terça-feira, 18 de janeiro de 2011

Perception is biologically bounded

Actually, as I am writing this, there is news of a pending lawsuit by a patient going after his doctor for more than $200,000 — an amount he al­legedly lost while gambling. The patient claims that the treatment of his Parkinson's disease caused him to go on wild betting sprees in casinos. It turns out that one of the side effects of L-dopa is that a small but signifi­cant minority of patients become compulsive gamblers. Since such gam­bling is associated with their seeing what they believe to be clear patterns in random numbers, this illustrates the relation between knowledge and randomness. It also shows that some aspects of what we call "knowledge" (and what I call narrative) are an ailment.

Once again, I warn the reader that I am not focusing on dopamine as the reason for our overinterpreting; rather, my point is that there is a physi­cal and neural correlate to such operation and that our minds are largely victims of our physical embodiment. Our minds are like inmates, captive to our biology, unless we manage a cunning escape. It is the lack of our control of such inferences that I am stressing. Tomorrow, someone may discover another chemical or organic basis for our perception of patterns, or counter what I said about the left-brain interpreter by showing the role of a more complex structure; but it would not negate the idea that percep­tion of causation has a biological foundation.

(The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

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