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¶ A metric for human input
So I was thinking.. does it make sense to ask the question "What's the bandwidth of your senses?" ? By senses, I mean touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing. Is it possible to quantify the rate at which one is able to absorb information via these senses?

Intuitively, I would rank them as follows, in descending order: Sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. I'm not committed to that ranking, but it's a rough idea. Being able to see definitely tells you much more about the world than being able to taste. Being able to hear what's going on around you is much more informative to a person than being able to smell.

I don't think we'll ever come up with a metric for the raw interface, because it just seems too difficult, but it would be kinda cool. It's not too hard to formulate a rough metric for some methods of acquiring information, like reading, or listening, but the metrics are still an approximation. Glancing at a couple of websites, we have the average reading speed for american english marked at ~250 words per minute, and the average speaking/listening speed at ~125 wpm. Technically, you can absorb information faster by reading than by listening. Makes sense, right? You typically read a book, not listen to the audiobook.

Of course, that whole idea gets thrown out the window when we start considering modalities like watching videos and listening to music. I have no idea how to quantify the rate at which we process information when we watch TV. Or when we listen to music.

So I started thinking about this cause I thought it would be cool if we could find faster ways to convey information to people. On a whim, I thought it would be neat if you could encode information musically and teach people a "musical language" of sorts, such that by playing a carefully arranged symphony, you could teach them the history of Rome or something. I doubt it would sound good, but the point is to transmit information, not pleasant listening. But then I was like, well supposing we had such a system, how could we evaluate it? and then was like, wouldn't it be cool if we had a metric for evaluating arbitrary methods of learning. A nice, hard, tangible metric, mind you, like MB/s. Not one of those mushy metrics that psychologists and cognitive scientists use.

Re: A metric for human input
Posted 17 years, 8 months ago by Sonic • • Reply
Well I read that the basic neuron response frequency for most of the sense is around 30Hz (so 33ms or so). That is, any two events faster than that the brain interprets as the same event. The human eye can also be approximated with some sort of megabit image metric. So a rough "hard" estimate would be say 30*11Mb (I dunno what the eye can see...but let's say 11 megabits) and so we have a raw visual bandwidth of around 330 megabit per second. Similar estimates can probably be done with other sense (proximity and degrees of tactile sensations, ranges of sounds, etc.). At a higher hiearchical level, we'd have to up the response frequency to how much we can think. If we quantize thought processes, we can probably arrive at some sort of bandwidth for processable information (but of course there needs to be allowances for things like muscle memory and such responses). I think that when you listen to a symphony, you ARE learning something, and most symphonies ARE carefully arranged. But for example, in a Beethoven symphony, instead of learning the history of rome, you're learning the aesthetic syntax and harmonic vocabulary of beethoven. You're learning a language. You can encode information into a language but how would you learn that language? We already have the equivlanet of a symphony that doesn't sound good (arguably) in the form of speech (various phonemes combine to form meanings). Anyway, I'm gonna throw out that our visual bandwidth is somewhere around 300Megabits/second or so. Anybody with me?

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