I ran into the following article today and just have to share it:
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like…
This interesting piece from the BBC came across my desktop the other day…
and I feel compelled to comment.
One interesting science-historical fact is from the days before the discovery of atomic forces, before we ‘knew’ that the energy produced by the sun is based on nuclear fusion where two heavy hydrogen atoms are fused into one helium atom. The energy contained in the one helium is less than that of the two hydrogen and the energy difference makes our days bright and life possible on earth.
But it is not, that before the discovery of these processes, scientists just sat there and agreed to wait for the discovery of nuclear fusion – no – they used what they knew then to explain the sun. Lacking nuclear fusion to generate heat they turned to coal, which they knew well to generate heat. So they came up with the idea that the sun is a big ball of pure coal – and it burned. They already had a good idea how big the sun was so, commandeering all the scientific methods at their disposal, they calculated how long we could depend on the sun to give is light and life. I don’t recall what the number was they came up with, but it was considerably lower that the now estimated ten billion. It did not matter too much, as other branches of science also did not know too much about the time it took for the current state to develop to what they could observe. And the creation of the world in five days was still a well accepted possibility.
We might smile just how cute – and wrong – science was then. But I can not help imagine scientists in a century or two who unearth this BBC video and have a good laugh.
I wonder where the humility of science has been lost so that it can now tell us with utter conviction “How the Solar System Formed.”
Jon, this article just screams to me for an answer. First of all, I do agree with you on pretty much all of your viewpoints and actually enjoy your “Escape From the Matrix”. But where I want to bring a bit of a different viewpoint is body v. computer – for me they are pretty much the same – they are machines. But why is it that we have developed consciousness, one may ask? – I actually don’t think we have – but instead we started to occupy those meat-machines once they became good enough to represent us. In the same way, I imagine, that computers will become attractive enough at some point of sophistication for a souls/spirits to occupy them.
I realized this – many, many years ago – when I saw a window mannequin, during a nightly walk and window shopping, with a being trapped inside. That being had been attracted by the beauty of the plastic body and got stuck in it believing it could not escape that matrix of plastic any more. It tried to communicate with me and maybe I was able to help a bit with conveying the idea that it is trapped only if it believes so – I sure hope.
My experience with computers is similar – sometimes I notice beings in there and if I work with them they usually work with me – that’s how I make a living with computers.
I agree that the sudden appearance of consciousness with more memory and TeraFlops is humbug – but once the filigree sophistication of computers gets to the same order of magnitude as our meat bodies I see a good chance that beings get trapped in there as well and make the computers/robots to appear to have developed consciousness. That will – obviously – lead those scientists further down the rabbit hole.
I have (probably) never seen one and I don’t remember being ever abducted by one.
Still, it makes sense that they are around and all the evidence is hard to ignore. Additionally, I ran into a web page today that has lots of video footage of testimonials of rather credible witnesses. What I like about these witnesses is that they just report their observation and don’t try to mix it with their own interpretations and opinions.
Take a bowl of popcorn and a beer because some of that stuff is long…
When I was in my late teens, starting to read science-fiction, I was sure that by now we would regularly traveling to other planets and had settlements on the moon, and the flying car was a given.
But many of these things are still only subject of science-fiction, but something totally unimagined has materialized – a network that did make the world’s knowledge accessible from the palm of my hand. I knew there would be talking robots but that I would be able to access all data with just a query – I just hadn’t thought of.
Found this interesting video of visual thoughts of how the future might look like…
But with that last experience, what’s really going to happen, will be something totally different altogether.
My very first computer had been a Trash-80 and I remember having a lot of fun with it. One of the most difficult tasks for me to understand, at that time, had been the idea of an interpreted language, like that TRS-80 Basic.
Before that computer I had been mostly exposed to assembler and some high level language like Fortran and PL3 on an IBM mainframe. This the idea of typing in human readable code and directly running it – without compiling and linking – was a strange concept to grasp.
