There are three reasons why I have chosen “mind models” as the leading theme of my art: physics, neuroscience and my ears. As you know by now, mind models, in my definition, are the realities we create to shape ourselves.
I am convinced that we are poor observers of reality; we largely mix our perception of reality with ideas, convictions, presumptions, whatever, about reality. And the whole of “reality” and “mind models” becomes our reality.
The three reasons or causes are the following.
I have an academic education as a theoretical physicist. More that any other scientific discipline, modern – post-Newtonian – physics deals with phenomena that we cannot observe directly, with our own senses (eyes, ears, etc) or that are very different from the world that we can observe with our senses. Well-known examples are from relativity theory, astronomy and quantum physics.
Eg. general relativity deals with bending of four dimensional space-time and relativistic effects such as the fact that the speed of light is the same for any observer, resulting in length contraction and time dilation. Astronomy learns us that there must be much more matter in the universe that we can observe, so-called black matter. Quantum physics deals with ‘spooky’ effects, such as funneling and entanglement.
The interesting effect of a physics education is that you get used to and feel familiar with the idea that there is a world, that we cannot observe directly, and especially, that our observations sometimes are wrong or at least do not tell the complete story.
From psychiatry we long know that people can have mental diseases that make them observe or experience phenomena that do not exist, at least, not the the world that we all share.
Well-known examples are schizophrenia and psychosis. Yet, for people who experience such delusions, they are very real. I have personally experienced first hand the incredible effects of psychosis with a friend of mine; it is fascinating and scary.
From my (non-professional) studies of neuroscience during a few years, I learned that a fundamental mechanism in our brain is that the signals that our senses bring into our brain are modified by the brain. A lot is filtered out. And most of what is not filtered out is colored with emotion: some signals are made more important than other, some signals are exaggerated, all signals are placed in a model of the world that we have in our brain, a model that we partly built-up during our life and partly already owned by birth: our mind model.
And, it’s not just psychiatric disorders. Our ideas of reality, our vision of the world also gets distorted by simple convictions from (limited) life experiences, fears, hopes and doubts. In other words, we see things wrong all the time. We think we know it all, but we know nothing.
We rather live in our mind model that be uncertain in the real world!
In a psychiatric and a non-psychiatric sense, people have all these convictions about our life and the world, that sometimes are plain wrong. Yet, we cling to them, because our brain craves for certainty and a mind model gives (often false) certainty. But like Gladys Knight once sang “I rather be living in his world, than be lonely in mine“, we rather live in our mind model that be uncertain in the real world. It is how our brain works: increasing our chances of survival through predicting the world, based on a mental model.
In 2009, I suffered of sudden deafness from the combination of the use of antibiotics and a contamination with borrelia bacteria from a tick bite. As a result, I chronically suffer of tinnitus and hyperacusis in mostly my left ear. I hear sounds that do not exist in the real world and I am hypersensitive for sound.
From this experience, I know that our brain sometimes creates sensations that do not really exist.
So, from a physics, neuroscience and personal experience perspective, I know that what we observe may be different from ‘reality’ (whatever that is, exactly).
Furthermore, I see everyday how people have lots and lots conscious and unconscious assumptions about every aspect of the world around us. But often, they do not realize (enough), that these are assumptions that may not necessarily be true. Still, people do assume they are true and act accordingly … often harming themselves in the short or long term, or damaging parts of the world around them.
I call these assumptions ‘mind models’.
Mind models, to me, are the most fascinating phenomenon in the world. They are what differentiates human beings from all other living creatures (that we know of).
But there is more. Dreams, fantasies, desires, visions, ideas (eg. by entrepreneurs and artists) also are mind models. And these mind models have brought progress for the human species. So, by far not all mind models are bad. Mind models, to me, are the most fascinating phenomenon in the world. They are what differentiates human beings from all other living creatures (that we know of).
Realities that we create to shape ourselves.
Now, I am not the first who discovers the phenomenon of mind models, obviously. They come in many variants, eg. naive realism and indirect realism are two ideas from neuroscience. UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman once said “naive realism may be the single most underappreciated source of conflict and distrust across individuals and groups”.