If I Could See Through Your Eyes

Something amazing happened today. I stumbled upon an unanswered question I first puzzled over a long time ago.

Oddly enough, I remember vividly the first time I explained it to my best friend. I think we had just started High School. We used to hang out together at her house and we were both kind of nerdy so we talked about science and things we saw on Cosmos and all sorts of other nerdy things. I thought she was smarter than I was, so I was a little disappointed that she didn’t seem interested in discussing my question.

Later on in college I mentioned my question to a few of my professors, most of whom told me they were impressed that I wondered about these things when I was so young, but no one had any answers for me.

Today, in Steven Pinker’s How The Mind Works, I was amazed to see my question among the list of some of the hardest unanswered questions in neuroscience:

“Might your experience of red be the same as my experience of green? Sure, you might label grass as “green” and tomatoes as “red,” just as I do, but perhaps you actually see the grass as having the colour that I would describe, if I were in your shoes, as red.”

That question, along with a number of related ones, has been with me for most of my life.

There are some other interesting questions on the list, such as this one:

“Surgeons replace one of your neurons with a microchip that duplicates its input-output functions. You feel and behave exactly as before. Then they replace a second one, and a third one, and so on, until more and more of your brain becomes silicon. Since each microchip does exactly what the neuron did, your behaviour and memory never change. Do you even notice the difference? Does it feel like dying? Is some other conscious entity moving in with you?”

Now I just have several hundred pages to go before I’ll know if Steven Pinker has a plausible answer to these questions or not.

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