Sunday, February 6, 2011


"You have to understand that I was dealing with everything by the adoption of massive denial. Industrial-grade denial for hysteria-scale cognitive dissonance."

The first time I almost wrote this post it was because of an egg salad sandwich. A stupid, ordinary egg salad sandwich. The second time I almost wrote this post was two weeks ago, after there had been a replication... But now I'm going to write this post, perhaps as a cognitive hedge against what might happen later today...

It's easiest to talk about the egg salad sandwich. In retrospect, it was probably the juxtaposition of the banality of the event itself and the profundity of its implications that threw me into a mental tailspin for a good portion of that day. It was an otherwise absolutely ordinary day. While I had food in my house, I had absolutely nothing that I wanted to take to work for lunch. I also didn't have enough pocket cash to purchase the epicurean delights available from the vending machine that I affectionately call The Wheel of Death. But I wasn't worried.

"I don't suppose I have the appearance of a Player in the Contest of Worlds."

I didn't really have a specific plan. I rarely do. And as we were milling about in the break room before work that day, a co-worker came up to me and said "I brought you an egg salad sandwich." (Voila, lunch!) This event was not without precedent. She had brought me an egg salad sandwich before, but not with any frequency or regularity that would allow a prediction that that day might have been one of those days.

Weird coincidence alert? Not in the universe I live in. But how to untangle cause and effect? What was she and what was I that my mental states should affect her expression of being? Or had she affected me? Was she the reason that I didn't stop for cash or to purchase something for lunch? Did I somehow sense her actions in preparing that sandwich? Did I know somehow that I wouldn't be left at the mercy of ravenous hunger come lunchtime? I saw the correlations, but what did they mean?

"Something afoot in the ontology, mark my words."

I've grown comfortable with the idea of navigating in five dimensions. Of selecting from (if you will pardon the analogy) one of several parallel universes. The rules that govern it are so constant. Perhaps that is why it is so easy to slip into the analogy of this life to a computer simulation or a video game. We know games and computers to be rule-based. We understand their rules because we created them. We have been given to believe that the world we live in contains a level of randomness that we cannot hope to penetrate. Anything that can bring more order to our experience of this world would alter that picture, and prompt us to question the nature of the world. In struggling to understand a new picture of our experience of the world, we reach for analogies, and computer simulations, being more predictable and orderly, fit the bill.

Does this mean that we are living in a computer simulation? Not at all. And it is irresponsible to suggest that an analogy that bootstraps our understanding of things is the truth of things. But sometimes it's just a damn convenient analogy. The question that I'm forced to struggle with is... Why should this be the way things are? ("What mystical craziness was this?")

And, when it feels so much like I've hacked the code to the ultimate video game, why is it that what I most want do is question why I'm playing it in the first place?

"There are limits to hubris - or, at any rate, to my hubris."

And as hubristic as all of this sounds, is the true hubris in speaking about these things, or in carrying on quietly, never daring to facing judgment, withholding something potentially valuable? In a time of questioning and doubt, is it hubris to think that there might be a better vision of humanity's potential, and to work to articulate such a vision?

"Mind informed with passion and curiosity would suffuse the metaverse. It was a glorious vision - it still is, I stand by it - but it might be thwarted, I saw, by the legacy poisons corrupting certain human cultures."