the reality interface

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The Reality Interface

by Ransom Stephens


Everything you experience and everything you are and ever will be is ultimately derived from sensory input. Even the genetic code that formed when your father’s sperm penetrated your mother’s egg resulted from the responses of and decisions made by your ancestors—every one of them, from algae to ape—based on their sensory inputs. And now, you create everything—the scent of an orchid, the touch of a lover, the taste of a beer, the sound of music, and the view of the stars—from electrical signals generated by your own sensory acquisition equipment.

The Reality Interface is a rollercoaster ride through the science of how the brain processes data from the senses, how it affects our perceptions of reality, how reality differs for different people, and how it might appear from the senses of a sperm whale. Along the way, we reach as high as consciousness, as low as prejudice, and emerge with an understanding of the interaction between our minds and realities both “real” and virtual, and how our opinions result from that interaction. The speech, which you can watch below, helps viewers/participants understand:

  • How feedback mechanisms among the senses, body, and regions of the brain work in concert to create reality
  • How our minds recreate reality from stories, music, art, observation of others, and how that recreated reality affects us
  • The different realities of animals, especially the sperm whale—Earth’s greatest predator, which has perhaps the most advanced sensory system
  • The effect of created realities, including virtual reality, on our perspectives, opinions, and politics

Ransom Stephens presented The Reality Interface at The Emerald Tablet on March 22, 2014 as part of the Call and Response series; you can find an essay adapted from the presentation in issue 1.

For more on the connection between music and the mind, check out this essay from vitriol ii.

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Ransom Stephens by Cal Tabuena-Frolli
illustration by
Cal Tabuena-Frolli

Ransom Stephens is a science writer, physicist, and novelist. He set his first novel, The God Patent, in the science-religion culture war, and in his second novel, The Sensory Deception—for which The Reality Interface was created, as an appendix—he uses the relationship between the senses and the mind to put you in the reality of endangered animals. Watch for his irreverent but accurate take on neuroscience, The Left Brain Speaks but the Right Brain Laughs, coming from Viva Editions in Autumn 2015. Ransom put The Reality Interface together as an appendix to The Sensory Deception.

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