Here is an email I received in response to one of my essays.
anonymous for now : 2001-06-24
I have read How To Write Unmaintainable Code, Experience is a Hallucination" and Your Philosophy articles on your site. I thought I would share some comments, mostly about the latter two although the first article was excellent.:)
This may be a limitation of my imagination, but I have a hard time reconciling the Multiple Universe concepts with my practical experience. I mostly relate this to my concept of Identity, I am an individual that goes beyond both my body and my experiences or even perceptions. I was born with that Identity, I have grown and my body has changed, I have learned and my experiences have changed and my perception of the world around me has changed also. All of these have changed, but I am the same person that I have always been at a fundamental level.
Discover Magazine devoted the 2000-11 issue, to the many world’s interpretation of quantum mechanics. This stuff is very very hard to wrap your mind around. On the atomic level reality simply refuses to behave according to our familiar rules of common sense. The mathematicians are discovering why the many worldness is masked. On a macroscopic level the many worlds hypothesis predicts fairly ordinary behaviour.
People have no trouble conceptually with Star Trek’s transporter beam which scans a being, annihilates him, transmits the information to another source, and recreates a duplicate at the other end. The new being carries on with consciousness and memories, even though strictly speaking the clone shares not a single molecule with his recently murdered original. Why then would it be so difficult to imagine a transporter beam that did not annihilate the original? Both would continue with an intact sense of identity.
If there are multiple universes with copies of me in them, perhaps differing in only the most minute details, or at least ones within quantum slop, what controls which one I experience? Why do I only experience at most one at once? Why don’t I hop around? Are all the other copies of me conscious? Are some of them? If so, what determines which ones? I obviously can’t answer such deep questions, but I am willing to throw out a few speculations. There is some very baffling connection between consciousness and quantum mechanics. On a quantum level, watched pots do behave differently from unwatched ones.
Here is one speculation. Consciousness may be a separate fundamental universal component like matter or energy. Think of it metaphorically as like a luminous fluid sloshing around the many worlds tree of possibilities, lighting up the more interesting parts of it. You are consciousness exploring the funhouse, who mainly out of habit tend to hide inside a skull of one particular animal, coming out only rarely for an OOBE (Out Of Body Experience) or bout of cosmic consciousness. Reality is more intense where there in a concentration of consciousness. If you go off exploring the hell parts of the probability tree you won’t find much other consciousness willing to go along with you. It will seem flat and lifeless. If you hang out with saints, there will be a superabundance of consciousness. Life will seem inexplicably rich and pregnant with meaning.
My other speculation is that consciousness just happens wherever there is sufficiently dense quantum complexity. I have gone under anaesthesia and come out again a number of times. I seemed as if my consciousness just faded away to nothing as I went under and clicked back into existence again when I came to. If this speculation is correct, there would be almost nothing special required for computers to became conscious. They already are now, on a low level.
With Infinite Universes, It’s hard for me to see how I am in this Universe and consequentially your are also. To make it easier to understand, imagine creating a perfect copy of yourself. Technically you are identical to your copy, Everything physical is the same, but are you. Do you experience the future in the original you, the copy of you, or both. If Identity is totally a physical manifestation, then your Identity should actually be in both copies of yourself. This concept is not completely without merit either, Identical Twins have been shown to have remarkable similar lifestyles when separated at birth and when brought up together often create their own languages and have other commonalities. Of course, Fraternal Twins are similar also in these respects.
But the point I am trying to make is with a near infinite number of Multiple Universes, why am I in this one and not another? Or more poignantly, why are you? I can tell by what I read on your site, that your vision of a more perfect world is much different than mine, yet we both seem to agree that if we somehow mentally will things to get better they will. (No Pun…). However, we both inhabit this Universe and I bet we will continue to.
Anything you do will be quite irrelevant, however, it is vitally important that you do it.
~ Mahatma Gandhi (1869-10-02 1948-01-30 age:78)
I think of it not that you will the universe to change, but that you choose to slide to friendlier parts of the possibility tree by focusing your attention on where you want to go. This can only happen within quantum slop, but over time the quantum slop allows for macroscopically noticeable changes. I live in a world that is thousands of times more gay friendly than the one I started out in. I seriously consider the possibility that I simply wentto a gay friendly part of the probability tree, partly through my futile gestures. The universe did not change at all. Jesus kept saying, The kingdom of heaven in at hand, e.g. right beside you, right under your nose. However, you need faith to shift there. Whatever this steering skill is, it is very subtle. In past when I tried to play with it I was like a student driver who kept ending up in the ditch feeling terrified. Then again, there could be nothing more to steering that using your attention to make your unconscious mind focus on your goals.
