[Aside: Wow, look at this. A front page full of new posts. Who would have thunk it?]
We are a group of scientists and we have invented a time machine. Well at this stage it's more of a time probe, but if this model works we're hoping to scale it up for human subjects. The time probe works thus: We set a period of time (say one year) and send the probe back. It travels backwards through time (don't ask me how it does this, the process is far too complicated) and when it reaches one year in the past, it stops its travelling through time and instead comes back to the present, returning to us instantaneously (or so it appears from our perspective). We have already tested the ability of the probe to travel one year into the past and back, one million years into the past and back …
Once upon a time on this blog, I used to have an animation of a man falling. Well here it is updated with modern browser technology. See I'm not just a pretty face. The falling man signifies that feeling we get in the middle of angst. The drop in the stomach. The desperate need to dig our nails into the wall of the well, as we slip into oblivion. It may hurt. It may be painful. But the terror of the blackness is a source of greater pain. Why do we flail so?
Another metaphor I favour is that of the floundering fish. The water recedes and he finds himself in the mud, trapped in an alien and hostile environment. What can he do? The only thing he has ever done. Move his mouth in that bobbing fashion or thrash his tail and fins. Behaviours that once kept him alive …
So this post is dedicated to Matthew Smith, my partner in crime on "The Existential Files". He keeps banging on about why the universe exists. If everything is pointless, why does the universe go to all this bother in the first place? Why, oh why, oh why, oh why? Ha. Well we've all been there. I often find the existence of the universe itself to be an irksome fact. But first thing that pops into my head is, how could we find ourselves in anything but a universe that is capable of supporting life? So of course, this is the anthropic principle.
Let's consider a perfect universe. See the picture. We have two examples of a perfect universe. On the left is the perfect void. Nothingness. The abyss. Not a dickiebird. Lovely. Certainly fulfills the definition of perfectness. No sharp edges. No roughness. Just nothingness. Mmmmmm. On the right hand …
Well it took a lot longer than expected and I'm not wholly satisfied with it, but here is a very short text adventure based on the earlier post Patient-42. When I was a kid I loved the old Infocom text adventures (especially The Leather Goddesses of Phobos) and I have always harboured a secret ambition to make my own. Now that I've had a go, I can honestly say that it's not something I intend to pursue further. But it was a fun project, if nothing else. Basically the same plot as the earlier post, but in interactive mode. One thing I do prefer about this version (over the passive narrative), is that you have the freedom to stop progressing the story. Of course you can stop reading the story version, but here the flashing cursor is continuously asking "what do you want to do?" and like life, the choice …
You wake up. You are in a bed. From your vantage you see a door not far from the foot of the bed. Beside you is a small table, upon which appears to be a book. You do not know who you are, or what you are doing there.
You get out of bed, and move to the door. There doesnt appear to be a handle of any kind. You push your fingers into the small gap between the wall and the door. No good though. You cannot get a purchase. You press an ear to the door. You think you can hear mumbles and bangs, but nothing more.
You suddenly remember the book. Nothing on the cover suggests its contents. You open it up. Inside is writing. You can read the words. Perhaps that is something to be thankful for. Inside the book is text, written in second person …
Okay. I feel a little bit like I'm flogging a dead horse with these "you are an illusory being" posts. Of course the nature of what it is to be a human is important, but is also irrelevant to the wider conclusions as to everything being pointless! (Everything is pointless whether you are a human or not.) Bear in mind this post is going to be a lot more comprehensible if you've read some of the recent posts. I'm in a diagram and aphorism mood. So. #1: Always bear in mind Clive Wearing!
Let us look at the first diagram. This is a model of what you are/are not. Here consciousness is the process by which you look out of your eyes and you ask: Who am I? Where am I? (Think of Clive.) Then we have soma (aka the body). This is the evolved, biological part of you …
Continuing my thoughts on the illusory nature of self. Let's consider a pretty stock science fiction scenario: I am a neuroscientist. I have
developed a silicone replacement for the neuron. I am now initiating human trials and my first test-subject is before me. Prior to this experimental procedure, the subject was given extensive psychological testing. We have a wide range of validated measures on which to
compare their post-surgery scores. And so we begin...
There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain. I remove one neuron from the brain of the subject, replacing it with my
silicone version, let's call it a brain-chip. Not unsurprisingly, the test-subject reports no change in how they feel (it's a bit early to do any psychological testing). As the process is automated, we set the computer to replace 25% of the organic neurons with the brain-chips.
The precision surgery proceeds quickly and …
Following on from the discussion in Misery in the Brain of the Earth Ape, consider Clive Wearing. Here is a creature that like few others truly shows us
what the naked human is. Where we wear our past identity like a life preserver,
Clive lacks that particular luxury. We are all of us Clive. But instead of
nothingness, we reach into our mind and answer the question: who are we, what are
we? Ha. If only it were not so easy. If only we were not so easily sold. Note to
self (hehe): don't fall for the quick sell. The past is a foreign land, and our
past selves are the autobiography of a stranger left behind in a room. We can
choose to continue to play the character as written. But that is a choice. Or we
can play the character anew. Equally valid. At least until that character …
The title of this essay is a play on the very first post of this blog: “Happiness
in the Belly of the Space Whale”,
an essay written over a decade ago to convey my thoughts on the nature of
existence. This is to some degree an update or addendum to that essay. Though it’s
not required that you have read that previous effort, it is interesting to see how
my thoughts have developed, as in some ways they both cover similar material.
When cavemen decided the names of your children...
A group of cavemen are sat around a fire. One says rather dramatically: “ug ug
megug”. Loosely translated: “and lo, forever our children, and our children’s
children shall follow this rule!”. What rule? Well, for the sake of this
discussion, it matters very little. But let’s qualify it. Our ancestors here have
created a diktat: that …
The question "Is this all?" has troubled countless unsatisfied minds
throughout the ages, and, at the end of our tether, as it seems,
here it is, still baffling but persistent.
To such discomfited minds the world of our everyday reality is no
more than a more or less entertaining or distressful story thrown
upon a cinema screen. The story holds together; it moves them
greatly and yet they feel it is faked. The vast majority of the
beholders accept all the conventions of the story, are completely
part of the story, and live and suffer and rejoice and die in it and
with it. But the skeptical mind says stoutly, "This is delusion".
Golden lads and lasses must, like chimney sweepers, come to dust.”
“No,” says this ingrained streak of protest: “there is still
something beyond the dust?”