Monday, September 21, 2015


I watched an interesting TED talk the other day by David Eagleman about how we experience the world.  David and his team are doing breakthrough research for deaf people using technology to allow deaf people to actually hear.  It's pretty amazing stuff what they are doing.   

In his talk he mentions the German word umvelt, which means the surrounding world.  David argues that our experience is constrained by our sense perception and that the reality that we experience is defined by the limits of our sense organs.  He also talks about what would happen if we use technology to increase our sensory experience, such as being able to directly perceive UV light or infrared light.

Would that increase in sensory experience expand our umvelt?  Would it lead to a more expansive experience of the world?

Surely.  Without a doubt.

But how does that actually benefit us?

When I was in college, me and my roommate got in a heated discussion with one of his friends about the use of LSD or other psychoactive drugs.  The basis of his argument was that our brain is wired to only experience reality a certain way and by taking drugs you could expand that experience and presumably gain something in the experience.

Is it our experience of reality that limits us?

It is without a doubt in my mind that we could experience more, indefinitely so.  We could experience an expanded visual consciousness, a wider auditory consciousness, a more subtle olfactory and taste consciousness, and a much more discerning perception of touch.  We could do all of those things.

All of this is based on the assumption that we have insufficient data or information, and that insufficiency limits us.  It limits our experience and our experience equals...what does more experience equal?

More experience could equal more humility, more awe and insight.  I think that is really the hope.  But truly, more experience usually equals more ego.  What if we could become like the gods and know all?  How marvelous would we be?  Our amazing experience would mean that we are amazing.  The significance of everything that we experience would translate to our lives being significantly significant.  We would find our lives meaningful.  Having experienced EVERYTHING, our lives would be fulfilled.  Maybe we would even finally feel satiated.

What really limits our experience is that we crave experience for our own sake.  Then we fixate on that experience of reality as true, having experienced it ourselves.

Craving and ignorance, those are our real inadequacies.

Craving keeps us in a cycle of consumption.  Ignorance fixates on me and mine.  Neither are fulfilling.  Both constrict our experience.   



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