Note: Finally here writing on Thinking. 2013-05-01 This is going to take some work - and thought.
Through the Looking Glass, into Thinking
We shall not cease from exploration.
And the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
-- T. S. Eliot, The Four Quartets
In the morning, when I look in the mirror I see myself. You and I know, and some other animals know too - when we look in a mirror we see ourselves. But then one day it became clear to me ...
That is the universe looking back at me, exploring.
The universe grows eyes. Eyes developed from natural processes, just like flowers - another amazing development. But there is no evidence that they were created by some magical being or advanced alien. They started from light sensitive spots on cells long ago and grew to meet the needs of emerging organisms. Eyes - Now they are many - looking, and seeing.
Even more amazing is the fact that by the time we reach our level of development, our eyes are attached to, indeed even part of, a large complex network computer - our brain. Some image processing occurs right in the eye itself. It recognizes motion, edges and corners, for example. But when you view a scene, only a small spot in the center is new live information. The rest is filled in by your brain from past experience and assumptions.
Just as we became aware of the tremendous scale of atoms and molecules, here we will find that the scale of information around us is even larger. How do we start to understand and represent this magnitude?
For example: I just traded cameras and went from a 6 megapixel sensor to a 16 megapixel sensor. We know these pictures are just rows of dots, right? I have been in computers for about 50 years, so why didn't I use my computer to make every possible 16 megapixel picture instead of buying another camera? 16 megapixels doesn't sound so big. It sounds deceptively easy, and it is - deceptively. To find out why, let's start with a smaller problem instead.
Consider your TV screen. Its picture is made of dots. If we reduce this to a crude minimum of black and white dots only, we get a simple binary number of 0s and 1s. In America, the first minimum black and white screens started with about 640 columns by 480 rows of pixels, giving 307,200 dots. So each picture sent to this screen is a 307,200 bit [binary digit] number. We could produce every possible picture by making numbers starting with 000…001 and going all the way to 111…111. But here's the rub ... we would make 307,200! [factorial] or about 4.7 × 101552323 pictures, far more than there are particles in the known universe.
Now we begin to see ... the scale of information and the processor in our heads. There is something beyond big going on here. It is far beyond the merely astronomical - a term we have used in the past to mean tremendous, huge, etc. The only good word I have left is stunning.
René Descartes 400 years ago: Thinking means that I exist - "Je pense donc je suis." :
Like fish swimming in the ocean,
we have discovered that we swim in a vast sea of information.
Like fish discovering water, we are only now becoming aware of this sea.
That awareness is called consciousness.
It carries us through the looking glass into Thinking - The Final Frontier
Next >> Sensation & Awareness