Random thought of the day

Over the weekend someone told me, “Drop the logic; embrace the real.” The short version of my response was, “I have no idea what this means.”

Yesterday as I was walking to the bus stop I was listening to The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos. Yet, I was still trying to get my mind around the implications of “Drop the logic; embrace the real” without concluding such a statement was an invitation to delusionville.

The author was talking (literally, he was reading his own book) about simulations of “universes” and how we might detect if we are in a simulated universe such as those explored in Hollywood with movies like “The Matrix“. Compared to some of the first alternate computer games I was aware of such as the text based game Zork computer games do an amazing job of creating simulated universes. Combined with the predictions of Ray Kurzweil in The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology we can imagine we are getting close (perhaps less than 40 years) from creating virtual universes which will be extremely difficult to distinguish from reality.

One of the suggestions the author made was that if we know of existence of millions or billions of virtual universes, such as those instantiated by all the people playing video games, and we question the reality of the universe we live in then the following logical conclusion might be entirely valid. Since we know that there are X million virtual universes in existence and only one universe that we have questions about the most likely answer is that the universe in question is also a virtual universe.

I’m pretty sure my friend hadn’t encouraged me to “Drop the logic” with anything this profound in mind but I decided they weren’t necessarily a strong candidate for occupying a padded cell either.

11 thoughts on “Random thought of the day

  1. You’ll have to get your friend to tell you what he meant by “Drop the logic; embrace the real.” It could be interpreted very simply as “drop the rationalizations, or the game, and follow the truth where ever it leads.”

    As for a video game being an “alternate universe”, it could have been said, right after the invention of the printing press, or even right after the invention of the written word, that reading a book puts you in an “alternate universe”. Before that, it could be listening to someone else talk. Of even thinking your own thoughts. Six billion entities thinking their own thoughts would, by that measure, constitute six billion “universes” (different ways of percieving). But to me that’s all just game playing.

    We should probably start by asking ourselves whether we believe that there is any such thing as an objective reality, apart from our perceptions and thoughts. If the answer is “yes” (and I believe it is) then there is one universe (the word istelf simply means everything that is). What we think about it, or the fantacies or games we indulge in, are therefore quite another subject.

  2. This actually reminds me of that Thomas Sowell quote, “Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.” which I think is applicable to the thought process of gun control advocates. “Of course banning guns will prevent bad things from happening; it’s only logical!” If you squint and tilt your head the right way, you can almost see the logic. Ant-gunners will cling to this flawed way of thinking, despite the fact that the evidence shows pretty clearly that they’re wrong.

  3. It might be a comment on epistemology and the scientific method. I can say that a thing is so because possibly faulty logic indicates it should be, but without examining the real world, I cannot know for certain.

  4. I think your response here actually illustrates what was meant by the statement “drop the logic”.

    A large portion of personal distress, displeasure, stress, general lack of understanding, general confuction etc… (as well as a large portion of what causes autistics social problems, causes computers to be unable to “understand” the human world, causes bureaucrats to screw things up etc…) is caused by cognitive dissonance.

    That is, a conflict between the way we believe things are supposed to be (the logic), the way they appear to be (the seeming), and the way they actually are (the real).

    There are so many things in this world that simply do not obey the rules of the game as stated, or follow the process as dictated. The logic, is the rules of the game and our expectation of what the results of that game should be if they are followed. The real, is what actually happened, no matter what our expectations were, or the rules were, or for that matter anything else.

    Reality is a heartless bitch, and when we try to deal with the way things are supposed to be, rather than the way they are, we fail. To succeed we must deal with the way things actually are, because reality always wins.

  5. “The logic, is the rules of the game and our expectation…”
    Yes, and we must understand that we’re using a second or third sense of “logic” if that is the case. The first sense of the word, as I understand it, would require the most direct connection possible, to the way things really are. In other words; you don’t get to have “your logic” while I have something opposed to your logic that I call “my logic”. One of us has “logic” in that case, or neither of us has it, but we can’t both have it. That wouldn’t be logical. Encarta appears to agree, but maybe I don’t fully understand the meaning of the word and Encarta is too brief.

    “To succeed we must deal with the way things actually are, because reality always wins.”
    Bingo, and that is exactly the meaning of Dennis Prager’s happiness formula; U = I – R;
    http://johnmalcolm.me/2012/06/03/pragers-happiness-equation-u-i-r/

    So; there may be billions and billions of “universes” but there is only one universe. Image verses reality. What is, is, whether we know much about it, or ever acknowledge it, or are honest, or not. Since words mean things*, there is one universe. The word defines itself that way. If we want to talk about people “living in different worlds”, or in “alternate realities” (a contradictory term, as is “universes”) which is an important subject, and we want to use one word for it, we’ll have to come up with something else. So what’s one word for “out of touch with reality”? I can think of two, each having a different application– One is Distracted and the other is Crazy. If you’re spending your life in video games you are certainly distracted but you may also be crazy. If you think that God wants you to kill the infidels, you are definitely crazy and you may also be very distracted.

