August 30, 2009

Mary's room

I came across a thought experiment called Mary's Room. This could be one of those things were I am the last one on planet earth to hear about it, nontheless here it is:

Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like ‘red’, ‘blue’, and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous system the contraction of the vocal cords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence ‘The sky is blue’. [...] What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not?

More info can be found here.

1 comment:

shoo said...

I hadn't read about this either, so you were at worst 2nd to last person on the planet to hear about it.

Obviously she will learn something. Thoroughly understanding something is far different from actually experiencing it, as anyone who has ever been a parent can readily attest.