have thought about this since the 19th century.
Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...
Galini 3D Printed Sleeping Pod Tiny Houses
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
MIT Boffins Create Psychopath AI On Purpose
There's a lesson in this for neural net AI engineers everywhere.
Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...'
Artificial Sensory Neurons For Prosthetics, Robots
Great for humans and robots!
China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers
Looks like the City Fathers are starting to take over China's education system.
Electronic Tongues Will Rule The Kitchen
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'
Self-Healing Circuits From Carnegie Mellon
'It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures...'
Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories