For your consideration, should you have 20 minutes to spare to think about consciousness and the singularity: Reality 3.0
I’ll summarize for the lazier readers: Paul Hughes is making an argument that our accelerating intelligence and technology will bring us to significantly altered states of reality. all sensory information is an interpretation of the external world, so altering that interpretation wouldn’t really be departing from reality, it would be simply changing reality, the way that things are experienced. As we are now our interpretation of the universe is very limited, but in the future, Hughes argues, our sensors will be distributed across the universe, we will be able to chose how we feel the information from these sense organs, and we will not be limited to the 5 or so senses we have now.
One cool thing the author mentions is that we will likely have the computational power to simulate the earth in its entirety, including all of us and our brains, by 2060 (assuming Moore’s law holds steady which some might say is not the case). Hughes muses that we will quickly create a simulated star wars galaxy which we can enter and explore, an exciting proposition and only a small part of what is possible with that kind of computational capability.
My favorite part of the essay:
Imagine the possibility of having ‘sexual’ and fully orgasmic experiences while our external exploratory probes map the unique topography of a new planet? I can’t think of a better way to discover the unique nuances of a new geology as one would a new lover.
And honestly I agree. what we could have ahead of us is nothing less than ecstatic, orgasmic exploration of the universe, for billions and billions of years. This is of course a ridiculous idea, many might laugh at the proposition, but I really think it’s going to be a lot less fun sitting back on earth making fun of the universe for having sex with itself than joining in the fun.
This is a somewhat fresh thought to me, so I may ramble on a bit in trying to communicate it. To preface, a Paradox is a statement, or set of statements which seem evident yet self-contradict. This is not a very good definition of a paradox, but It’s hard to find a good one. The word is often used interchangeably with “contradiction.” At heart, a paradox is where knowledge can go no further, where assumptions take an absurd quality.
A thought occurred to me at a point in the past. It concerned the concept of the horizon of knowledge, that the more we discover, the more we realize how much we don’t know. The thought occurred to me that perhaps at the end of our possible knowledge is a circle of paradoxes, logical contradictions which we cannot possibly overcome. Remarkably, the same thought had occurred to a friend of mine.
Since discussing this with my friend, I’ve come upon a new thought. As I considered a horizon, I realized that horizons can only exist on a sphere such as the earth (I had previously been thinking of an infinite plane). Therefore if we keep expanding our horizon, eventually we must stop not at a circle, but at a point opposite from where we began. As this occurred to me I realized that this point is indeed a paradox, the paradox which underlies all paradoxes: the disparity between subjective experience and objective reality; the separateness of the inner and outer realm.
Let’s look at a few paradoxes. I’ve already discussed one, the paradox of knowledge (the more we know the more we know what we don’t know). This is perhaps the most obviously related paradox. In the end, when we’ve accumulated the knowledge of the universe, we will have to realize that it could all be an illusion, and all of that knowledge is somewhat meaningless.
Ludwig Wittgenstein introduced the world to the rule following paradox. Given the pattern, say “2, 4, 6, 8…”, one would naturally extrapolate the rule as “adding two to the previous number”, yielding “10” as the next number. however, the rule could very well be “adding two to the previous number if the number is below 7, otherwise adding 3,” in which case the next number would be “11”. There is absolutely no way of being sure that you are right. There is an objective reality, and there is your inner world, and a fundamental paradox between them.
There is a so called Paradox of Hedonism, that pursuing happiness makes one miserable. This again is a problem of consciousness, of pursuing subjective well being as if it were an objective goal.
I suppose another, simpler way of saying this is that there are no paradoxes in math, in the physical order of the universe. yet at the same time we are a part of the physical order of the universe, and our thought patterns can be modeled mathematically. Once again we arrive at a paradox.
Perhaps what I am saying is not significant at all, that of course paradoxes would revert back to the problem of our existence. Perhaps because I have been thinking so much about consciousness everything comes to me in this framework. Nevertheless I feel it is important to bring up as a consideration.
The universe is infinite and finite. it is simultaneously meaningful and meaningless. We exist and do not exist, we are conscious and not conscious, we have free will and do not. All of these things are true, and these contradictions will haunt us unto the end of our experience.
Update: to view other posts concerning the development on my thought on this paradox, subjective experience, and meaning, just scroll down to the categories right below and click “meaning.”