Simulations Made by Simulations Making Simulations

It’s possible we are simply self aware video games. Someone else is controlling us and it’s in a a dimension beyond our ability to sense outside of describing it through math and analogy.

People have scanned brains when it comes to making decisions. They consistently show that the brain activity happens seconds before the person is aware that they made a decision. In other words, our mere decision to do something actually comes before our conscious decision to do something…by about seven seconds.*

This means one of two things as far as I can see. Either:

1. Whatever it is that makes us decide things communicates very slowly with our consciousness. So, we’re still in control, we’re just making the decision before we’re aware that we’ve made it.

or

2. Our decisions are not made by us. They’re instructions given to us by something distinctly separate from ourselves.

It’s possible that #1 is correct. It’s also possible that there’s a third option (or for that matter a hundred options) I haven’t thought of. But, if #2 is correct then us being able to verify it would be like asking Pac-Man to do stuff to verify that there are human beings with controllers or joy sticks making his moves for him. As far as Pac-Man is concerned he senses that he moves. He makes lefts and rights, eats ghosts & cherries. Occasionally he dies. He feels like all those moves (save for dying) must be due to his deciding to do them. What other conclusion would he possibly come to?

However, I – as a creature in three dimensions of space and one of time – know for sure that Pac-Man’s decisions are just my decisions. I’m controlling him. But I’m doing say in a way that he can’t possibly detect with just his senses even if he had all five senses that we have (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). Now, if Pac-Man’s super smart he can conduct experiments and realize that his entire world is made out of pixels. The pixels are different colors sometimes, but there is a finite amount of them and his world is merely a combination of those pixels. Each time he dies he likely does not retain the memory of his previous world, but he’s still the same Pac-Man. Unbeknownst to him, there are millions of other Pac-Man games out there. They’re all a lot like him, but never exactly the same (multiverse).

Some scientists believe that the universe could be a giant hologram.**

Scientists believe they have a way to test our world to see if it’s a computer simulation (aka video game)^. I’m eagerly awaiting the results of that test. I don’t know what I’d do with the knowledge if they felt that we were in a simulation, but I would be fascinated by it. And I’m pretty sure people smarter than me would figure out how to make a better microwave or a better something else from the applications of this new knowledge.

So, if this is the case (and we don’t know if it is of course) does that mean that we have free will? Well, that depends on how you define free will. Our conscious mind believes with certainty that our actions are results of the self making conscious choices. But what if our actions are the result of someone with a joystick that we’re physically incapable of seeing or sensing in anyway? If that’s true the we can simply define ‘free will’ as the ability for our brains to convince us that what we do is dictated by our individuality and ability to choose. We still strive to do great things (space exploration, curing disease, etc.) because we believe that ‘striving’ will lead to greater chance of success than complacency. Maybe ‘striving’ is another trick of the brain. If that’s the case, it’s a convincing trick. So, just go with it.

Because if we are Pac-Man and we don’t actually move our own character then wouldn’t we prefer to win the game rather than lose it? I sure would. So, I’ll keep trying. Or at least my brain will convince me that what I’m calling ‘trying’ is based on me and reward me for it with senses of accomplishment and possibly monetary success (fingers crossed) as opposed to some 4-D creature with a 4-D joystick.

Here’s an additional tidbit on this. If in fact we are self aware video games, then isn’t it quiet interesting that we make video games of our own? As far as we know Pac-Man doesn’t have the ability to have a conscious. Maybe the 4-D creatures who play us in video games don’t have any idea that we can think for ourselves also. And if that’s not weirding you out enough, try this on for size. What if the 4-D creatures are someone else’ video game. And those who created that game really live in someone else’? What if every simulation we create (novels, video games, movies, art, music, etc.) has a kind of life of it’s own. And we’re just one of many creations by someone on a higher dimensional plane (or if it’s an infinite series of Russian dolls then the term ‘higher’ becomes irrelevant. We all exist in a circle. The simulation that created us is not ‘higher’ on any hierarchy, because in order to be higher up something, there must be a top. Without a top, neither us or our own creations or our creators are measured against each other as ‘better’ or ‘worse.’

If this is true, what does it mean for science, education, religion, philosophy, marriage, morality, etc.?

Of course, this is all theoretical. It fits the data in the same way that other interpretations fit the data, but it is a viable possibility based on what we know so far. We live in an exciting time in history when not only can we ask this question, but we can also test the validity of the answer.

*http://tinyurl.com/6zcsycu
**http://tinyurl.com/nq74a86
^http://tinyurl.com/l7uwx79

How do you Know if You’re Socially Awkward?

It’s 3AM and I just did some laundry. I didn’t intend to do laundry this late. I just had a busy few weeks and kept putting off the necessary task until I realized I was wearing my last pair of socks. But I kind of enjoyed it. I am exhausted and would rather be asleep, but there is a serenity to being awake at this hour knowing most of the people in my time zone are likely asleep. Why?

