Balance

The Matrix, Our Home and The Second Option

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Have You Ever Had A Dream, Neo, That You Were So Sure Was Real?

Morpheus (The Matrix, 1999)

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The ‘sci’ route.
[Source – Pixabay]

Our world, our home, this table, that apple forms our reality… what we experience is the reality and déjà vu is déjà vu… or is it?

What if the funky sci-fi stories are correct? What if we are living in a simulation?

Taking just the ‘sci’ route for now, we move ahead.

Definition says – “A simulation imitates the operation of real world processes or systems with the use of models. The model represents the key behaviours and characteristics of the selected process or system while the simulation represents how the model evolves under different conditions over time.”


Nick Bostrom, a contemporary philosopher, in his seminal paper ‘Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?’ published in Philosophy Quarterly (2003) argues that at least one of the following propositions is true –

(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

This galvanizing thought, also explored in literature, reached the masses, in leather-overcoat-black-shades defining manner, via the 1999 blockbuster film, The Matrix.

In a cyberpunk style, The Matrix, fantastically paints a futuristic grim image of us all ignorantly trapped/living in a simulation. But this world fluctuates as there is a ‘Neo’ hero and an ‘Agent’ villain and also a Polestar named Morpheus; while the villain manipulates, dulls and destroys, the hero trusts the revolution and liberates.

A journey with a final destination, the film knows where to end.

A hypothesis doesn’t worry about endings, it is simply and honestly a hypothesis; like one shared by Nick Bostrom, a straightforward, happy philosopher.

He states –

Proposition (1) doesn’t by itself imply that we are likely to go extinct soon, only that we are unlikely to reach a posthuman stage. This possibility is compatible with us remaining at, or somewhat above, our current level of technological development for a long time before going extinct. Another way for (1) to be true is if it is likely that technological civilization will collapse. Primitive human societies might then remain on Earth indefinitely.

There are many ways in which humanity could become extinct before reaching posthumanity. Perhaps the most natural interpretation of (1) is that we are likely to go extinct as a result of the development of some powerful but dangerous technology…

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Converging naturally.
[Source – Pixabay]

The second alternative in the simulation argument’s conclusion is that the fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor‐ simulation is negligibly small. In order for (2) to be true, there must be a strong convergence among the courses of advanced civilizations…

What force could bring about such convergence? One can speculate that advanced civilizations all develop along a trajectory that leads to the recognition of an ethical prohibition against running ancestor‐simulations because of the suffering that is inflicted on the inhabitants of the simulation…

Another possible convergence point is that almost all individual posthumans in virtually all posthuman civilizations develop in a direction where they lose their desires to run ancestor‐simulations.

This would require significant changes to the motivations driving their human predecessors, for there are certainly many humans who would like to run ancestor‐simulations if they could afford to do so. But perhaps many of our human desires will be regarded as silly by anyone who becomes a posthuman…

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Palpable and true…?
[Source – Pixabay]

The possibility expressed by alternative (3) is the conceptually most intriguing one. If we are living in a simulation, then the cosmos that we are observing is just a tiny piece of the totality of physical existence. The physics in the universe where the computer is situated that is running the simulation may or may not resemble the physics of the world that we observe. While the world we see is in some sense “real”, it is not located at the fundamental level of reality. It may be possible for simulated civilizations to become posthuman. They may then run their own ancestor‐simulations on powerful computers they build in their simulated universe.

Such computers would be “virtual machines”, a familiar concept in computer science. (Java script web‐applets, for instance, run on a virtual machine – a simulated computer – inside your desktop.) Virtual machines can be stacked: it’s possible to simulate a machine simulating another machine, and so on, in arbitrarily many steps of iteration.

If we do go on to create our own ancestor‐simulations, this would be strong evidence against (1) and (2), and we would therefore have to conclude that we live in a simulation. Moreover, we would have to suspect that the posthumans running our simulation are themselves simulated beings; and their creators, in turn, may also be simulated beings. Reality may thus contain many levels…

In the dark forest of our current ignorance, it seems sensible to apportion one’s credence roughly evenly between (1), (2), and (3).


Talking about the second option, how wonderfully sublime, explicit yet indefinite it is? “Ethics”, Nick Bostrom, matter-of-factly, talks about ethics. That the post-human civilisation may find it ethically wrong or simply may not be interested in undertaking such “ancestor-simulations” is superbly intriguing.

Flood-gates of what is bright and reverberating distinctly, incessantly somewhere, suddenly leaves us with a promise – its nature and terms we know not as yet for we are too far away.

But this gratifying simple thought present as the second option balances and bridges the other two, quite possible, extremes, as if it knows the truth, as if it is the truth … while we wait and work our way towards…

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Fate, It Seems, Is Not Without A Sense Of Irony.

Morpheus  (The Matrix, 1999)

Download and read Nick Bostrom’s complete simulation argument now –

Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?

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Read a comprehensive article about the simulation theory here.


Also, listen to Stephan West’s coverage of Nick Bostrom’s simulation argument.


