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Reality morphing — a simple visualization

How do people’s perspectives differ, sometimes dramatically, and yet co-exist in a singular shared reality?

I’m going to answer with a visual puzzle. I have yet to meet anyone who is not taken aback by it.

From what I’ve seen in sharing this with people in person, it takes the mind time to process the information in the image and its description, so you may have to hang 10 with the experience of it.

Each of the three sections of the triptych above are identical. (I am defining a section as a solid background color with inset figures.)

The perception of difference among them arises because in each section one set of figures is hidden. The figures are hidden because they exactly correspond to the background color. The background color represents differing assumptions.

When a novel color (blue below) occupies the background, symbolizing the neutralization of limiting assumptions, all figures are revealed to be co-exant parts of a whole.

A visitor with a keen eye spotted that, in the image below, I unintentionally switched the green and black open circles to the right compared to the triptych above. Imagine they match the ones above.


Distinction through shared assumptions is useful in parsing out experience in a complex world. It’s also the source of separation from other possibilities — personal and cultural experiences of being in ruts. Changing this requires reigniting our own capacity to perceive and eventually experience existence as a dynamic, shared, mysteriously held meta-phenomenon.

Originally published and commented on in the Quora blog Existential Kitchen.