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.

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There is something I ‘know,’ which is that spatial dimensions beyond the Big 3 exist. I can even construct a tesseract or hypercube out of cardboard. A weird sort of cube-within-a-cube, a tesseract is a 3D projection of a 4D object in the same way that icons8-orthogonal-view-50 is a 2D projection of a 3D object. The trick is imagining the tesseract’s relevant lines and planes at 90 degrees to each other (it’s the same with icons8-orthogonal-view-50 and a real cube) because the 4th spatial dimension is one that somehow exists at perfect right angle to the length, width, and depth of our regular visual field. I ‘know’ all this just as you probably do…but now try to really picture it. Concretely. You can feel, almost immediately, a strain at the very root of yourself, the first popped threads of a mind starting to give at the seams.”

— David Foster Wallace, Everything and More