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Bach’s Seagull meets Shelley’s Skylark

Jonathan Livingston Seagull and his students.
Image from Pixabay.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull wanted to master the art of flying. Soaring up in the sky, above the white ocean of clouds, he felt truly free.

Though very unlikely of a seagull, Jonathan flew high ever so high, he practised and failed umpteenth times, but he never gave up.

An outcast, he lived alone and happily spent his time in his quest to achieve perfection.

On reaching a higher level of existence, he meets gulls like him who wanted to enhance their flying skills. It was not heaven for everyone there were learners.

Chiang, the guru of them all, teaches Jonathan how to let go of the concept of time and space so as to travel freely in the Universe.

“Begin by knowing that you have already arrived”, said Chiang.

Wondering if someone else, one who dares to question and take risks, needs guidance on Earth, he returns.

“Devil” for some and “angel” for others, Jonathan teaches a few eager ones. Practising, failing, practising again, Jonathan’s students rise above the Flock, the mundane.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull then continues his journey to guide other gulls who must have been waiting for him somewhere else in the Universe.

The fable. [Source – Wikipedia]

Richard Bach’s fable is soothingly clear, and thus, appears too simplistic to many. Just like flying looks simple only until we give it a try.

He equates perfection with freedom, emphasising on practising and a thirst for knowledge as the golden path to it; a path where you walk ahead passionately and not cumbersomely.

Every little bud in nature rises high, soaking in sun rays, moving towards it. Rising high, shedding the old self, stepping forward to explore the unknown, dwindling before making a firm stand is what life’s journey is all about.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “a one-in-a-million bird”, if appears to be too perfect and his ideas if sound too far-fetching then you should look at your on-going journey and answer these questions – what are you looking for in life – perfection in some form or maybe a balance?

And what is balance if not a proportion of perfect this and perfect that?

Even better, you should meet Shelley’s Skylark.

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!

Bird thou never wert,

That from Heaven, or near it,

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

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Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The blue deep thou wingest,

And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

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The invisible bird.
Image from Unsplash.

‘Blithe Spirit’ calls Percy Bysshe Shelley a Skylark that is soaring up in the sky (or Heaven, or near it), singing beautifully and gloriously that to him it is nothing but unprecedented ‘unpremeditated art’.

The Skylark, invisible to his eyes, has such power in its voice that the poet likens it to ‘a cloud of fire’.

Shelley beseeches the Skylark to teach him what it knows; a divine secret it must be for nothing on earth could outshine it. Joy so true, Shelley calls it ‘a star of Heaven’.

Nature’s bounty, the golden glow worms, the rainbows, the playful wind, a young maiden’s love and a poet’s grand verses, Shelley says the Skylark’s song, that flows in a ‘crystal stream’, is above them all.

What thou art we know not;

What is most like thee?

From rainbow clouds there flow not

Drops so bright to see

As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

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Like a Poet hidden

In the light of thought,

Singing hymns unbidden,

Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

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Like a high-born maiden

In a palace-tower,

Soothing her love-laden

Soul in secret hour

With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

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Like a glow-worm golden

In a dell of dew,

Scattering unbeholden

Its aëreal hue

Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

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Like a rose embower’d

In its own green leaves,

By warm winds deflower’d,

Till the scent it gives

Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

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Sound of vernal showers

On the twinkling grass,

Rain-awaken’d flowers,

All that ever was

Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

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Rain-awaken’d flowers.
Image from Pixabay.

The Skylark, above these mortal dilemmas, sings with pure love and delight. And in contrast we, humans, are locked in the past or the future.

We look before and after,

And pine for what is not:

Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Shelley urges the Skylark to teach him just half of what it knows, this ‘harmonious madness’ so that he could capture it within and share it with the world.

The Skylark if not a gleaming reflection of perfection, then what is it? If its song is not a song of freedom, then why is the melody ‘a flood of rapture so divine’?

It must be that just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the Skylark returned to Earth, to guide and share its knowledge, to remind the poet that ‘freedom is the very nature of his being’.

Unlike a miracle, both took time to convey what little they knew of the truth. The Seagull stays to make his students practice and the Skylark sings till the chosen one – the poet in this case – hears its joyous voice.  

Showing what doors can perseverance open and how patience leads to strength, the Seagull and the Skylark leave it up to the individual to unfold the story further.

Birth and death are timed then and a fully lived life, with all its imperfections, aims for a balance, for perfection that guides it to fly high and well.

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Fly high and well.
Image from Pixabay.

Read P. B Shelley’s full poem To a Skylark here.

Listen to the Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s audio book version here.


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Balance

After my failed attempt to balance, I realised I am missing an ingredient. It’s forgotten, it’s forbidden, it’s evil. Closed in a trunk and locked and chained, thrown down in a deep dark hole. Maybe that’s why it screeches and hurts when it reaches the surface.

Do I also need to be blindfolded before I balance? Not seeing means not feeling? Are both the forces ruthless in essence? Should we maintain silence to listen?

Probably yes.

My means aren’t in fashion, but are prudent. The act has begun, I can see the missing ingredient now. So I attempt again to balance.