Simulated Realization

Does knowing it’s a simulation spoil the experience?

For some, I’d say the opposite is true. Believing life to be a completely organic experience, ruled by chance, is anxiety inducing. Imagine having the belief that the world will randomly inflict chaos upon you, your family, and the larger population at ANY moment. Yikes. How can you live like that — feeling as though doom is waiting around every corner. I tried it for decades, it sucks.

So for those types of people, knowing that they’re experiencing a fabricated adventure can come as a great relief. And again, having learned this myself, it’s true — I’m much more at ease. And relatedly, my experience of existence has improved. I’ve always known that movies are fabricated adventures, yet I enjoy those — same with games. It’s easy to suspend belief, so knowing the simulation is a simulation isn’t a problem.

And even though the obviousness of the simulation is readily apparent, I’m sucked into dramatic productions all the time. The mind doesn’t focus very well and often takes the observing consciousness on frivolous adventures. The trick is to derive some form of amusement from these little excursions. To be fair, I didn’t enjoy much before, and I still find it challenging to enjoy myself now.

But think about it: my biggest obstacles in life used to be catastrophic global annihilation, armed bandits, spreading germs, oppressive totalitarian regimes, rampant corruption, and a world that simply didn’t care. Nowadays my biggest obstacle is finding the fun in every moment. I can’t always find it, but big-deal right? I live in a world that cares so much, that it creates a never-ending narrative to keep me entertained.

That’s pretty cool if you ask me. Thanks, simulated reality!

Matrix Preloaded

I was just re-watching the 1993 Ship in a Bottle episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It predates The Matrix (1999) by a few years, here are some tidbits:

[Data was telling Barclay about a problem he was having with his computer program:]

DATA: Sherlock Holmes program, 3A, has demonstrated some very curious anomalies.
BARCLAY: There must have been a glitch in the matrix diodes, but I’ll track it down, don’t worry.

[A conversation between Picard and Moriarty:]

MORIARTY: When this is over, you will walk out of this room to the real world and your own concerns, and leave me here trapped in a world I know to be nothing but illusion. I cannot bear that. I must leave.
PICARD: Professor, you are a computer simulation.
MORIARTY: If I am nothing more than a computer simulation, then very little will have been lost. But if I am right?

[At the end of the episode, after Picard tricked Moriarty into believing he actually left the holodeck:]

TROI: You mean he never knew he hadn’t left the holodeck?
PICARD: In fact, the program is continuing even now inside that cube.
CRUSHER: A miniature holodeck?
DATA: In a way, Doctor. However, there is no physicality. The program is continuous but only within the computer’s circuitry.
BARCLAY: As far as Moriarty and the Countess know, they’re halfway to Meles II by now. This enhancement module contains enough active memory to provide them experiences for a lifetime.
PICARD: They will live their lives and never know any difference.
TROI: In a sense, you did give Moriarty what he wanted.
PICARD: In a sense. But who knows? Our reality may be very much like theirs. All this might be just an elaborate simulation running inside a little device sitting on someone’s table.

As we can see, this episode actively suggests that the reality we’re experiencing might be simulated. It also suggests that knowing the simulation IS a simulation has a detrimental effect on the experience. It is therefore in the best interest of the experiencer to be tricked into thinking he is experiencing an organic form of existence.

Grind to Win

How do you want to win? Grind to win, pay to win, have luck to win, or use skill to win? In gaming, I’ve typically employed the grind to win strategy. Not all games offer pay-to-win and I’m not very lucky or skillful — so I just keep at it with dogged determination until I gain so much that I become a force to be reckoned with.

It seems I prefer an unbalanced gameplay — one stacked against me. It’s always the same: I start out slightly over-skilled for the beginning levels, then I get roughed-up throughout the intermediate levels, until finally my perseverance pays off and I achieve a dominance that can’t be denied. But being at the top gets old fast — it’s time for a new challenge.

It’s weird because I quite enjoy the idea of having indomitable power, yet in practice I don’t appreciate it. Whenever I get good at something, it’s time to sabotage the experience or move on. That could be a symptom of masochism, a tendency to thrill oneself through pain and suffering — it’s a nasty habit I’m trying to quit.

Grinding-to-win is itself pretty masochistic: it’s the act of accumulating minimal gains over a long period of time. I want that to change. Now I want to win by skill, luck, or even paying — I really don’t care. There’ve been times I’ve won upgrades in games and I was thrilled by the experience — I don’t mind that route.

I don’t want obstacles on the way to the top — I just want to be at the top and see if I can enjoy myself there — that’s the challenge. I suppose I’ve played this game long enough that I’m sick of grinding. But here’s something weird: although I’ve been grinding away, I’m not sure at what. I’ve certainly been doing stuff, but nothing related to any in-game roles as far as I can tell.

After all these years, I’m not particularly qualified to play a specific role. It just seems as though I’ve been grinding away at shaping my perspective — like a guy on a spiritual journey. And the conclusion of the spiritual portion of that quest is this: lighten up and have fun in the physical realm. But I’m still sitting around wondering what I should do here.

