Alien landscape

Continuing the thought from yesterday, suppose you could, even for a few minutes, inhabit the mind of another person? What would that be like?

Our intuition, and most popular science fiction, tells us that it would be like cutting to another camera in a movie. We would just suddenly be within that person’s body, rather than our own.

But what if the truth is stranger? Each of us has developed countless neural pathways throughout our lives for interpreting reality, mainly in our early formative years. Those pathways, and the way they support cognition, are bound to be very gnarly and particular.

Being inside the mind of another person might very well be like being deposited in an alien landscape. Nothing is familiar, and nothing makes sense. Everything we thought we knew about vision, memory, reasoning, would no longer work as expected.

Even the simplest act or process or recall might be difficult, like operating heavy machinery without training. Things might end up getting knocked down, and it might not be pretty.

Throughout our lives we are presented with the consensual illusion that we all inhabit the same cognitive world, because we can discuss that world with each other and reason about it together. But it doesn’t follow that we are actually thinking and perceiving things in the same way.

If we were to somehow relocate our consciousness to the brain and body of another person, we might be very surprised at what that feels like. And maybe not at all pleased.

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