Bootstrap Hell: Perceptual Racial Biases in a Predictive Processing Framework

AbstractPredictive processing is transforming our understanding of the brain in the 21st century. Whereas in the 20th century we understood the brain as a passive organ taking in information from the world, today we are beginning to reconceptualize it as an organ that actively creates and tests hypotheses about its world. The promised revolution of predictive processing extends beyond cognitive neuroscience, however, and is beginning to make waves in the philosophy of perception. Andy Clark has written that predictive processing creates a “bootstrap heaven,” enabling the brain to develop complex models of the world from limited data. I argue that the same principles also create a “bootstrap hell,” wherein prejudice biases inherent in our inegalitarian societies result in permanent perceptual modifications. These modifications are unamenable to conventional implicit bias training. The deep embeddedness of prejudice biases in perceptual experience makes any proposal to eliminate prejudice biases by mere “understanding” insufficient.

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