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Old 25th August 2019, 12:13 PM   #1
Myriad
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Hoffman and the Interface Theory of Perception

Donald Hoffman, a cognitive science researcher, has been advancing a theory he calls the Interface Theory of Perception. It challenges the widely held claim (one that I've made myself in philosophical arguments in this forum) that evolution promotes the development of sense organs and brains that result in generally veridical perception of reality. (At least, veridical perception at the scale of the organism itself, not necessarily at smaller or larger scales of no direct use or concern, such as the earth's movements through space or the atomic makeup of materials.) Basically, the standard claim is if you don't accurately perceive the lion, or you don't accurately perceive the possibility of a lion you don't see because a boulder limits your view, you get eaten and don't pass on your misperceiving genes.

What appears to set Hoffman apart from eons of philosophical speculation from Plato's Cave to Bishop Berkeley to Hume, is that he's done some investigations of the question "does evolution lead to veridical perception?" using simulated evolution of simulated perception in simulated worlds. He claims that the results have been clear and consistent: that "perception of reality goes extinct." Organisms whose perceptions are accurate succumb to competition from organisms whose perceptions are tuned directly to fitness.

(I don't have a good understanding of what some of those phrases e.g. "tuned to fitness" really mean in the context of the actual experiments he ran. I might have to buy his book to find that out. It's possible that "tuned to fitness" is a cheat, an abstraction that can be built into a simulation of a world but could not be accomplished by a system actually functioning within that world. As a crude example: clearly a perceptual system that would automatically know the most beneficial choice to make in any situation with no sensory input at all—call it an oracle—would out-compete one that had to imperfectly sense and perceive the present state of reality and figure out the best choice from that. But such an oracle is probably not possible, and near-veridical perception could be the next best thing, superior to a system that had to figure out the best choice from an inaccurate perception. So if Hoffman's tests allow for some possibly much subtler form of oracle, it would undermine his findings.)

Hoffman's favorite analogy, after which he appears to have named his "ITP" hypothesis, is to compare the world we perceive to a GUI on a computer. The characteristics of the icons on the GUI desktop—their shape, color, position, etc.—do not represent any actual characteristics of the files in the computer; they merely present the underlying reality of the computer files in a useful way. Space, time, and objects are components of our own naturally-evolved fitness-maximizing interface with reality, while reality's actual nature could be completely different and presently unknown. Reality could be discoverable by further research once the counterproductive falsified hypothesis of veridical perception is discarded. He further suggests that the nature of consciousness cannot be understood in terms of perceived objects (e.g. neurons which are just more icons in the interface) or fundamental particles (which are just the pixels of the interface) but might require scientific revelation of the underlying reality instead.

I think he's wrong*, but I'm really curious about how his simulations actually worked. Even if he's wrong, the question of why those experiements produced the results he says they did could be very interesting and revealing about cognitive evolution. Also, maybe he's not wrong, which would also be really interesting.

Here's his TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/donald_hof...ge=en#t-655679

His 2019 book is provocatively titled "The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes." (The publisher has chosen to highlight an endorsement from Deepak Chopra in the publisher's copy on Amazon. )

Is anyone familiar with this, or has anyone run across it before? Any thoughts?


*The question "how does perceiving neurons and the functioning of neurons, when using microscopes and sensitive electronics and advanced imagining technologies, increase fitness?" looms large. Our evolving surviving ancestors did not perceive neurons, they perceived squishy meat with no obvious purpose. So why do we perceive them now? How did they get added to our present perceptual "interface" unless they correspond to characteristics of reality?


ETA: Oh, and I've posted this in R&P instead of SMMT because it might be of more interest to regular posters here. To me what's notable here is the science, but until we can get more details of those investigations the discussion will probably tend to drift toward the philosophical.
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Old 25th August 2019, 02:06 PM   #2
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Uhm, merely speculating a bit .... :

We must assume that evolution does not favor the best perception of reality, but the perception that best allows an individual to survive.

This means that individuals flee from perceived threats, more than rational threats, because the time to ponder the actual level of the threat is more costly than sometime fleeing false threats.

It also means that if an individual cannot infer the level of the threat, it might, statistically, be more useful to ignore it.

