To see, or not to see.

Elaborating on the enthusiastic words of yesterday’s post, the thoughts I have in mind today are as projected below.
Even though studying and pursuing science can be difficult for people with various different disabilities, my special interest and focus at the moment concentrates on the visual aspect. Nature, and hence science is a rich set of  stimuli, most of which humans are tuned to perceive using their eyes.  Though libraries could be filled up with tons of books written on what vision is, technically speaking it is just a light-to-electricity transducer. Photons reflecting from surfaces collide with the retina, producing the signal our brain can process and forward to the “office” responsible for making decisions. This however, does not always work. If there are no photons to reflect, if there are no surfaces to reflect from, or if there is no retina to detect the incoming light. This can happen if you are blind, this can happen deep underground or in a case of an idealised black body with emissivity 0 for instance. Obviously, there are many more situations where vision can fail.
As already mentioned, my goal is not to create assistive ways of doing certain things but I want to teach human kind how to see without using our eyes. I don’t yet know how to do it, I only know this can be done if we give it a bit of effort and creativity. I want to teach a new skill to men, analogously to how we learnt to fly, how we can stay at the top of oceans, how to communicate over distances of the scale of the Solar system and so on. Why would the ability of seeing in the dark be any different from the forth mentioned skills? It isn’t, and we already made some progress by developing infrared cameras, X-ray technology, tactile figures, auditory descriptions etc. As the early example of Braille developing his system of communication in dark for the armed forces, we can continue to explore the numerous ways intelligent beings can access information. We are still a vision dominated culture because we didn’t find any equally sophisticated way of looking at the world surrounding us.
Two potential ways to take are computer vision with artificial intelligence or sensory substitution. None of these concepts are developed enough to serve as natural vision but with time and further knowledge one of the two will fulfill its premise . 
It is important to recognise the necessity of substituting natural vision not only to cope with blindness as we know it today or to overcome situations in which we can not rely on our eyes but also because nobody can guarantee  we always are going to see. If it wouldn’t be clear what I am suggesting here, I recommend you reading “The day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham. Although the novel probably qualifies to be science fiction, I never really thought why this couldn’t happen in reality. Not very likely indeed in the exact form as it has been described in the book but a variation of the theme is not unimaginable.  It is not a fancy tool that we desire by seeing in the dark but rather an essential skill to survive.
I have talked to a fair few people who lost their sight later in life and we can safely assert: the change of circumstances is enormous and is extremely challenging to cope with, to adapt, to get used to. Therefore the ultimate objective is to establish a stage of evolution in which it doesn’t really matter if you lose your sight the next day or not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s