Mary’s Room

Imagine a neuroscientist who has only ever seen black and white things, but she is an expert in color vision and knows everything about its physics and biology. If, one day, she sees color, does she learn anything new? Is there anything about perceiving color that wasn’t captured in her knowledge?

My belief: She absolutely learned something new, and though that new knowledge is hard to explain, it is not mystical, unexplainable, or nontransferable. Her new brain state could in fact be replicated in another brain or machine and be experienced just as Mary had herself.

Neither the spider has planned for the leaf nor the leaf for the spider—and yet there they are, an accidental pendulum propelled by the same forces that cradle the moons of Jupiter in orbit, animated into this ephemeral early-morning splendor by eternal cosmic laws impervious to beauty and indifferent to meaning, yet replete with both to the bewildered human consciousness beholding it.”

— Maria Popova, Figuring (via Erica Avey)