Both are seen in nature: Individuals flee a lot of potential threats, but we also see that individuals ignore things out or their experience (like animals not afraid of humans if they have never seen them before).

Mmm, far from a comprehensive answer, but ...

Hans
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Old 25th August 2019, 03:35 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Uhm, merely speculating a bit .... :

We must assume that evolution does not favor the best perception of reality, but the perception that best allows an individual to survive.

This means that individuals flee from perceived threats, more than rational threats, because the time to ponder the actual level of the threat is more costly than sometime fleeing false threats.

It also means that if an individual cannot infer the level of the threat, it might, statistically, be more useful to ignore it.

Both are seen in nature: Individuals flee a lot of potential threats, but we also see that individuals ignore things out or their experience (like animals not afraid of humans if they have never seen them before).

Mmm, far from a comprehensive answer, but ...

Hans

I'd recommend the TED talk. It's pretty concise and thorough (except for the details of his perception-evolution simulation experiments as I complained about above). Huffman makes it pretty clear that he's not talking about already commonly accepted limitations on perception and cognition, such as visual illusions (usually interpreted as resulting from special cases tricking the perceptual mechanisms that normally convey reality), biases (such as seeing faces on inanimate objects, usually interpreted as erring on the side of caution when perceiving potential predators or rivals), or sensory limits (such as failure to perceive light frequencies outside the visual range or the atomic composition of materials).

What you're saying makes sense. What Huffman is saying is way farther out there in philosophy territory, questioning whether a tomato a meter away that everyone sees is really there, or just perceived because it's adaptively beneficial to perceive it in that circumstance. (And implicitly claiming it's plausible for the latter to be true without the former being true.)
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Old 25th August 2019, 04:17 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
I'd recommend the TED talk. It's pretty concise and thorough (except for the details of his perception-evolution simulation experiments as I complained about above). Huffman makes it pretty clear that he's not talking about already commonly accepted limitations on perception and cognition, such as visual illusions (usually interpreted as resulting from special cases tricking the perceptual mechanisms that normally convey reality), biases (such as seeing faces on inanimate objects, usually interpreted as erring on the side of caution when perceiving potential predators or rivals), or sensory limits (such as failure to perceive light frequencies outside the visual range or the atomic composition of materials).

What you're saying makes sense. What Huffman is saying is way farther out there in philosophy territory, questioning whether a tomato a meter away that everyone sees is really there, or just perceived because it's adaptively beneficial to perceive it in that circumstance. (And implicitly claiming it's plausible for the latter to be true without the former being true.)
I've watched that talk and I'm not sure what to make of it. Like you, I'm very curious about the nature of his simulations, and most importantly, what he did to input "reality" in them.

In one hand the talk looked like the last step our species has been taking in the last half century to abandon those classical antiquity ideas of humans being provided with senses keen enough to experience the realm of reality. On the other hand, though I understand the role of evolution in shaping our senses and brain, I can't help thinking about how culture has changed us as individuals and made us work globally.

It comes to mind what I read in Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy twenty years ago, specifically the chapter "Writing restructures conscience" and how our mind changes forever once we learn how to read and write and also changes when we learn "computing" (the book is from the earlies '80). I'm not so sure our "feeling" about reality is still individual and merely the product of what evolution dictated.

Anyway, Hoffmann looks like he is mainly interested in researching what we should do if we like to interface with reality.
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Old 25th August 2019, 04:25 PM   #5
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I'd certainly be open to the argument that reality is just too confusing so evolution filters it to some degree to make it digestible and operable to such organisms. Unfortunately I get the same inclination about the "tuned to fitness" aspect of the simulation as you do Myriad. Sure messing with stuff is one of the things a simulation provides but that also can tend to mess up what's being simulated and the conclusions drawn. It also seems to have a fine tuning argument ring to it. sure fine tune a brainless amoeba to out perform in a given environment and it's going to tend to, well, outperform competitors. I'm not going to have a chance to look at the ted talk today but will definitely give it a look. As noted the simulation sounds interesting either way.

ETA: Just to add with instrumentality we have really taken our senses beyond our evolution and tune them to fitness for the task at hand.
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Old 25th August 2019, 05:21 PM   #6
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I have seen this before.

He is assuming that there was a meaningful distinction between a "true" and a "false" perception throughout our evolutionary history.

