Is reality as it seems? (MUI theory)

Richard Vincent
5 min readApr 9, 2022
Photo by Philip Ackermann, Pexels

Reality. It’s pretty likely you’ve heard of it. Heck, I’m sure you’ve been inexorably submerged into it and forced to experience it in all its glory and terror. Trees, the weather, spiders, happiness, taxes, and everything else that comprises the world we occupy.

When these blog posts get a bit speculative — talking about aliens or cyclical universes — it’s good to know we can fall back on the solid, reliable facets of reality. Or can we?!

It’s not completely unreasonable to think our brains don’t see the world exactly as it is. We have blind spots, fall foul to a blue and black dress in poor lighting and get tricked with sleight of hand by magicians.

Not only are our brains prone to making mistakes, missing things, and overlooking details but in some instances, we simply lack the senses entirely. Dogs smell smells far beyond anything a human can, some animals can sense magnetic fields and next time you look down at the humble pigeon remember that they can perceive colours we can’t even comprehend (I wonder what colour bread is to them?).

Fine! Some animals have better senses than we do. But surely my colossal brain means I at least comprehend the world more accurately?

Well, what if I told you that we don’t just see the world inaccurately, but completely and entirely wrong? So wrong that our very notion of spiders, mountains, our brains, and even spacetime itself are merely feeble representations of an inconceivably different truth? Well, keep reading because I’m going to tell you that exact thing.

The cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman’s colleagues all seemed to agree on a similar view of our perception of reality. Ultimately our brains were formed from evolutionary processes so were naturally biased towards finding a way to pass on our genes. However, it seemed likely that those animals who had a clearer, more accurate view of the world would do a better job of surviving and reproducing. Hence evolution would naturally select for brains that could see the world as it is. Hoffman, however, had a radically different idea.

Evolution, in principle, can be broken down to a mathematical model — a form of game theory — of which there are winners and losers. Using these models, Hoffman was able to run…

Richard Vincent

Physics graduate. I write about physics and sometimes philosophy, ethics, psychology and insights found at the intersection of these.