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In everyone's life there comes a time when the universe opens itself for just a few moments to show us what is truly possible.

To understand is to perceive patterns. Patterns constitute the ultimate story of our world.

They are here to push us – to show us that there’s something we don’t fully understand.

These patterns represent something greater. They represent the mechanics behind how our universe works and hold invaluable clues in answering some of life’s most fascinating questions.

Image credit: ThoughtCo/Carolyn Collins Petersen

The reason these patterns are important is because they tell us where to look. If we can’t explain why two completely separate things are very similar, it shows we don’t fully grasp what’s going on.

Only by identifying and grouping these patterns can we start analyzing and learning about the underlying mechanics governing these systems.

True understanding and comprehension comes when enough dots become connected and you finally see the big picture. The big world becomes small. Distance vanishes and everything is interconnected. The more you understand, the more you see these patterns - the more obvious they stand out.

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Yes, the key to understanding life may be found in understanding these patterns – in relating these disparate subjects and finding a thread of commonality. If we can figure what the patterns truly mean in our lives, we can control it. We can invent new things and potentially unlock the universe.

When you notice a pattern, it can change your life. Seeing a pattern can even make you smarter. Recognizing a pattern is like looking through a telescope for the first time. As if with new eyes, you see things that you have never seen before. That same experience can happen when you see a pattern for the first time. When, for example, the earth is viewed at night, the lighted landscape outlines dozens of patterns unseen before.

Take a look at the image below. What is the first image that comes to mind? To most people it appears formless. But once you view from top to bottom, also known as Top-down you slowly see a cows head. It might still require a bit of staring before you catch on. But once you see the cow, the cow is obvious. It becomes impossible to see it as formless. Having given yourself a top-down pattern to work from, the pattern automatically organizes the visual stimuli and makes sense of them.

This provides a possible explanation for hallucinations. Think of top-down processing as taking noise and organizing it to fit a pattern. Normally, you’ll only fit it to the patterns that are actually there. But if your pattern-matching system is broken, you’ll fit it to patterns that aren’t in the data at all.

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The best example of this is Google Deep Dream (see pic below) Image credit: Google

I don’t know much about neural networks, so I may not be getting this entirely right, but as far as I understand it, they trained a neural network on some stimulus like a dog. This was for research in machine vision; they wanted the net to be able to recognize dogs when it saw them; to pattern-match potentially noisy images of dogs into its Platonic ideal of a dog. But if you turn the pattern-matching up, it will just start seeing dogs everywhere there’s even the slightest amount of noise that resembles a dog at all.

So hallucinations are when your top-down processing/pattern-matching ability becomes so dysfunctional that it can generate people and objects out of random visual noise. Why it chooses some people and objects over others I don’t know, but it’s hardly surprising – it does the same thing every night in your dreams, according to mainstream science.

Many of the same people who have hallucinations also have paranoia. Paranoia seems to me to be the over functioning of social pattern-matching. When Deep Dream sees the tiniest hint of a line here, a slight dark spot there, it pattern-matches it into an entire dog. When a paranoiac hears a stray word here, or sees a sideways glance there, they turn it into this vast social edifice of connected plots. Every new thing that happens is fit effortlessly into the same pattern. When their psychiatrist says they’re crazy, that gets fit into the pattern too – maybe the psychiatrist is a tool of the conspiracy, trying to confuse them into compliance.

Needless to say, patterns are powerful. They set up expectations, make connections, and inspire burning questions. They can be events that regularly repeat themselves, trends in which events rise or fall over a prolonged period, relationships that create new connections, or they can emerge from seeing the larger picture. They can be outliers, events that fall outside the norm or newly defined patterns called fractals. Together, pattern recognition can lead to new discoveries, breakthrough ideas, and innovative concepts.

Pattern recognition was key to the survival of our Neanderthal ancestors, allowing them to identify poisonous plants, distinguish predator from prey, and interpret celestial events. Today, pattern recognition plays new, but just as important roles in diagnosing diseases, inspiring new ways to safeguard data, and discovering new planets.

“The best thing we have going for us is our intelligence, especially pattern recognition, sharpened over eons of evolution," (Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2015). Pattern recognition according to IQ test designers is a key determinant of a person’s potential to think logically, verbally, numerically, and spatially. Compared to all mental abilities, pattern recognition is said to have the highest correlation with the so-called general intelligence factor (Kurzweil, 2012). The ability to spot existing or emerging patterns is one of the most if not the most critical skill in decision-making, though we’re mostly unaware that we do it all the time (Miemis, 2010).

Because the brain is wired to recognize patterns, everyone has the potential to be pattern smart, but, in different ways. People who are numbers smart, for example, can predict from a series of numbers what the next number will be. Those who can recognize a species of bird from its flight pattern are nature smart. Do you perceive what funny jokes have in common and can you create one? If you can, you are word smart. People who can visualize an object in three dimensions are visually smart.

Peering into the unknown requires us to recognize our own mental blind spots...

Do you gravitate towards patterns? Do you follow patterns? Please share with us in the comments below.

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