However this distinction only has any meaning very late in our evolutionary history.

A Cambrian jawless fish did not think "aha, here is a friend, I must go to him" and "oh no, that is an enemy, I must flee", it just reacted and if the reactions helped it survive then the perception was "true" in any sense that is meaningful for a Cambrian jawless fish.
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Old 25th August 2019, 06:06 PM   #7
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He is not using terms 'true' and 'false' but tuned to fitness vs tuned to reality . . . I would think this distinction would apply with both simple and complex perceptions/sensations.

I am curious how he got from tuned to fitness to space/ time and physical objects are not real.
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Old 25th August 2019, 09:04 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
He is not using terms 'true' and 'false' but tuned to fitness vs tuned to reality . . . I would think this distinction would apply with both simple and complex perceptions/sensations.



I am curious how he got from tuned to fitness to space/ time and physical objects are not real.
He is using the term 'category error' about a jewel beetle.

But the jewel beetle is not making a category error. It is not making an error at all.

Ironically Hoffman is making the category error.
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Old 25th August 2019, 09:14 PM   #9
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Again.

Quote:
Evolutionary pressures do not select for veridical perception; instead they drive it, should it arise, to extinction.
But evolutionary pressure selects nearly always in situations where veridical perception was never possible in the first place. You can't select against or drive to extinction some property that was always inherently impossible in a given environment.

Again "veridical/non-veridical" were meaningless categories for nearly all of our evolutionary history and meaningless for nearly all evolutionary pressure still happening.
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Old 25th August 2019, 09:20 PM   #10
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For those, like me, who find it easier to parse an argument when written down:

http://www.cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/interface.pdf
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Old 25th August 2019, 09:36 PM   #11
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To put it another way, 99.9% of our evolution, including the evolution of our perceptual systems, had already completed before "veridical perceptions" were even inherently possible.

Moreover we first had to evolve the cognitive machinery to categorise something as true or deceptive before any veridical perceptions were possible.

So somehow we evolved the cognitive ability to understand categories that evolution always drives to extinction? So why did we evolve these cognitive abilities in the first place?

So the talk of fish and beetles is meaningless. Hoffman needs to make his argument that evolution drives veridical perceptions to extinction in animals with a sufficiently developed perceptual system for veridical perceptions to be inherently possible.
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Old 25th August 2019, 10:24 PM   #12
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Perception with no mapping to reality would also lead to extinction.
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Old 25th August 2019, 11:59 PM   #13
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I haven't finished reading Hoffman's article (thanks Robin) but it seems to me that the author has made an unnecessary salad. There are three factors that count for biologists: stimuli, responses and environment. What the selection measures are neither truths nor categories. These are human concepts. It measures adaptive or non adaptive behaviours. Hoffman mixes something that is evident - that sensations do not capture real units but fragments that the brain reconstructs in the form of objects and perceptions - and concepts that are typical of psychology and epistemology, such as truth. The result is animals that look like somewhat silly people.

This is an opinion based on a glance at the article. I'll have to read it better.
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Old 26th August 2019, 06:04 AM   #14
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I question whether his simulated world was complex enough to provide a good test of his hypothesis. It seems to me that a simple world might be amenable to perception "hacks" that improve fitness and those would not work in a more complex world like ours.

Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
What Huffman is saying is way farther out there in philosophy territory, questioning whether a tomato a meter away that everyone sees is really there, or just perceived because it's adaptively beneficial to perceive it in that circumstance. (And implicitly claiming it's plausible for the latter to be true without the former being true.)
Such a possibility seems extremely unlikely given that we have multiple ways to check our perceptions, such as digital images.

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Old 26th August 2019, 08:06 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
I question whether his simulated world was complex enough to provide a good test of his hypothesis. It seems to me that a simple world might be amenable to perception "hacks" that improve fitness and those would not work in a more complex world like ours.

I have the same question, and so far things are not looking so good for Huffman in my opinion.

From the paper Robin linked:

Quote:
The animals can adopt one of two perceptual strategies. The truth interface strategy perceives the exact values of food and of water for each territory. Thus the total information that truth obtains is IT = 3 [territories] ◊ 2 [resources per territory] ◊ log2 101 [bits per resource] ≈ 39.95 bits. The simple interface strategy perceives only one bit of information per territory: if the food value of a territory is greater than some fixed value (say 50), simple perceives that territory as green, otherwise simple perceives that territory as red. Thus the total information that simple obtains is IS = 3 bits.

