“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” – Albert Einstein
When trying to get a better handle on reality, I must admit that I can’t prove we aren’t in a Matrix-like simulation. But let’s ignore that for now by assuming that the input we get from our senses is an accurate indication of the world around us.
When you look at that input, you might be surprised to find that scientists have calculated that we are exposed to 400,000,000,000 bits of information a second, but only 2,000 of those bits registers with the conscious human mind. The brain is an amazing filtering machine that automatically selects down to the “pertinent” information that it determines you need to know (“is that a speeding car heading right for us?”).
No matter how well it filters (which we know is a bit questionable), we have to accept that we process a small percentage of reality. This means that reality, as you see it, is uniquely yours. Put two people in the same room and through different filters accumulated over a lifetime, the 2,000 bits of data that get through will be different, sometimes radically different.
In other words, reality is subjective. And often, such as when you are exposed to advertising, the input is crafted to make you experience reality in a specific way, so not only is it subjective, others are actively taking advantage of that to influence you.
Daniel Khaneman summed this up nicely in his book Thinking Fast and Slow: in the end, “what you see is all there is”. What makes it past your filters is your reality. If it didn’t, it might as well not exist. Think about this the next time you get into an argument with someone and wonder if they live in their own reality. In fact, they do. But then again, so do you!
1st Piece of Advice: Accept the idea that reality is not an independent and objective concept. Expect every person’s sense of reality is uniquely their own.
Want to learn more?
Here are a few resources you can check out if you want to explore this idea further:
- Book: The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
- Video: This is Water – Commencement Speech by David Foster Wallace