Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Living in the Past

Apparently David Eagleman and Terrence Sejnowski hold that the human conscious awareness of certain events--such as visual events--actually occurs a substantial period after the event has occurred (~80 ms).

See "Motion, Integration and Postdiction in Visual Awareness". I don't actually have access to the full article, so I'm just basing this off the abstract and some secondary news reports, but anyway.

Other studies, such as those by Benjamin Libet (yes, I'm too lazy to dig out a proper citation), suggest that conscious decisions may begin up to ~350ms (give or take a few hundred milliseconds) before we become aware of them. Or at least that the brain begins to make neural preparations that correlate with decisions that far in advance of our awareness.

I need to look into these and related studies more thoroughly, but, prima facie, what the hell does this imply about our perception of time? Is our awareness for pretty much any event constantly lagging behind the actual occurence of that event?

How does that work when we're consciously trying to sync ourselves up to events, as with playing musical rhythms in time? To a human, a latency of > 15 ms (or even lower for sensitive musicians) becomes very noticeable very quickly when playing on an electronic instrument; but how is that........ how does that fit with the rest of our consciousness experiencing such a time delay?

What about computer games and real life activities need to happen need to happen on the scale of around ~250 - ~300ms? Does our awareness delay factor into that too?

Does that have any implications about free will during these and other activities? Would that make a sort of delayed epiphenomenalism seem the most logical position for the philosophy of mind?

Questions, question, questions that I should seek out answers to. But I'm too lazy, so questions they shall remain.

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