He then goes on to show that simple beats truth in a contest to pick the best of the three territories, where there is a time penalty per bit of information obtained, so simple gets to pick first unless the cost per bit is set very low (and the second to pick must choose from the two remaining).

This is not convincing me, for several reasons:

1. The plotted results actually show that if the cost per bit is low, the food and water resources in each territory are not strongly correlated with one another (which makes simple's lack of any direct perception of water content more of a handicap), and the threshold value of simple's one-bit perception isn't close to the actual mean amount of food per territory, truth can win. We might presume that simple could ultimately be assured a win by evolving its perception threshold closer to whatever the actual mean amount is (like in the horizontal center of the chart, where simple always wins), but if there were productive and unproductive "seasons" that shifted the mean food and water values cyclically, truth could stay ahead because simple would often fail to perceive any differences between the three territories and would be forced to choose at random.

2. Simple is still receiving accurate information about the simulated "world," it's just receiving very low resolution. The one bit it receives per territory is 100% accurate, in the sense of if it perceives more than it's threshold perception level of food (say, 35 on the 0 to 100 range of possibilities), then there's guaranteed to be 35 or more food there.

Hoffman's appears to be trying to slip in the suggestion that because simple perceives its one bit of information as color, "green" versus "red" (presumably the food isn't actually green, so it's "false color" like a Doppler radar image), that's qualitatively different from truth's numerically precise perception. But green and red are just names we've applied to simple's bit of information (true vs false, or 1 vs 0, or much-food vs not-much-food), and it's a bit begging the question to suggest simple experiences some kind of color qualia distinctly different from a completely veridical "much-food" or "not-much-food" perception. The real difference between simple and truth is quantitative: the precision, the number of bits, of the (dead accurate) information.

3. If one considers the simulated scenario in terms of the quality of the sensory apparatus needed to produce the simulated information input, there's not as much difference as implied between the physical requirements for each strategy. Both must scan an entire territory (from where? how?) and assess accurately and precisely how much food it contains. (Truth must also scan for water, which simple gets to omit.) Why precisely? Because even though simple's "eye" only sends one bit down its "optic nerve," its decision of which bit to send must be based on initial sensing of the exact food value to compare against its threshold, or else it would send false positives and negatives some of the time.

This is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of when I expressed concern that the simulated perception systems might have subtle "oracular" qualities. There's no physical basis represented for how the information is actually sensed, and hence none of the limitations sensory organs have in the real world.

4. On a more fundamental level, Hoffman does not appear in any of his experiments to be simulating the evolution of sensory perception from primitive components. He's instead testing different perception systems, all of which are designed, against one another. In his simulation, the territories, food, and water are represented as actually existing. Space (the distinction between the territories) and time (the who-chooses-first penalty for accessing more information) are explicitly represented in the simulation. This doesn't seem to be a sufficiently robust basis to ultimately conclude that time, space, and objects actually don't exist in reality.

...

Now, I have more to read, that I probably won't get to til Wednesday. Hoffman claims to have also run other simulations with more complexity than this example one, which may or may not address these issues. There's also, somewhere online, a long document where Hoffman responds to a variety of criticisms from a variety of sources. When I found it I hadn't read enough about ITP to understand the discussion. Now that I have, I have to track it down again.
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Old 26th August 2019, 08:33 AM   #16
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The article and TED talk refer specifically to visual perception, but I wasn't thinking he was limiting his theory to highly evolved functions like visual perception; the response to stimuli of a single cell organism is also subject to tuned to fitness vs tuned to reality.
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Old 26th August 2019, 01:04 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
The article and TED talk refer specifically to visual perception, but I wasn't thinking he was limiting his theory to highly evolved functions like visual perception; the response to stimuli of a single cell organism is also subject to tuned to fitness vs tuned to reality.

I agree that his theory includes all sensory perception. But what's not clear is what "tuned to fitness" and "tuned to reality" actually mean, or how they're different. (In his example model, both "strategies" were completed tuned to reality; one merely had more resolution than the other, and the extra detail wasn't worth the costs it imposed. We already know that costly capabilities that aren't useful get selected against, that's why cave fish evolve to become blind.)

