January 31, 2007

Amen

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What You See (Part 2)

A Caribbean legend tells of the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

The legend says that the indians on the island where Columbus landed could not see his ships approaching. They saw the ripples in the sea, far away, and were struck with wonder at why such disturbances were occurring in the water. After two or three days of these disturbances moving closer to shore, a shaman was finally able to see the ships. The shaman then went back to his people, described what he saw, and from then on, all of the indians on the island could see the ships.

No one could see the enormous Spanish clippers at first, the legend continues, because they had never seen such things before. They recognized the ripples in the sea because they knew and understood the water, but they had no way to conceptualize what was creating the disturbances because they had no previous associations of such things in their minds.

Once the indians had been told about the approaching ships by their shaman, and had the idea set into their minds, they could finally see the ships and would always recognize them as such.


January 30, 2007

What You See (Part 1)

When a camera takes in an image, it is objective and records what comes through its lens, without bias, not giving preference to one piece of information over another. The brown book sitting on the shelf is as important to the camera as the red fingernail raised toward the sky.

When the brain takes in an image, it receives 400,000,000,000 bits of information each second, but only processes 2,000 of those bits because the brain has a network of neurons that has been trained to use associations, both of objections and of familiarity, to sort information into quickly usable portions of fuel for decision making.

When watching a movie, is the focus on the streetlight in the background or the exploding truck in the foreground? The camera makes no separation between one bit of light and another, but the brain does.


January 29, 2007

Authentic Fake Picassos

A friend of Pablo Picasso recounts this story...

I was staying with Picasso in his studio. Every day, dealers would come by to authenticate paintings they were trying to sell. They would ask Picasso if the painting was real or a fake.

A dealer came by one day with a painting, Picasso glanced at it, and without hesitating said, "fake." Later that day, two more were identified as fakes.

The next day, a different dealer came by. Picasso hardly looked up. "Fake!" he bellowed.

After the dealer left, I couldn't help myself. "Picasso, why did you say that painting was a fake? I was here, in this studio, last year when I saw you paint it."

Picasso didn't hesitate. He turned to me and said, "I often paint fakes."