Friday, September 11, 2009

Exploring Pathways of Vision, Sight and Insight

This blog started off as a personal trek to explore new paradigms. It has succeeded in doing that for myself and hopefully some few others along the way. These paradigm pathways have a tendency to cross over one another and create opportunities for serendipity. Even though the rule in blogging is too focus on one idea in short narratives, my habit is to ignore that advice and attempt to link different ideas. Two important sources for new ideas are TED and MIT for seeking pragmatic solutions and personal wisdom in redefining one's self as its says in the header.

Recently, I came across four videos from both sources that had a common set of themes, brain, cognition, vision, but also led to other pathways of compassion and social change. All involved understanding, but used different applications of that word.

In this episode of TEDTalks (video) on Tom Wujec on 3 ways the brain creates meaning - Tom Wujec (2009) -

Information designer Tom Wujec talks through three areas of the brain that help us understand words, images, feelings, connections. In this short talk from TEDU, he asks: How can we best engage our brains to help us better understand big ideas?

Cognitive psychologists now tell us that the brain doesn't actually see the world as it is, but instead, creates a series of mental models through a collection of "Ah-ha moments," or moments of discovery, through various processes.

So making images meaningful has three components. The first again, is making ideas clear by visualizing them. Secondly, making them interactive. And then thirdly, making them persistent. And I believe that these three principles can be applied to solving some of the very tough problems that we face in the world today. Thanks so much.

The next two videos from MITWorld, though longer in length, are well worth watching.

The first continues with the exploration of cognition and vision through - Computers with Commonsense: Artificial Intelligence at the MIT Round Table

Patrick Henry Winston ponders what makes humans different from our primate cousins. His field of artificial intelligence extends that question to thinking about how humans differ from computers, with a goal to "develop a computational theory of intelligence."

"We think with our eyes…vision is the locus of every profound kind of problem solving."

Play Video

Patrick Henry Winston

The next MITWorld video takes us back to the human and to the humane -

Opening the Mind’s Eye-Learning to See

"Whenever we're asked how the brain does X or Y, the impulse is to work with this beloved creature, the human infant, to see how it acquires different capabilities... But there are challenges: Babies are not interested in being experimental subjects. They'd rather sleep than give us good data."

Play Video

Pawan Sinha

The reason the Pawan Sinha video goes beyond interesting to inspiring is because
Sinha found these subjects in his native India, which has the world’s highest number of blind children -- more than one million. They are victims of Vitamin A deficiency, congenital cataracts, and absent or atrocious medical care. But salient to Sinha’s research, many of these blind children could be treated. He glimpsed a humanitarian and scientific opportunity, and Project Prakash (Sanskrit for light) was born .

It’s rare to find research that simultaneously advances basic science and brings immediate good into people’s lives, but Pawan Sinha’s Project Prakash does precisely that. An investigator of human visual processing, Sinha is interested in how these brain mechanisms develop, and in treating India's vast population of blind children.

The final video is another short one from TED and deals again with vision, but vision both from the idea of seeing and the idea of envisioning a new world. Both aspects of our understanding are necessary to bring about this new world, the understanding of our world and nature and the understanding we must show to each other.

Atomic physicist Joshua Silver invented liquid-filled optical lenses to produce low-cost, adjustable glasses, giving sight to millions without access to an optometrist. At TEDGlobal 2009, he demos his affordable eyeglasses and reveals his global plan to distribute them to a billion people in need by 2020.

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