Consider the case of an aquatic single cell organism that senses, say, the salinity of its surroundings via chemical receptors on the cell wall (so it can shut down some of its activities in high salinity conditions to prevent losing too much water from diffusion).

How would a tuned to fitness perception differ from a tuned to reality perception in that case?
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Old 26th August 2019, 02:04 PM   #18
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I am not aware of any dispute re perceptions tuned to fitness vs tuned to reality- this is broadly accepted. What is in disputed is Hoffman’s claim that having perceptions tuned to reality guarantees extinction, and that there is zero probability that any of our perceptions are tuned to reality. Even to the extent that that time and space, and the physical objects we perceive HAVE to be icons or hacks - they are our interface with whatever objective reality really is.
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Old 26th August 2019, 03:36 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
I am not aware of any dispute re perceptions tuned to fitness vs tuned to reality- this is broadly accepted.

"It's broadly accepted" is neither a rigorous definition nor a clear example, which is what I was asking for.

Hoffman's example in the linked paper of the difference turns out to not show a meaningful difference; both strategies are veridical with different resolutions. The intended implication that simple perceives a non-veridical "red and green" instead of the amount of food in the territory is not actually supported by the argument. (There might be a more complete argument elsewhere.)

Quote:
What is in disputed is Hoffmanís claim that having perceptions tuned to reality guarantees extinction, and that there is zero probability that any of our perceptions are tuned to reality. Even to the extent that that time and space, and the physical objects we perceive HAVE to be icons or hacks - they are our interface with whatever objective reality really is.

The "icons" metaphor only goes so far. Case in point: Hoffman answers Samuel Johnson's refutation of Bishop Berkley by making an analogy between refusing to step in front of a train, and refusing to drag your valuable document to the desktop trash bin. Even though neither the train nor the trash bin represents reality, both actions are known to have harmful effects so we've learned to avoid them.

But, we could easily program a desktop icon that was identical to the trash bin in every discernible respect, except that it would not destroy files dragged to them. We can do that because desktop icons don't directly represent the underlying reality. Because they're only an interface, they're extremely flexible. Trash icons only delete files because we want them to perform that function (with appropriate safeguards against accidental deletion).

We don't want trains to hit and kill people who step in front of them. We would be much happier and safer if we could design trains and other vehicles to carry large amounts of cargo at high speeds but not kill people in their path in impacts. Why didn't we manage that design feature when trains were first invented, if trains are only interface icons like the trash bin? Or any time since? Evolution can't explain this. Even if enough generations had passed since trains were invented for evolution to progress (though of course not nearly enough have), there's no fitness advantage to dying from being hit by trains.

Physicists and engineers say trains that hit you at high speeds can't be harmless because of conservation of momentum, a physical law that cannot be circumvented. Why can't it be circumvented? Either because momentum does directly represent the underlying reality, or it comes about as a result of some other immutable set of rules (the will of God, perhaps, or a Matrix-like simulation program we're all in) that we might as well still call underlying reality because we can't alter or evade those rules.
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Old 26th August 2019, 03:52 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
I am not aware of any dispute re perceptions tuned to fitness vs tuned to reality- this is broadly accepted.
Is it? I had not come across the distinction until I read this paper.

It seems so obviously incoherent for the reasons I have given, perhaps I am missing something. Do you have any cites for discussion of it?
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Old 26th August 2019, 04:05 PM   #21
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I mean seriously, do biologists in general think that the jewel beetle has made an 'error' when it tries to copulate with a beer bottle?

Do they believe that a jewel beetle thinks that the beer bottle is a desirable female? Do they really think that the jewel beetle has a perceptual category "desirable female"?
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Old 26th August 2019, 04:14 PM   #22
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The notion that we have cognitive biases and self defense mechanisms - a hasty retreat from every snake like shadow in the grass can be beneficial - these notions are not new. His claim that there can be no truth in perceptions, and that our world view is a delusion (fitness function) is new.
To give a real world example between tuned to fitness vs tuned to reality is not really possible because reality is unknown - that's efectively what he is saying. Though he is holding out that science can still progress - and he has a falsifiable way to proceed.
(Disclaimer: I don't claim to understand his theory - thanks for posting this.)
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Old 26th August 2019, 04:32 PM   #23
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Also, since Hoffman is claiming that the thing we call 'reality' is really just an interface, then the distinction is between 'tuned for fitness' and 'tuned for h. sapiens' interface.

