Do we see the world as it truly is? Drawing on thirty years of his influential research, as well as evolutionary biology, game theory, neuroscience, and philosophy, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman says no - we see what we need in order to survive. In the first half, Hoffman joined George Knapp to discuss how our visual perceptions are not a window onto reality. Rather they are interfaces constructed by natural selection, and the objects we see around us are not unlike the file icons on our computer desktops. Experiments have shown that organisms who don't see the full truth about their reality are better suited to survival, he reported. Space, time, and physical objects could best be understood as a kind of virtual reality that we perceive through our particular set of sensory apparatus.
Space-time and its objects are just data structures that we create, he remarked, and physicists may be on the verge of letting go of the space-time construct and moving on to a new theory that could better describe the nature of our existence. There might be countless kinds of interfaces to perceive our world-- other forms of life seem to have advanced capabilities, he noted-- such as the manta shrimp that has more than ten kinds of color pigment receptors compared to humans' three. Further, there are some organisms that see in infrared and ultraviolet ranges, and can experience electric and magnetic fields. Even if humans find the "right theory" that accurately portrays their situation we would never know for sure, he pointed out, and perhaps the endless quest of self-exploration is key to the nature of reality and consciousness itself.
Ufology pioneer Jacques Vallee met Juan Perez when he was a teenager, after having a close encounter with beings from somewhere else. Filmmaker Alan Stivelman, moved by the story of Perez, decided to investigate more about the event, and he and Vallee discussed this extraordinary case and what it was like for Vallee to meet Perez again decades later. In 1978, Perez, then 14, had gone out early in the morning to herd some horses near his home in rural Argentina when he saw a mysterious object fly overhead. When the round craft landed, he saw a tall being beckoning him to enter the ship, Stivelman recounted. Upon entered of his own volition, he saw a smaller being that was robot-like and seemed to be cutting the leg of an animal, though there was no blood, Vallee detailed. The taller being telepathically communicated with Perez, he continued, which is similar to the reports of many American alien abductions.
Vallee speculated that the alien beings may be able to present any appearance of themselves that they choose. In Stivelman's new documentary, the aliens are depicted as luminous beings. The cutting of the animal aboard the ship possibly relates to the mysterious cases of animal mutilation, Vallee added, and Perez's horse, which he tied to the ship's ladder, died within a week of the encounter, though Perez did not seem to suffer any ill effects. However, after the event, Perez began to have disturbing precognitive dreams that presaged deaths and accidents of those around him. "For him," Stivelman noted, "rather than a gift, it was more like a curse." Stivelman also met with indigenous South American shamans to learn their perspective on UFO encounters. One told him that these experiences were dualistic-- with both good and evil sides, so they should be approached with caution and that Perez's experience could be considered a kind of shamanic initiation.