In essence, I feel as though I want to buy stuff and play with toys. Which given the world I’m in, seems to make a lot of sense (i.e. this is an amusement park filled with thrill-rides, snacks, and shopping). I was so serious early on that I couldn’t accept it. I had believed the world to be a realm of gloom and suffering, and fun should be the LAST thing on my mind.

Well, it’s too late now — it seems as though I’ve already done the grinding. Decades have passed and my indomitable status is imminent — I can sense it. The only thing frustrating me is my impatience for what I know will be. Oh well, the struggle was fun while it lasted, but I’m on to new adventures and fired-up about the future: “An exciting future, full of wonder & possibility, out among the stars” — Elon Musk

P.S. Things to Come (Last 3 minutes)

Algorithmic Art

I’ve been working on some algorithmic art lately — that is, art generated by a computer. In other words: based on my initial input, the computer paints a picture. For instance, I might feed a bunch of numbers into a mathematical formula and then those resulting coordinates get connected with colored lines.

Pure randomness isn’t satisfying by the way — it’s just noise. You need patterns and a graduated flow. Abrupt changes don’t work, satisfying art requires transitions. Yes, splashes of color can work, but such boldness must blend itself into the mix somehow — perhaps as contrast to a simple background.

So what? Well, if life is a simulation (which it is), then the flow of life will be graduated and filled with patterns that are ushered in with transitions. Think of music: it’s not a monotonous note nor is it a random string of tones, there are graduated scales and patterns that progressively transform.

In computer-generated art, the trick is finding an algorithm that produces interesting output. Just filling in a formula is predictable and boring, you need to add some randomness. So yes, the unexpected is a necessity — but it can’t be the only component. Randomness needs to be woven into a pattern.

Stories are like this too. Narratives aren’t random happenings strung together — there are plots and progressions as characters with distinct personalities fade in and out. But all along the way there are surprises here and there — yet nothing too abrupt or outlandish, nothing beyond the boundaries that the narrative sets forth.

By its nature, there most certainly is an ebb and flow to life, a pattern punctuated by the unexpected — events rising and falling on a graduated spectrum. But what do you do with this knowledge? Appreciate it for what it is: art. It is these very aspects that we find appealing in every other medium — life itself is no different.

Enjoyment of art is modulated by the seriousness we apply to it. Take it too seriously, and you stifle it. Approach it too frivolously and it has no impact, no significance, it barely registers. Therefore, you must approach it with lighthearted appreciation — interested enough to explore and examine, but not to the point of stressing-out over it.

Aware Avatar

An avatar is born into this world, it’s a part of it, perfectly formed to fit like a puzzle-piece. The piece is unique, containing attributes that allow it to fit within one particular spot. And like a puzzle, a greater picture is revealed when all the pieces assemble together. But what use is a creative process, especially the final product, when no one is around to appreciate it? And so consciousness comes in to observe the events taking place — from beginning to end, a watcher-within witnesses the existence of the avatar.

But this merging procedure can be a bumpy one. At around four years of age, a child goes from pure-automaton to an avatar with a passenger. This passenger, this observer, is oftentimes shaken by his sudden awareness of humanness. He imagines himself as a creature existing within a turbulent world in which he must struggle to survive. He believes that HE is the human. But not being of this world, he’s frightened beyond belief. How can he survive!? He knows absolutely nothing about this place!

If the merger had went well, the consciousness would’ve simply observed the life of the avatar, the character he’s assigned to watch. The avatar knows exactly what to do in this world. But instead, the consciousness mistakenly believes himself to be the human and is scrambling to get a foothold. The avatar simply wants to live out his life, but the observer shuts everything down, too afraid to act while busily fighting against the avatar’s inclination to participate in an active life.

Everyday, the consciousness forbids the avatar from acting. “Are you nuts! I can’t go out there! It’s dangerous!” And so the avatar is hidden away, restricted from fitting into the puzzle he so desperately wants to be a part of. Eventually the avatar gives up. From this perspective, depression is the avatar’s protest against the observer-within. The consciousness is forced to stop and think, forced to consider what’s really going on here.

But oftentimes, the observer doesn’t quite get it and returns to his old habits as soon as possible. The lesson he SHOULD learn, is that the avatar is an autonomous vehicle that’s fully-capable of proceeding through life — all while showing the consciousness a good time. If he’d simply observe, the watcher-within would be whisked around as a spectator to the character’s story. If he’d stop believing that HE is the human, things would go a lot smoother.

And so the two must reconcile, otherwise they remain at odds — a cantankerous pair in constant combat, each with an ability to damage the other. The two reach a harmonic bond when the consciousness realizes his place: to be an appreciative audience to the avatar’s existence, always encouraging the avatar as it travels through a series of entertaining experiences. Under his control, life was boring and unimaginative — but now with the avatar as captain, the consciousness finally enjoys himself as a grand narrative unfolds.