And his hypothesis becomes "I claim that natural selection drives true perceptions h. sapiens interfaces to swift extinction"
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Old 26th August 2019, 04:36 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
The notion that we have cognitive biases and self defense mechanisms - a hasty retreat from every snake like shadow in the grass can be beneficial - these notions are not new. His claim that there can be no truth in perceptions, and that our world view is a delusion (fitness function) is new.
Again, is it seriously the case that biologists hitherto have claimed that there is a distinction between true perceptions and false perceptions for bugs?
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
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Old 26th August 2019, 04:49 PM   #25
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Also, his interface game is conceptually flawed.

His "truth" and "simple" strategies don't differ in truth, merely in precision.

If the "truth" organisms can be said to have the "truth" then so can the "simple" organisms, they just have a lower resolution view of the "truth".

And he has the environment set up so that the higher resolution is unnecessary and so they "truth" organisms will always lose out in the energy trade off.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
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Old 26th August 2019, 06:34 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I mean seriously, do biologists in general think that the jewel beetle has made an 'error' when it tries to copulate with a beer bottle?

Do they believe that a jewel beetle thinks that the beer bottle is a desirable female? Do they really think that the jewel beetle has a perceptual category "desirable female"?
Yes I would think copulating with a bottle would be an error, strictly for the waste of valuable calories.
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Old 26th August 2019, 06:37 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Also, since Hoffman is claiming that the thing we call 'reality' is really just an interface, then the distinction is between 'tuned for fitness' and 'tuned for h. sapiens' interface.

And his hypothesis becomes "I claim that natural selection drives true perceptions h. sapiens interfaces to swift extinction"
He is not saying anything like this.
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Old 26th August 2019, 06:46 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
Yes I would think copulating with a bottle would be an error, strictly for the waste of valuable calories.
In what way are a bugs calories valuable? Does the bug value them?
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Old 26th August 2019, 06:48 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
He is not saying anything like this.
So he is saying that we can have true perceptions that are not interfaces?
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Old 26th August 2019, 06:49 PM   #30
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According to this then we would look at a beer bottle and say "that is a beer bottle" and that would be a true perception and not an interface, under the theory?
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
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Old 26th August 2019, 07:00 PM   #31
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From the paper:
Quote:
The examples discussed here, and all others that might be unearthed by H. sapiens, are necessarily filtered through the interface of H. sapiens, an interface whose properties and categories are adapted for fitness, not accuracy. What we observe in these examples is not, therefore, mismatches between perception and a reality to which H. sapiens has direct access. Instead, because the interface of H. sapiens differs from that of other species, H. sapiens can, in some cases, see flaws of others that they miss themselves
So clearly when a human refers to "beer bottle" or "female jewel beetle" we refer not to objective reality (under this theory) but to our own interfaces.

So can you give an example of the "true perceptions" that he refers to that is not an interface, according to this theory?
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"

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Old 26th August 2019, 07:02 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Is it? I had not come across the distinction until I read this paper.

It seems so obviously incoherent for the reasons I have given, perhaps I am missing something. Do you have any cites for discussion of it?
Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't the distinction just another way of describing sensory gating? I haven't had time to watch the TED talk, but that's what immediate occurred to me when I read the OP (that is, the idea that your brain filters out information constantly and only lets you perceive what's "important"). And yes, it's pretty widely accepted.

Like I said, I haven't seen the talk, so I have no opinion on Hoffman's exact position, but the idea that humans perceive their reality through something that can essentially be characterized as an interface (because of sensory gating) instead of absolute reality doesn't seem very out there to me. At least not as crazy as it does to seemingly most in this thread. My understanding is that sensory gating is pretty uncontested in neuroscience.

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Old 26th August 2019, 07:14 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by ArchSas View Post
Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't the distinction just another way of describing sensory gating?
In which case he would be saying something very conventional. If so then why does he say that most biologists would reject this?
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Old 26th August 2019, 07:37 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Also, since Hoffman is claiming that the thing we call 'reality' is really just an interface, then the distinction is between 'tuned for fitness' and 'tuned for h. sapiens' interface.

