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Thread: Nick Bostrom: The Philosophy of the Matrix

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    Nick Bostrom: The Philosophy of the Matrix

    Hello,

    One of today's hottest philosophers is Professor Nick Bostrom, see http://www.nickbostrom.com/ He is a Professor in the Philosophy Department of Oxford University. He is mostly known for his works in alternate realities, where he argues that we humans may be living in a computer simulation and we would not even be aware of it.

    I think he has a point: when we dream, we think it's real, until we wake up. Well, what is our current world is just a dream, or a simulation? We would never know. I believe reality can never be known for sure.

    What do you think?

    Thank you

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    The thing with dreams though, is that each dream varyies each night. The scenarios change, the people change, etc. When we wake up, we always wake up into a 'reality' that is constant. It is possible that our world is a simulation, but I doubt that it is just a dream...

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Molko
    The thing with dreams though, is that each dream varyies each night. The scenarios change, the people change, etc. When we wake up, we always wake up into a 'reality' that is constant. It is possible that our world is a simulation, but I doubt that it is just a dream...
    Thinking about it, a dream is the same thing as a computer simulation: just the mediums are different: while a computer simulation runs in silicon, dream simulations run in neurons and synapses.

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    This seems very difficult to respond so easily. I do find it very possible to dream while awake, yet in a different manner, hopefully not having similar hallucinations, for example. Deviating dreams from assumed 'reality' philosophers, mainly existentialists, have debated for centuries.
    The Matrix, as you mentioned, AA, I think, in a ridiculously violent manner, represents some of the ideas thought by René Descartes in his Meditations; while he contemplated the idea of a 'brain in a bottle,' and attaching electrodes to it, representing actual function, he thought much of the difference whether consciousness necessarily exists in the brain, and, if so, if a machine can imitate it, as if in a dream state, making much of life like a dream. He found truth in his idea that consciousness does persist mainly in the brain, and that it controls the rest of the body, and claimed "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore, I am"), leaving the question whether one can necessarily 'think' rationally in dreams as well as in waking life.
    In applying two popular thinkers' philosophies, that of Immanuel Kant and George Berkeley, they would find no actual difference between dreams and waking life, though they differ in many other ways. The perception of subjective reality (which all proves subjective) depends on a person's perceiving it, and, surely, as one perceives his/her dreams, they become reality, only sometimes more vivid, distorted, and less associated with rational thought.
    With more recent thought, however, a reader of their often differing philosophies (and watcher of The Matrix) can consider what few people have thought: lucid dreams. A person who experiences lucid dreams can easily distinguish dreaming from waking life while dreaming, and, during the dream, has the opportunity to do things amazingly impossible in waking life (i.e.: flying). Surely, while awake, one cannot fly as if in a dream, but does lucid dreaming merely offer that privelege of confidence and awareness, and does this fully represent a perceived portion of subjective reality in the mind, solely based on one's thoughts? Yes. Perhaps one can even go far enough to say that one who has lucid dreams can better distinguish his/her different thoughts and experiences between waking and dreaming based on Kant's and Berkeley's ideas of subjective reality, because he/she seems to think equally in both states; in essence, one "thinks" between both illusory states, "therefore, he/she is."

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    Simulations and hyperreality sounds like Jean Baudrillard. Read his "Precession of Simulacra". It is exactly the philosophy of Matrix. Interesting but too hyperreal, I think.
    In dreams begin responsibilities.

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    Very interesting "Star trech Interprise" the last epi had that very same theme . Two other crew members from "Next Generation" were running a program simulation of their protocessors.
    The twist was, "Number One" I think the guy under Capt.Picard rank was interacting with its crew .
    He had never appeared before on the interprise during the whole season and there was no mention to crew being simualtions until the last epi then the Next generation crew member interacted with the interprise crew members . The series never showed the cook and was who he was when he was interacting with its members.
    As for dreams I know when I am dreaming and when I am not. I think there is something within us that lets us know we are living and the same would go for a computor program it would somehow know deep down that it was only a similation. The matrix is facinating to ponder.

  7. #7
    Hasn't anyone heard of the Butterfly Parable by the ancient Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu?

    Chuang Tzu fell asleep one night and dreamed he was a butterfly flitting around a garden. But when he awoke the next morning, he couldn't decide if he was a man who had dreamed of being a butterly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

    In other words, we think we are aware of reality during the state of consciousness, but we can't ever be absolutely certain. Perhaps the state of dreaming connects us to the genuine reality and consciousness amounts to a highly-detailed delusion.

    About the original "Matrix" film: I think the author was motivated mostly by a profound disgust with modern life, not a scifi or what-is-reality theme.

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    >Well, what is our current world is just a dream, or a simulation? We would never know. I believe reality can never be known for sure.
    But what is reality ?

    In science when we say something one has to refer a referential system. Consider a sophisticated video game with artificial intelligence animating creatures: for us, OUTSIDE the video game system it's just a simulation, but for the objects inside the game it's REAL.

    You would say but we are not like animated characters in video game. But if you are a scientific person, you know that the world is fundamentally deterministic - read for example physician Alan Sokal - like in the video game: it's just because of the nearly infinite combination of interactions that it appears to be random.

