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VWN Book Quotes Database - Arthur C Clarke, Profiles of the Future, Page: 185
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Source: Arthur C Clarke, Profiles of the Future, Page: 185

"We assume that our familiar senses give us a complete picture of our environment, but nothing could be further from the truth. We are stone-deaf and colour-blind in a universe of impressions beyond the range of our senses. The world of a dog is a world of scent; that of a dolphin, a symphony of ultrasonic pulses as meaningful as sight. The bee, on a cloudy day, the diffuse sunlight carries a direction sign utterly beyond our powers of discrimination, for it can dissect the plane of vibration of the light waves. The rattlesnake strikes in total darkness towards the infrared glow of its living prey - as our guided missiles have learned to do.

Could we interpret such sense impressions, even if they were fed into our brains? Undoubtedly yes, but only after a great deal of training. We have to learn to use all our own senses; a new born baby cannot see, nor can a man whose sight is suddenly restored to him ? although the visual mechanism in both cases may be functioning perfectly."

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Once upon a time, we truly believed the world was defined by five senses - sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Later we expanded the human sensory capacity to include balance and proprioception, and may extend the classification further.

However, those are far from the only senses used to experience the world. Radar, sonar, heat vision, ultra violet, ultrasonic sounds, super-sensitive taste replacing vision, echo-location, all manner of sensory methodologies exist in the animal kingdom. Those in the plant kingdom offer differ again, radically more alien, but still sensory modalities.

The problem in converting those to be human-understandable, is the same problem faced by those who utilise the current generation of implanted neuroprosthetics.

The brain trains itself from day one; learns how to talk to its faculties, and expands upon their capabilities. Its akin to having access to a set library of functions for an API. You can initially pick up a few functions intuitively, and with practised use and experimentation, start using it for a few tasks, not very efficiently. With greater use, you become more efficient at calling the order of the functions, and selective use of different capabilities, becoming ruthlessly efficient. The brain is no different. Senses such as sight are hardwired in, the nerve channels and data flow in place and concrete from birth, but the brain has
to teach itself how to make sense of that information, how to use that interface. Newborn babies don't walk across the room; it takes many months to learn to walk.

Likewise, with the modern generation of neuroprosthetic devices, they do not talk to the brain in a language the brain intuitively understands. They talk in gibberish, most of the time, using interfaces confoundingly primitive, and allowing the brain so little experimentation. Its akin to someone who is used to coding with DirectX suddenly being given "Uncle Jack's DIY Wowzer" instead, and being expected to code with that. They will do it, but moan a lot, and struggle with the clunky interface. It will take time to use it at all effectively.

Better interfaces can shorten that time slightly, but, even with a perfectly compatible interface, such as an organic eye, if the brain is not used to it, it does take time to learn.

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About the Book 'Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible'
By Arthur C Clarke
Produced By Phoenix

This book was originally produced in 1962, heralding Arthur?s predictions of the future of mankind, from a technological standpoint, across all sectors of industry and life. It was based on his own essays, written during the period 1959 - 1961.

Since it was concerned with ultimate possibilities, and not with achievements to be expected in the near future, even the post 2000 technological acceleration has dented many of the predictions within it. However, the author went over the book in the early 2000s, editing most of the chapters, and explaining where his predictions went wron...
Click here for full review of Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible

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