And his hypothesis becomes "I claim that natural selection drives true perceptions h. sapiens interfaces to swift extinction"
Yes to highlighted above, but (I think he's saying that) 'tuned for fitness' and 'tuned for h. sapiens' interface are the same . . . the distinction is between the interface (aka tuned for fitness) and objective reality
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Old 26th August 2019, 07:43 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
From the paper:

So clearly when a human refers to "beer bottle" or "female jewel beetle" we refer not to objective reality (under this theory) but to our own interfaces.

So can you give an example of the "true perceptions" that he refers to that is not an interface, according to this theory?
Yes I think he is saying the highlighted above - and re "true perception", he is claiming there are none available (as of yet) . . . but he sees science as getting there. However science will have to go beyond the predicate icons of the interface, namely time/space and the notion of physical objects.
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Old 26th August 2019, 07:44 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by ArchSas View Post
Like I said, I haven't seen the talk, so I have no opinion on Hoffman's exact position, but the idea that humans perceive their reality through something that can essentially be characterized as an interface (because of sensory gating) instead of absolute reality doesn't seem very out there to me. At least not as crazy as it does to seemingly most in this thread.
I am pretty sure that everyone in this thread would agree that all sensory data is gated in some way or another and that, of course, natural selection would select gated data over ungated data which would be unparseable. I can't see how ungated sensory data could meaningfully be called a "true perception" because surely we have to be able to process it effectively for it to be a perception at all.
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Old 26th August 2019, 07:47 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
In which case he would be saying something very conventional. If so then why does he say that most biologists would reject this?
Most biologists believe that while there are the occaisional error in perception, and on occaision these errors may be beneficial, overall we contruct a fairly accurate perction of the world. Hoffman is saying NO - we construct an interface while true perceptions lead to extinction.
--So should science get us to true perception, we're gonners.--
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Old 26th August 2019, 07:48 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
Yes I think he is saying the highlighted above - and re "true perception", he is claiming there are none available (as of yet) . . . but he sees science as getting there. However science will have to go beyond the predicate icons of the interface, namely time/space and the notion of physical objects.
Again that does not make sense in the context. He is saying that natural selection drives true perceptions to extinction.

If true perceptions are not even accessible to human science then of course they would have been intrinsically impossible in any stage of evolution.

It does not make sense to say that natural selection drove intrinsically impossible perceptions to extinction.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
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Old 26th August 2019, 08:11 PM   #39
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I imagine that if you asked most biologists they would say something like that the "goal" (in the teleonomic rather than teleologic sense) of perception is to create a model of the organism's environment that best enables the survival of organisms with that genome.

I doubt that many would say that the "goal" of perception is to estimate the true properties of the world, apart from, say, Michael Behe.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
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Old 26th August 2019, 09:18 PM   #40
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Here is he description of the game again:
Quote:
The animals can adopt one of two perceptual strategies. The truth interface strategy perceives the exact values of food and of water for each territory. Thus the total information that truth obtains is IT = 3 [territories] ◊ 2 [resources per territory] ◊ log2 101 [bits per resource] ≈ 39.95 bits. The simple interface strategy perceives only one bit of information per territory: if the food value of a territory is greater than some fixed value (say 50), simple perceives that territory as green, otherwise simple perceives that territory as red. Thus the total information that simple obtains is IS = 3 bits.
To see what is wrong with this, imagine a barrel has 55 apples in it.

Mary says "The barrel has 55 apples in it"
John says "The barrel has more than 50 apples in it"

Both statements are true. Mary's statement is not more true then John's.

So Hoffman is pushing the fallacy that a true perception would necessarily require more information than a non-true perception, which is obviously not the case.

Rerun the game with two organisms with the simple interface, and then the first assigns green to "more than 50" and the second assigns green to "less than 50" then, given the same mapping of behaviour to colour, the first will win every time and both have the same energy requirement.

What Hoffman is capturing is more precision, not truth. If he were right then less precise perceptions would always drive more precise perceptions to extinction. If that were the case then the theory of evolution would be in trouble.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"

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