I’m not sure, but I have some ideas as to the reason. First of all, I think I’m mildly autistic. It’s entirely possible that I’m not using that term right, but as I understand it autism is used to describe people who cannot pick up on social cues from others. I know it can get severe and have rather intense consequences, but I do think that I suffer from a mild version of that problem. Sometimes (often times) when I’m in conversation with someone particularly someone I don’t know very well, I can’t seem to feel confident that they want to be around me. I have a paranoia that I’m saying something uninteresting or overbearing. It’s a silly fear in some respects. Most of my friends whose opinions I trust would tell me that I’m adequate if not sometimes charming in social situations.

My problem is that I know some people who are not great in social situations who are somewhat if not wholly unaware of it. And I can see no specific difference between myself and them that leads me to definitively believe that I am any better than them in those situations. Most people in my experience are polite. Rarely will someone in a social setting say something like, “You’re talking too much,” or “You’re boring everyone with that story,” or “You make me feel uncomfortable.” Most people I know when faced with such a situation would do their best to remain polite and find an inconspicuous way out of the unpleasant interaction whenever an exit presented itself.

While I definitely appreciate politeness, this tends to lead to a viscous cycle. Maybe ‘viscous’ is the wrong term, but ‘cycle’ is accurate. Person A (let’s call him Roman) is bad at conversing. Most times that Roman is at a party or other social setting he makes people uncomfortable in some way. Maybe he’s rude, but it also might be relatively harmless in that he could simply be boring or obnoxious. Roman has no idea that people don’t like talking to him. The people he talks to are too polite to allow him to pick up on the fact that they don’t enjoy his company. So, he continues to interact with people who for the most part don’t love it. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Now, I hope I’m not like Roman. I doubt I am. People seem to like me, but what if I’m not as bad as Roman? What if I’m not unpleasant all the time, but only some of the times? What if I’m only making people feel uncomfortable 20% of the time? I’m not saying I do, but what if I did? If so, I would obviously want to correct this behavior to bring the number to 0%. But if I’m unaware that I’m doing it, how can I fix it? Most people aren’t going to tell me if I am. And asking someone a question like, “Am I cool to talk to?” comes off as needy and uncomfortable. Ironically, if it’s true that I’m great at socializing then my first ever weird moment could come from trying to find out if I ever force people into weird moments.

This post isn’t a veiled attempt at asking for validation for my social skills. However, it’s a genuine intellectual pursuit. Have you ever felt this way? What if anything did you do about it? If you did nothing, did you convince yourself that you’re great? Did you suppress the questioning of yourself? Did you simply decide that you are who you are and if that makes people uncomfortable than so be it? And if someone did break the social norm and told you that you’re unpleasant to converse with, what would you do about it? Would you change? Would you ask others for their opinions?

Human interaction is fascinating to me. We all have these powerful, but still very limited brains. We can’t know what each other is thinking with 100% certainty. We can’t know if we’re really liked or just tolerated. Or can we? Or do most people not even question their own social aptitude? Does my mere curiosity about this subject mean I’m different from most or is this one of those common things that we all share, but rarely talk about?

Or, is the mere portrayal of confidence around others the very thing that manifests pleasant social interactions?

Regardless of the answers to these questions (if there even are definitive answers) I still enjoy occasionally doing tasks at 3AM when I know that the only person I need to be comfortable around is myself. And I mostly enjoy my company…most of the time.

Thanks y’all!
Rich

‘Better’ is Subjective: Like What You Like No Matter How ‘Weird’

In a media studies class in college we were discussing something about bands and radio play. I don’t remember the specifics, but I attempted to make a point. I started by posing a premise I assumed was intuitively true. I said, ‘The only reason to form a band is to become famous…” And that was not my point. Don’t remember my point, because a fellow student cut me off and said, “I don’t agree with that.” It derailed our discussion about whatever and instead became all about providing examples and reasons why my premise was inaccurate. And they were all valid arguments. And I changed my mind about that afterwards and have never forgotten that ‘aha’ moment.

I remember it was the first time that it ever occurred to me that someone would want to get into music for reasons other than being ‘rich & famous.’ Man, did that blow me away. You’re telling me there’s more to life than longing for money and fame? Okay…if you say so.

My problem was that I looked at the world as if it was objective in some ways that I now believe are necessarily subjective. For example, I understood that some people preferred Aerosmith to Winger and some people preferred Winger to Aerosmith. I got that. But I thought there was a deeper reality that was objective that Aerosmith was a better band. I mean, you may prefer to listen to Winger, but you can’t argue that Aerosmith is better.

Aerosmith has been together longer. Aerosmith has sold way more albums, had more chart toppers, sold way more concert tickets, appeared in more movies, had more singles, etc. Those are objective facts. But even when you add up all those facts they still don’t make it a better band. You may still prefer ‘Headed for a Heartbreak’ over any Aerosmith song. And you may not care about how long they’ve been around. You may not care about anything other than the likability of their songs which you judge to be better. So, relative to you Winger is ‘better’ than Aerosmith. But to someone else, Aerosmith is ‘better.’ Neither one of you are wrong. You are both simply applying subjective criteria for judging.

