Thought Leadership


By Colin Walls

When I was a teenager, I thought that there was something wrong with the world. Show me a teenager that does not have that feeling from time to time! My issue was that more people did not think like me – actually, for “more people” read “most people”. Other folks had an annoying habit of doing things differently and having diverse opinions that differed from mine [and were, hence, by definition, wrong].

As I got older, I changed my views somewhat. I have begun to understand that other views and other approaches to things are valuable. Diversity is good. But, until recently, I did not really understand why human beings tend to have such differences …

I heard a radio program the other day, where a philosophical writer was discussing this very topic. Her explanation was, for me, like a light being switched on – suddenly I understood.

It is all to do with our perception of reality – because that is all we have: a perception. We cannot actually see or understand what reality is, we can only construct a model in our brains. Fortunately, the human brain is very good at this job and constantly constructs, maintains and updates our perception of reality, and delivers it to our consciousness with ourselves located at the center.

The limitation of this construction process is the need for raw materials and the source of these materials is our own life’s experiences and memories. As each of us has a unique store of such raw materials, it is inevitable that we will each construct a somewhat different [maybe drastically different] perception of the world.

This also explains why people often have different memories of events, particularly in the more distant past. They have used their perception modeling skills to “fill in the gaps” and each of us do that in a unique way.

The egocentric [i.e. self at the center] nature of our perception makes us more confident in its accuracy. Developing the skill to step away and see another perspective is valuable, but rather rarely achieved. This explains why “out of body” experiences have such a profound impact and why transcendental meditation and similar practices are so attractive.


0 thoughts about “Reality
  • Not being currently “in” the embedded world perhaps I dare say this without too much riducule. But my personal “perception modelling” to use your term, includes seeing the world as a combination of control theory (lots of feedback loops and instability), rt operating systems (task orientation, protection..) and OO programming (encapsulation, reuse etc). My latest toy, the world of biochemistry, includes all the above concepts within its working machinery. Although perhaps my original technical world view as a chemical engineer (simultaneous heat and mass transfer in packed beds) sounded more fun than any of the above.

    Are you saying that you have become more tolerant as you have “matured”? I can believe you, and I congratulate you on this, because most people seem to age into grotesque inflexibility, of limbs and brains.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at