Why do we know things — individually and as a society?
From a purely physical perspective, all knowledge is held within the collective minds of mankind. In other words, every individual is a redundant data-storage module, that when combined with all other individuals, contains the sum of human knowledge. Society’s memory is simply stored in the memories of individuals. No one person contains everything, but multiple people hold the same information for particular areas.
There is a slower archival-storage mechanism, in the form of books and videos and such. But this still requires an individual to know enough to seek out such books and know where to find them and how to follow them. So primarily, society’s memory is stored in the active memory of individuals.
We also know that memories decay over time. As new things enter our mind, old things become less relevant, the past becomes even more distant and details fade. And memories aren’t stored digitally, but in an analog format. For example, when I try to recall something from decades ago: I kinda remember, I know it sounds like “mara…” no, no, it was “Sara…” wait no, “Kara…” that’s it! But I might be wrong and the memory becomes corrupted.
The details of not-so-popular things are probably corrupted the most since less people hold them in memory. But what if my own memory contradicts the memory of the collective mind? When a few individuals share the same contradiction, this concept has been termed the “Mandela Effect” or sometimes “Retroactive Continuity”. Some adherents claim there’s evidence of archival-storage contradicting the memory of the collective mind (sometimes called “residue”).
Since I believe in Simulation Theory, I don’t adhere to the purely physical perspective. My belief is that knowledge is held in a Universal Consciousness located beyond the confines of the physical world. When inspiration or understanding comes out of nowhere, I assume it comes from this Universal Consciousness. In other words, parents and teachers do not impart the knowledge we possess, it’s simply unlocked at the appropriate time when needed.
In my experience, there is no wisdom of the crowd. Instead, an individual is instilled with an inspiring idea that subsequently influences the crowd. And this inspiring idea wasn’t passed down, it didn’t come from society’s memory, it was fresh information that radically altered society as a whole. Spiritual leaders, political leaders, philosophers, inventors — the things these people knew didn’t come from rehashing old stuff into something great — aging leftovers don’t make the best meals.
And I don’t believe the simulation is absolute and concrete in its ways. It’s more of a dream that flows and forms based on feedback from the player. And in dreams, continuity doesn’t matter, corruption of concepts is a regular occurrence — so in my thinking, things like the Mandela Effect or Retroactive Continuity could readily occur. (I’m mentioning these concepts because my friend mentioned them to me this morning and I’m writing this to help clarify my thoughts on the matter).