    *Or is that a leap of faith?

  6. I don’t give Kurzweil’s claim much credence. Wasn’t he in the AI will be awesome (soon) crowd, like 30 years ago? The reality of the growth process is constrained, which he ignores. I don’t buy any singularity BS.

    The futurists: continuing to get the future wrong.

  7. @Lyle, I used to agree with you about there only being one universe. A question I have always wanted to ask of an interviewee was “Define the universe and give three examples.” But everyone I have ever interviewed was already pretty nervous and I figured it wouldn’t be fair to them to rattle them even more.

    If you really want lots of examples to shake your conviction on it read the book I linked to. But here are some things to make you think:

    1) Assuming there was a Big Bang and expansion is still going on as it appears to be then some interesting things occurred. There was a extremely rapid expansion phase. At the beginning of this time there was prototype material of galaxies that were relatively close to each other. Given enough time a photon, or a space traveler if one existed, could have traversed the gap between any two points. But the rapid expansion phase of space was so rapid, faster than the speed of light, that at the end of the rapid expansion phase there now exists galaxies (stars, planets, etc.) so far from each other and moving so fast than photons some locations will never reach some other parts. In other words there exist places that even given infinite (and infinity is amazingly large) time can never be visited even by a single photon from our location.

    2) If space and matter in that space is infinite but each of those isolated collections of matter in 1) are finite in size and matter then each of those collections have a finite number of configurations. That means that even if all of the different combinations were equally likely to occur (and they most certainly are not) then there exist a collection of matter somewhere that is identical, right down to the subatomic particle state, of what are our little collection of matter is. In other words there exist multiple (actually an infinite) number of people identical to you and me “out there” someplace living lives identically to ours. There also exist an infinite number of people like you and I who vary in infinitesimally small ways as well as versions where the differences are large and an infinite number where life as we know it never have and never will exist.

    Don’t those other locations qualify as alternate universes?

  8. While Douglas Adams’ books remains the height of my investigation into alternate universes, one thing he wrote about does have relevance to this discussion. He pointed out that in our actual universe, knowing exactly how unimportant one was (via a correct perspective on one’s place in the universe) could lead to complete mental breakdown. Alternately, experiencing a virtual universe created specifically for one’s use made one that universe’s most important being.

    This to me seems the basis for the entertainment value of most video games.

  9. “Don’t those other locations qualify as alternate universes?” In my understanding of the word, No. They represent theoretical places and things in the universe that we can never see. I’ll never see the center of the black hole in the center of our galaxy either, but that doesn’t make it a “different universe”. It’s a different part of the universe.

    It comes down to how you define the word. There are theories that suggest there may be other big bang systems that we’ll never see. That may very well be, but by definition, says I, they’re part of the universe. Other people would say that they’re “multiple universes” but “universe” doesn’t have a plural.

    At one time people believed that there was the Earth and “the heavens”, meaning that this planet was all there was to the physical universe. Likewise, says I, we may believe that this one Big Bang constitutes “the universe” but if there are others, or if there are parts to this one that cannot ever be perceived from “here” no matter what, it doesn’t mean that they are banned from being included as part of reality (which I will use as another word for “universe”).

    mikee, I think is on to it. We are limited in our capacity to understand. Adams stated that we cope with this by living in a smaller universe of our own devising. “The people of Oglaroon” he said, have limited themselves to the trees of that planet– they are born, raised, fall in love, raise families and so on, and eventually die strapped to some of the trees’ outter branches. That’s their whole “universe” because they chose to make it so– because anything more is just too much to cope with and they refuse to try.

  10. Another planet in Adams’ fertile mind was entirely shrouded in a cloud of dust, such that for all its inhabitants knew, their planet was the entire universe. When they built a ship that could travel outside the cloud, and they saw all the scintillating stars, the galaxies and all the vastness of space, their immediate response was; “It’s got to go” and set out to devise “the ultimate weapon” (to destroy the entire universe). When the computer they had devised to carry out this task asked them, “Just what do you mean by ‘ultimate’?” They replied; “Get a bloody dictionary”.

  11. The idea of the universe as a simulation always makes me think of David Hume, refuting the antimaterialism of Berkeley (?) with a slap to the table, “thus I refute thee.”

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