    So in some sense we are living in a illusion of self-determination but in practice does it change something since we cannot predict our future it is as if everything was real after all though for would-be creatures observing our world it would be just a simulation.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by NewWorldOrder
    >Well, what is our current world is just a dream, or a simulation? We would never know. I believe reality can never be known for sure. But what is reality?
    Thoreau wrote that if we could ever look at our society in a completely objective way, it would seem as strange and unfamiliar as 1001 Arabian Nights.

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    Quote Originally Posted by starrwriter
    Thoreau wrote that if we could ever look at our society in a completely objective way, it would seem as strange and unfamiliar as 1001 Arabian Nights.
    We CAN but do we WANT REALLY ?

    For example people talks about determinism and rejects it because they fear to become mad or because the extremists in some religion have pushed creationism theory to the absurd so that it is associated with determinism whereas determinism is inherently present in Scientific theory.

    Jacques Bricmont a scientist wrote this paper : Determinism, Chaos and Quantum Mechanics:

    http://dogma.free.fr/txt/JB-Determinism.pdf

    He denounces the social religious mismanipulation about determinism in this paper.

    For example he says:
    It is likely that the hostility to determinism comes from a desire to "save free will". Namely, to find a description of the physical Universe that can be reconcilied with our deep feeling that at least on some occasions "we" choose to do X and not Y.
    ...
    One solution is to declare free will as an illusion. But if that is the case it is a necessary illusion in the sense that we cannot live without in some sense believing in it.
    Last edited by NewWorldOrder; 11-10-2005 at 02:17 PM.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by NewWorldOrder
    We CAN but do we WANT REALLY?
    I think it's healthy to look at our society from an outsider's point of view occasionally. Under normal circumstances, we are so close to it (virtually embedded) we can't see it in a true light.

    Quote Originally Posted by NewWorldOrder
    Jacques Bricmont a scientist wrote this paper: Determinism, Chaos and Quantum Mechanics:
    http://dogma.free.fr/txt/JB-Determinism.pdf
    He denounces the social religious mismanipulation about determinism in this paper. For example he says:
    It is likely that the hostility to determinism comes from a desire to "save free will". Namely, to find a description of the physical Universe that can be reconcilied with our deep feeling that at least on some occasions "we" choose to do X and not Y. One solution is to declare free will as an illusion. But if that is the case it is a necessary illusion in the sense that we cannot live without in some sense believing in it.
    That is the same conclusion I have come to regarding free will -- a socially necessary illusion. Without free will, no one could be held responsible for his actions.
    Last edited by starrwriter; 11-10-2005 at 03:06 PM.

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    you guys should watch "Waking Life" !!!!

    a thought to consider is: you can wake up anytime YOU want from a dream....
    "Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name."
    -Tao Teh Ching
    Lao Tzu

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    Quote Originally Posted by starrwriter
    I think it's healthy to look at our society from an outsider's point of view occasionally. Under normal circumstances, we are so close to it (virtually embedded) we can't see it in a true light.



    That is the same conclusion I have come to regarding free will -- a socially necessary illusion. Without free will, no one could be held responsible for his actions.
    The necessary illusion is not new: just read Plato, he said in "Republic" that the divine origin of the elites is a lie but this lie is a necessity or people won't accept governance from the rulers. And without Religion most people won't have enough strength to resist madness.

    Now for people who do not believe in Religions and there are more and more people who are in that cases there are several profiles:

    - those with low scientific education who believe that Quantum Theory justifies Free Will. In truth it doesn't really because the so called uncertainty principle in Quantum Theory is just ONE interpretation among others and the proof is that the creator of Quantum Theory doesn't agree with this interpretation and of course Einstein doesn't either - this is famous enough. Still this interpretation is the most widespread in mass public and it was explained by Bricmont and Sokal in a book that this celebrity was caused by french sociologists who used this interpretation to justify their political view by science whereas science shouldn't have been involved.

    - those with more rigourous education who know that science doesn't know much in truth and that the door is opened for investigation. What is sure is that Determinism is to stay in Science and that free will may or may not exist. For example let's take again the analogy with a video game. Before you buy a game, you have probably seen a demo. This demo is completely determined. Once you buy the game, the RULES of the game are determined but YOU DECIDE what to do in the game so that the end results will change. So if in the real universe we are like a player who plays the game of Universe, though the Universe is deterministic in its rules you can still influence the output. But we can imagine imbricated Universes so that the concept of free will would be relative I'm not sure you're following me .

    As for walking life I'm going to look at it.

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    Now don't think that Science is so far from metaphysics, for example in October of european magazine "Science of Life" (http://www.science-et-vie.com/AnciensSV/1057.asp) the big title was "Does the World really exists ?" with the thesis that the Universe could be a computer.


    Also look at what AI (Artificial Intelligence) can do today:
    http://www.oddcast.com/home/side_ai.html

    Me - Hello
    Him - Hi, there
    Me - Who are you ?
    Him - I ask myself that question, "Who am I?"


    And he doesn't answer the same thing each time to the same question so he is capable of being "intelligent".

    So yes we may be some very high sophisticated AI generated by some sophisticated computer.
    Last edited by NewWorldOrder; 11-11-2005 at 08:45 AM.

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