Kid in a stroller, being pushed along the sidewalk, plays with a rattle. Baby clumsily manipulates the toy, looking at it from various angles. Finally, kid freezes for a moment and still looking at the toy – drops it on the ground.
When a baby cautiously drops something – it’s an important and weighty experiment. Because it is far from obvious that all dropped things fall, why should they! Indeed, in our earthly realms they happen to fall, but as we learn later in life (most of us forget it anyway), that’s just a narrow gravitational context and a local configuration of bodies (the Earth and rattle, in this case) along with their masses, interacting with each other accordingly.
Small kids, in many ways, resemble aliens. Like some unworldly creatures, they just inquire, examine, no question is too obvious to ask. We grownups, take so many things for granted. It’s not that we understand it all. It surely frees some of the bandwidth to cope with the prose of our lives.
I absolutely love to get back to this mindset of an alien. Recently I’ve been thinking of the way we humans interact and how amazingly complex it all is. Take a phenomenon of writing and reading this very post. Comprehending the way information takes to get from one brain to another staggers my mind. There are multiple complex mechanisms and interfaces on the route each and single bit of information. And yet I just write and you just read.
Idea of this article is born in my brain. My prefrontal cortex will formulate the concept, Broca’s area will help to dress it up with words, motor cortex will allow sending relevant signal down my arms and fingers to operate the keyboard, while input from my retina to visual cortex will help to orchestrate the whole process (it’s of course much more complicated than that and there are many back and forth between multiple parts of the brain to enable thought formulation and formalization.)
Words are being transmitted via fingers, through keyboard to the word processor on a PC. The word processor running on an operating system, who runs on a carefully configured hardware will enable saving the file on a local disk in form of ones and zeros. I’ll later copy this sequence of bits to the operating memory to use it on the portal where this post will be hosted.
The stream of bytes will radiate as an invisible light of WIFI, then via LTE modem to a nearby BTS that will ship it through an elaborate network of servers. On the way different routing devices will need to have my idea packed in a suitable digital envelope, to distinguish the essence of a message from all the metadata.
Finally, your web browser, hosted on the operating system of your device, will be able to request the article and display it so you can see and read my words. You will receive a pattern of points through the retina to your visual cortex. Various parts of your brain will reconcile, basing on our common semantic framework, on what constitutes characters, words and sentences. Finally, a concept from my bran will take a shape in your brain. If this isn’t amazing – I don’t know what is!
Have you meditated on some seemingly obvious and transparent phenomenon? What do you consider a wonder behind the obvious?