April 1, 1998
The “user illusion” of this groundbreaking book’s title comes from computer design and refers to the simplistic mental image most of us have our PCs. Our consciousness, says Norretranders, is our user illusion of ourselves.
During any given second, we consciously process only sixteen out of the eleven million bits of information our senses pass on to our brains. In other words, the conscious part of us receives much less information than the unconscious part of us. We should trust our hunches and pursue our intuitions because they are closer to reality than the perceived reality of consciousness.
In fact, most of what we call thought is actually the unconscious discarding of information. What our consciousness rejects constitutes the most valuable part of ourselves, the “Me” that the “I” draws on for most of our actions – fluent speech, riding a bicycle, anything involving expertise. Since this discarding takes time, there’s a half-second delay between reality and our perception of it. If a baseball player thought about swinging at a pitch, he’d never hit the ball.
The User Illusion makes the case that humans are designed for a much richer experience than processing a dribble of data from a computer screen, which actually constitutes a form of sensory deprivation. That there is actually far too little information in the so-called Information Age may be responsible for the malaise of modern society, that nagging feeling that there must be more to life. There is – but we have to get outside and live life with our senses to experience it more fully.
Drawing on wildly disparate areas of scientific research, Tor Norretranders has made a compelling case for putting consciousness in perspective and embracing all that the world has to offer.
Tor Norretranders is Denmark’s leading science writer and the award-winning author of more than ten books, any of them bestsellers. He is host to numerous television programs on science and science -related topics and established a major cooperative network of scientists and artists. He lives north of Copenhagen.