The TRS-80 I had was far less sophisticated than the one shown in the above catalog, so I looked around and found a picture that matched better what I remembered:
I believe that I had the 16kB model but certainly no floppy disks – I saved my programs and data on cassette tape. With my difficulty to grasp the concept of interpreted languages the first program I bought was an assembler. I was quite some work to get anything done with this setup:
Insert the cassette with the assembler and load the program
Edit and assemble the code, keeping source and assembled program in memory
Insert a new cassette into the recorder and save the source file
Insert a different cassette into the recorder and save the assembled program
Load the assembled program (overwriting the assembler in memory)
Running, testing the assembled program and writing down errors
Rinse and repeat
This lengthy procedure trained you to really think ahead and consider all possible errors – it took too long to ‘just try’ something. In this regards those interpreted languages are much easier and train programmers to be much sloppier.
Bigger part of the internet now is based on such sloppy work – whenever you have a php file it is more or less interpreted like the old Basic in my Trash 80. I once read – and it made a lot of sense – that we would do a lot to avoid global warming if we would compile all those billions of lines of php code into machine code once and then execute that on the server. All data centers around the world could be scaled down considerably if each line of php code would not have to be compiled over and over and over again, thus saving energy for the processors of the web sewer and the energy for cooling them.
Maybe, then the web could run on a couple of TRS-80s.
I am sometimes torn between my scientific and spiritual side. Educated in the sciences I appreciate cold pure logic. So, when I run into a lecture likes this by Peter Boghossian…
…I might have my spiritual world shaken up.
When Dr. Boghossian explains that faith-based processes are not reliable, I have to admit that he is right. When he shows us that homeopathy does not work, I am tempted to laugh with him about the ridiculousness of faith in a remedy that does not contain anything (but water). According to homeopaths, the remedy does contain the ‘essence’ of the substance. But ‘essence’ is not something than can be measured, so it really IS only water.
What do I do to get back to my spiritual base?
First of all I have to allow myself to be exposed to ridicule for believing in something that science can’t see. But then I also have to make real to me that there was a time, not very long ago, at that, when we could not measure radioactivity. If somebody at that time postulated something that could kill you within the shortest time without being felt, smelled, or seen, this person would have been certainly ridiculed. I make it clear to me that we cannot measure the ‘essence’ of a substance – yet!
Beyond that argument I try to wrap my mind around the question if we are possibly only looking into a self-fulfilling closed system. Results of religious believes are often explained as self-fulfilling situations – if I believe in the resurrection of Jesus with all my heart and don’t allow any other possibility, I might actually have an apparition that is as real as the cop handing out a ticket for kneeling in the middle of the street.
If this works for a single person, then a group of people can certainly increase the effect and we have those events where blind start seeing and lames start walking. Science has looked at those events with double-blind studies and found that they are all humbug. Yet, they cannot duplicate a parameter they are completely unaware off, so the double blind study might miss essential parameters.
Thus I clarify for myself that science itself is in no way different than the faith they investigate. It is just a different faith – a faith that requires a multitude of observers that all observe the same.
Comparing this with a vivid dream might make this more obvious. Imagine a dream in which you can fly. And also make this a dream where you have a sweetheart that can fly with you (yes, I am thinking of Douglas Adams.) Then add another element that there is a big crowd that cheers you on as you swoop through double barrels and looks deeply embraced with your sweetheart. Would any member in this dream doubt that you two fly?
But, but, but … that’s a dream, that is different!
To which I have to answer: Says who?
Just as I could imagine that in my dream I introduce a scientist that does not believe and demands double-blind studies, so can I imagine that in ‘real life’ I introduced those scientists that tell me that homeopathy is humbug and that they have proven it beyond any reasonable doubt.
For me it boils down to the question if the ‘real life’ is any more real than my dream. And I have to admit total inability to answer that question. Simply from the fact that while I am in the middle of my lucid dream I don’t know that I am dreaming.
Maybe I am dreaming now – I would not be able to tell until I wake up – until then the question has to remain unanswered.
Up to that point any logic is self-contained logic, conclusive within itself, and the logic of science has no more relevance than the logic of astrology or reading tea-leaves. I might have preferences, but that is solely my own, personal decision.