Your conclusions I like better. Reality as a Hallucination seems very, uh, realistic to me. I spent much of my life seeing the world as very Black and White with many rules that needed to be followed in order to succeed. I struggled until I decided to make the world the way I wanted it and it became that, although not perfectly. I ascribe that to a change in my perception of the world, instead of seeing the world as a challenge I see it as an opportunity and take advantage of it.
We somehow expect the universe to be fully comprehensible to a human. We don’t expect dogs to understand quantum mechanics, so why should humans be capable of understanding the deep underpinnings of reality? There is no law that says it has to be tidy, simple and common sensical. I have personally experienced so much that I have no way of putting into language. Surely some of the ultimate answers lie off in that baffling wooly part of human experience.
I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
~ J.B.S. Haldane (1892-11-05 1964-12-01 age:72)
I have tested that concept also by the simple process of changing other peoples perception of the world and seeing the effect. It works also, I can take someone that is struggling and put them in a more pleasant situation. I attested this to a concept that Perception is Reality, which is similar to your Hallucinations. But that is too simple as you pointed out.
"Presume that since birth your conscious mind reversed the subjective experiences of red and green from the way most people experience them. There is no experiment you could perform to detect that this was indeed the case. In fact you could even reverse up and down subjectively and still function perfectly and never know it."
This makes the assumption that most of us do consider up and down the same thing. I would propose that this assumption is invalid, there is no reason to think that when you see red I don’t see another color. (Or what would be another color in your mind.) Actually, since people have favorite colors and colors they don’t like, it would seem to me that it is more likely that when I see green I see it differently than you do, or anyone else.
This isn’t even hard to grasp, everyone seems to see things differently. But if it is true, then everybody has a different vision of the world than everybody else. Of course, this would make it very difficult to communicate, what you need to do is be able to take an idea or concept from my mind and express it in a way that makes sense to yours.
That’s what we call language. Think about it, I tell you that the Widget is in a Barn. You visualize a Barn, I visualize a Barn. Out visualizations may be based on totally different inputs and conceptions of what we see, but we use the word Barn to designate a building with Animals in it. This basic concept can more easily be reinforced with modern technology, how many times have you found someone else perceiving Object Oriented Programming different than you perceive it?
You could take two computers, one programmed in Java and one in Eiffel. They could send messages back and forth to each other and deal with them perfectly and never be aware than internally they each represented the data in a totally different way. If one computer made the assumption because they were exchanging messages successfully that the other computer much work identically inside, it would be in error.
My speculation is that people are more different inside in the way they experience the universe than most people would ever imagine. If people do things that baffle you, they must have internal assumptions quite different from yours.
But we can look at the world from a different perspective, how many fields of expertise have their own language? We both are programmers and we share a common language in that which a Lawyer and Accountant does not know. Even you and I differ in our description of programming because of our experiences, but what is more important to me is that I can actually understand 90% of another field by understanding it’s language. I would be willing to bet that you can also, your writings certainly cross several disciplines and connect them seamlessly.
I look at this and come to the conclusion that language is a method that we as Humans use to explain the concepts that we have in our head. What we have done it to take things that are similar in our combined perceptions and placed a word to it. This implies some conclusions that are interesting. The First of which is that no one can ever explain themselves perfectly. Has anyone every not felt that way? Of course, it also implies that we all live in our own worlds, which are connected through language.
The problem with language is it makes everyone else look so stupid and shallow. You are aware of how people nearly always misunderstand what you are trying to say. Even when you are incredibly precise with your language, they still hear what they expect to hear. It is quite an eye opener to realise that everyone else feels the same way. In a way we are like geniuses with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) condemned to speak to each other on a Bliss symbol board with 50 choices.You know
I’m getting bored and the Real World is interfering with this. I’m gonna send it to you and ask that you don’t post it. I may let you post it later, but I would like to get a response from you that gives me some indication you understand what I am saying.
Even if you don’t respond, I may follow up with more because it helps me to organize my thoughts into language that people can understand.:)
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