THE BLOG

Reality Is in the Context of the Beholder

11/17/2012 02:29 pm ET | Updated Jan 17, 2013

TED and The Huffington Post are excited to bring you TEDWeekends, a curated weekend program that introduces a powerful "idea worth spreading" every Friday, anchored in an exceptional TEDTalk. This week's TEDTalk is accompanied by an original blog post from the featured speaker, along with new op-eds, thoughts and responses from the HuffPost community. Watch the talk above, read the blog post and tell us your thoughts below. Become part of the conversation!

Watch Beau Lotto's talk above on optical illusions and how information can differ depending on perception.

Beau Lotto's TEDTalk on optical illusions uses some brilliant visual experiments and demonstrations to highlight the crucial role of context in any situation. Through a series of illusions, Beau makes a point that we can never really know anything outside of its context, even things we are looking at with our eyes -- context really is everything. Reality is in the context of the beholder!

After gasping at how easily our eyes can be fooled, I found myself thinking of the role of context in many other situations. As a media artist and filmmaker, I'm constantly considering the role of situational context when creating my work.

For the past year I've been creating a series of short form videos/mashups exploring the co-evolution of humans and technology meant to radically pull people out of context. My aim is to distill a series of ideas related to the exponential growth curves of technology in a way that delivers maximum impact. To do this, I need to both provide a context for these ideas (What Steven Johnson calls "the long view" perspective), as well as communicate this context with aesthetic relevance.. To this end, my shorts are really movie trailers for ideas.

So if context can also determine the fertility of "idea spaces", and how might we apply those principles to our own consciousness and creative thinking?
- Jason Silva

At TEDGlobal this past year, I premiered my short on "Radical Openness" which was a philosophical espresso shot of heady thinking-- a hymn on the power of ideas to change the world. It presented ideas as "replicators" that leaped from brain to brain and sought to multiply and evolve.. Ideas are alive. This was my context and this is what I'm celebrating.

Watch my video from TEDGlobal, Radical Openness, here:

So if context can also determine the fertility of "idea spaces", and how might we apply those principles to our own consciousness and creative thinking?

Author Tom Robbins once wrote about the role of psychedelic chemicals as context agents. He said "The plant genies don't manufacture imagination, nor do they market wonder and beauty -- but they force us out of context so dramatically and so meditatively that we gawk in amazement at the ubiquitous everyday wonders that we are culturally disposed to overlook."

Psychedelic tricksters often speak of "set and setting" as crucial to any kind of transpersonal growth -- and they're really speaking of context. You begin to see the role that context has not just in how we perceive reality but in crafting and catalyzing creative thinking, wonderment and curiosity. And this notion can be applied to our normal, everyday, baseline perceptions: What is the context of our lives? How might we change our context to leverage more opportunities for growth? Once we realize the extraordinary power we have to compose our lives, we'll move from passive, conditioned thinking, to being co-creators of our fate.

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today's most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email tedweekends@huffingtonpost.com to learn about future weekend's ideas to contribute as a writer.