Can you believe what you see?


Last week I talked about WYSIATI or What You See Is All There Is -- a notion of Daniel Kahnemann's presented in his brilliant "Thinking, Fast and Slow."

We rely so heavily on our sense of sight. If you see something with your own eyes, then that's that. You know what happened. You saw it. Right? We should believe our own eyes, shouldn't we? Well, maybe yes, maybe no.

So much is captured visually now. Not only can we see life around us for ourselves, we see videos of real events all the time now. We see snippets of everything -- good, bad, funny, sad -- and cameras don't lie. Do they?

Check out this report from the BBC from four months ago. It's about facial recognition technology which is a pretty fascinating and fast-developing field. Watch to the end if you have three minutes, but really key in at about the two-and-a-half minute mark and listen carefully to the last 30 seconds.

In WYSIATI, remember, we take the information at hand as if it is the only information available. That is, we believe what we see. But if we begin to doubt what we see with our own eyes, then how do we tell what is really true from what is not? What happens when we start to doubt what we see?

I find this a disturbing question.

In making our judgments, it is critical for us to have context, to ask questions so we understand better and to think with clarity, honesty, emotional intelligence and integrity. But don't blame this new concern on technology or AI. Being faked out by a snake in the grass in the evening light that turns out to really be just a squiggly stick isn't some high-tech phenomenon. This is not new; it has always been so.

We've always believed what our eyes tell us. We shouldn't stop doing that. But, as it gets harder to tell fantasy from reality, especially with videos, we need to sharpen all our other senses and our critical thinking skills.

© 2015 - 2020 by Meg Reilly. All rights reserved.

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