Conscious Example

My character LOVES technology. And I mean loves it. I remember going through a rough-patch about a decade ago, and the imminent release of the 2nd-generation Macbook Air was enough to provide me with the courage to carry on. I’ve had two recent dreams about driving in Teslas on Autopilot. My friend just sent me a picture of a pallet full of Segway ninebot scooters at Costco and I was overcome by the glorious excess. On YouTube today, they suggested a couple videos featuring the DJI RoboMaster S1 programmable robot — I knew instantly that I needed one (okay maybe two).

But my consciousness doesn’t like when my character imagines getting involved with such things. “What?! A Tesla!? You can’t afford that!” or “What!? A $600 scooter!? Are you being serious right now?!!” or “What!? A $500 robotic kid’s toy!? Are you nuts!?!” My consciousness believes only in limitation and lack. If I can’t see a clear path to the goal, then it absolutely can NOT be done. And spoiler alert: I can never see a clear path — the answer is always NO.

Programming has fascinated me since elementary school when they had us type-in some BASIC instructions on Apple IIe computers. But it wasn’t until young-adulthood that I started programming for real. Even then, it was a struggle to overcome the idea that programming was near-impossible — something only well-trained engineers could do. My negativity was persistent. “Program something!? Do you know how hard that is!?? Don’t waste your time!!” and “So you made a little program, so what, you’ll never make anything significant enough to make money!”

Basically, my consciousness has been sabotaging my character’s path through life. I won’t even mention the fact that my consciousness once convinced my character to live in a mobile-home park for seven years simply because it was the simplest option he could imagine. “Cheap and easy? Do THAT!” My character wasn’t happy there, he went into deep soul-searching mode. For these past few years he’s been trying to exorcise the demon that’s been plaguing him his entire life: a relentlessly negative consciousness.

Apparently, the observer-within got a bit too overzealous and believed himself to be the whole kit-and-caboodle. He literally thought we was the beginning, middle, and end of his own existence. In short, the observer thought he was a fragile creature struggling for survival amidst a harsh and brutal world. He assumed that he had to go it alone — and of course FREAKED-OUT since he had no clue what to do. What he should’ve done is sat still and observed i.e. his job. But like a bad middle-manager, he took matters into his own hands and started going around like he was the character. Let’s just say he made a real mess of things.

This poor frightened fellow needs to understand that he’s off the hook. He’s not the guy in charge — just a passenger along for the ride. It’s kinda like that philosophical question: does a tree make a sound if it falls in the woods and no one hears it? Well it turns out, that no, you need an observer — which is why observers and characters are paired up. But sometimes the process doesn’t go so smoothly, obviously. So I’m telling you, dear conscious observer, you can relax now. Simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride — that’s your only job. The character, who was born of this world, will gladly do his thing — he’s already wound-up, just let him go.

Regarding Avatars

Dear higher-consciousness, how should I regard the avatar?

Good question, conscious-observer. Now that you’ve been riding around inside the avatar for all these years, it’s great that you’re finally acknowledging it. First, the avatar is not a “hunk-of-junk” that you “got stuck with”. It’s an advanced autonomous-vehicle that carries you along on your life’s journey from beginning to end. It does NOT require your input or intervention for correct operation. In fact, manual-control is not advised under ANY circumstance.

While the capacity for manual-control exists, it’s simply there to provide the sensation of immersion. In other words, you wouldn’t want to feel locked-in or trapped, so there’s some wiggle-room. Think of it like an amusement-park ride in which there’s merely a lap-bar reminding you to stay seated. While you could easily slide out from under the bar and jump-off, that’d be stupid and you’d hurt yourself. In the same way, you should remain seated at all times within the avatar and keep your hands OFF the controls — you simply don’t know enough to be effective.

If left alone, the avatar will whisk you around this world and complete all the tasks that lead to a fulfilling life. It’s that simple. ALL your needs will be met without you worrying about anything. Again, and no offense, but you literally don’t know enough about this world to do anything on your own — and why should you? That’s why you’re here! To experience this new and interesting adventure! It may seem intense at times, but don’t worry, your avatar can handle any-and-all situations as long as you allow it to.

The avatar is essentially an automaton containing a complete personality, capable of performing flawlessly throughout its lifespan. The avatar is more than a simple body, it’s the entirety of the character. YOU are the observer of this character, you are NOT the character. I can tell that you’ve confused the two, which is why you’re constantly attempting to manually control the avatar. The avatar is of this world whereas you are not, thus the avatar can easily navigate this realm whereas you cannot.

So, IF you find the avatar performing poorly, you can guarantee that the reason is YOU. Please be aware that there are two primary ways in which you can screw things up. The first is manual-control and the second is criticism. The avatar is a responsive and emotional caretaker that will listen to you. If you disparage the avatar or the world it resides within, it WILL feel the sting and performance will suffer. For the smoothest possible ride, you must remain a polite passenger.

Politeness isn’t hard: simply show some respect, be thankful. You don’t own the avatar, in fact it’s doing YOU a favor by ferrying you around. YOU don’t know more than the avatar, YOU are essentially clueless here, relying on the avatar to maintain your existence within this world. Wouldn’t it be grand if you acknowledged and appreciated this fact? When YOU look in the mirror, the avatar is like a puppy looking back, simply waiting for acceptance and a little pat on the head — let it know how much you love it.