Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Learning to See

I was watching a TV show about a person who was blind from when they were very young. Retinal implants actually restored the sense of vision that had been missing from that person's mind. This in itself is an astounding story.

What I thought was really interesting was the guy's description of being able to finally see for the first time. He explained that, at first, all he saw were blobs of light & dark, and spots of color. His mind had to learn to 'see' what he was looking at.

Our vision is not like a TV or monitor, which assembles a picture as soon as you hit the 'on' switch. I imagine that as neurons are stimulated, more patterns and connections are made, & the increasing visual processing in our brain allows sight to develop at higher resolutions over time, like adding pixels to a screen.

This was all on my mind when I ran across this Wired article whose title hints at the huge part that the idea of language plays in the consciousness, regardless of what senses are present:

"Babies See Pure Color,
but Adults Peer Through Prism of Language"

The idea of losing my sight is probably one of the worse things I can imagine. As a designer my entire world is dependent on vision. However, it's good to know that brilliant technical minds out there are working to solve such complex problems as blindness & the endless number of other difficulties that human beings must face.

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