Around 400 BC, Democritus said “All there is in the universe is atoms and void, everything else is mere opinion.”
He meant we can’t experience atoms, they are way too small.
So, all we can experience are very large blocks of atoms.
Our minds interpret these large blocks of atoms as objects.
Then we experience the objects.
So, we interpret one large block of atoms as a tree, one large block as a cloud, another block as a chair, another block as a table.
In reality what they are, is large blocks of atoms.
But we interpret the blocks as different objects.
We then live in the reality of our interpretation of those objects.
But that interpretation doesn’t exist in reality, just in our minds.
Which is what Democritus meant by “All there is in the universe is atoms and void, everything else is mere opinion.”
The reality we live in is merely our opinion.
Buddha put it more simply “All there is, is mind.”
The only way we can access the world is via our senses.
Therefore, the only world we can ever know is what those senses tell us.
But science already proves there are colours we can’t see and sounds we can’t hear, so beyond our senses is an infinite universe we can’t experience.
Therefore, the only reality we can know is our minds.
John Locke expressed it differently, as Primary and Secondary qualities.
Primary qualities are the simple physical matter that actually exists outside our mind.
Secondary qualities are our opinion of that matter: what we experience.
So, a piece of clay would be an object of a certain length and a certain weight: that would be a primary quality.
Whether we see it as a rock or a brick, light or heavy, or whichever colour, they are all secondary qualities.
Because they are opinions.
An opinion is something we bring to a primary (measurable, factual) reality.
Around 1710, George Berkeley wrote “Esse est percipi” (To be is to be perceived).
Berkeley’s philosophy was that a thing only exists if a mind is there to perceive it.
This is best illustrated in the famous question “If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, is there a sound?”
This was answered effectively in the magazine Scientific American: “Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear, and recognised as sound only at our nerve centres. The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air. If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound.”
So, science and philosophy in complete agreement.
All there is in the physical universe is simple, basic, matter.
For it to have any meaning, any significance, any life, it needs the mind to experience and interpret it.
And yet all the focus in our business seems to be on removing the human element.
On making technology, algorithms, and programmatic responsible for everything.
So, the current goal of advertising is to strip out imagination, charm, fun, beauty, amusement, joy, surprise.
To remove the human element.
To get rid of all secondary qualities and live in a data-only world of primary qualities.
Where the sole job of advertising is simply to bombard people with more and more sales messages as cheaply and efficiently as possible.
Does that sound like progress?