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Airborne • Posted: Dec 15, 2007 13:20:22Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Elevation is a peculiar thing. Daylight seems brighter, clouds skim closer, weather is more changeable, and you get winded more easily upon exertion. But at more than 8000 feet there is really very little to tell you you are quite literally standing a mile and a half above the beach in Chicago.

One reason the disjunction is not more noticeable is that the intervening 1500 miles is little more than a gradual climb across hundreds and hundreds of miles of relatively flat landscape. The subtlety of change in elevation is way below the perceptual event horizon for most humans.

That humans have a perceptual event horizon is something little talked about in psychology. But perceptually speaking, each of us lives in a bubble. What happens beyond our hearing very often does not effect us in the least. Same thing for taste, touch, sight, smell, and magnetic/gravitational orientation.

Information technology can extend our perceptual horizon, but there are costs. Not all of our senses are extended equally and what information is fed to them can be seriously narrow, filtered to exclude salient content, or purposely biased in it's presentation. In other words, the information we get may be false, manipulative, or of little practical use.

On the other hand, trusting our senses isn't totally reliable either. Who hasn't gotten lost on a winding road on a cloudy day? Our brains intervene, weighing and comparing the various sources of information available to us, trying always to make sense of our true orientation and course. But over time, drift is unavoidable. Ignorance and error confounds us. And the consequences may not be pleasant.

Depending on the clarity of tracks we leave, each of us could prove to be an orienting beacon of sacrifice for those who follow. However, ominous sounding though it may be, something like "Tread not where I have tread, least you suffer as I have suffered" doesn't do very much to substantively expand the old perceptual event horizon. The gift of intelligence deserves far better.

Saturday, August 26th, 2006