This may seem obvious to you, but to me it wasn’t. And one area where I wish I would have understood this was dating. You see, I’m average height, average build. I believed sincerely that that meant I was a weaker choice for dating material than someone taller and better built. But that’s not necessarily true. If a girl’s criteria for judging a guy involves washboard abs then I’m outta luck. But not all girls are created equal. In fact, they’re all individual beautiful creatures. And some of them legitimately don’t like guys with muscles. Some of them like bald guys. Some of them like short guys. The percentages of women who prefer short bald men to tall men with wavy locks of hair might be way less, but that also does not make them more or less correct. Just because a body type doesn’t appeal to 90% or even 40% of the population does not mean it’s ‘worse’ than another body type.

When I moved to Chicago to be an improviser/sketch performer there were five theatres I knew about to audition for: Second City, iO, ComedySportz, The Annoyance, the Playground. At the time I moved, the Annoyance was homeless and remained so for a few more years, so I had four theatres to aim for. In my mind it was an obvious hierarchy: Second City was the best, iO & ComedySportz were 2nd and 3rd, but I couldn’t quite tell which was which, and The Playground was clearly in last place. Why did I think this? Well, Second City gets huge crowds and pays and has a long list of famous alums like Tiny Fey and Bill Murray. So, it’s obviously number 1, right?

Nope! Some people don’t get into improv to make money or to get famous. Some people find it more fun to play for small intimate crowds of 50 rather than play for 300+. IF that’s the case, then the Playground is a better place. At Second City the paid performers mostly do sketch comedy as opposed to improv. Some people love improv and don’t particularly love sketch. If that’s you then you’d rank Second City as dead last, because the other three places primarily focus on improv.

Maybe you like your comedy free of curse words. If that’s the case then ComedySportz is your #1 by far. It’s always a clean show. Maybe you love long form improv way more than sketch or short form. If that’s true, then iO and The Playground are in your top spots.

My point is that I took for granted that there was a clear objective hierarchy with a top and a bottom. And I now look back and realize I was incorrect. I live in L.A. now and a lot of people (like casting directors) believe there is a clear hierarchy of improv theatres here where UCB & The Groundlings are top dawgs while Second City is clearly third. However, your goal for taking improv classes may have nothing to do with casting directors. If that’s the case, then their hierarchy (which is subjective to them) has nothing to do with you.

Some things are objective. I have a higher body fat percentage than Taylor Lautner. That’s a fact. And more women find him attractive than find me attractive. I have no evidence to back that claim, but I’m guessing you’re not asking for any. So, let’s just call that a fact too. But that doesn’t mean that he’s better than me. Which one of us is ‘better’ is based solely on the criteria of the person judging us. There are some women who think I’m a better catch than him. I grant you that those women make up a small minority, but what it does NOT do is devalue their opinion

A good friend once told me there are two types of women: 1. Women he finds attractive who don’t want to date him and 2. women who want to date him that he doesn’t find attractive. Well, I disagreed with him. I believe there is a third option – women who want to date him that he’s attracted to. He doesn’t see it. Or at least he didn’t at the time. But the only thing preventing him from seeing that was his refusal to admit it was possibly true. If you go around telling yourself that there are only two colors and refuse to see a third when someone shows it to you, then it’s not the color’s fault, but your own.

One lesson to take away from this whoe thing is for those people out there with body issues and low self esteem. If you don’t like yourself it’s probably because you see the world as objective and you’re low on the totem poll. However, I say just be you. You’re beautiful. Like yourself. I dare you. Don’t fall into the illusion that there’s a hierarchy. There are facts. You may be shorter than most. But that’s just a trait that makes you who you are. Peter Dinklage is short and he’s awesome. Own your ‘flaws’ and look at them as traits to be judged subjectively as opposed to flaws judged objectively. Someone if not several someones out there are into you or would be if they knew about you. That’s definitely a good lesson to come out of this. However, there’s another lesson I wanna highlight from this line of though:

Stop dating people because you think they’re higher up on the ladder than someone else. Seriously, be true to your subjective criteria. Is having a hot body what you need in a mate? If so, then you’re in luck. There are a lot of people with in shape bodies out there. And if you truly don’t prioritize things like sense of humor, intelligence, gentleness, thoughtfulness, etc, then you’ll do just fine. However, what if having a ‘hot’ body isn’t actually that high on your priority? What if you care about other things way more? If that’s the case, then would you date someone with an out of shape body? If not, is it because you don’t like it or is it because you’re afraid others will see you as ‘dating down?’ That phrase implies that we’re all on this objective ladder and some of us are lower than others.

I hate the phrase, ‘out of your league.’ I hate it because it sounds true even though it’s not. And because it sounds true it makes a lot of us feel it is. And when we feel we’re out of someone’s league then we judge ourself for being a worse league than others. It’s awful. Stop it. What if the person in question sees you as amazing? Does that make them crazy? I hope you don’t believe that. Woody Allen famously said, “I don’t want to join any club that would have me as a member.” That statement implies that accepting him by definition makes the club a place he doesn’t want to be part of. What a horrible way to live life. That makes it literally impossible to be satisfied with joining any club (or whatever you put in place of that metaphor).

Well, I say, ‘do you.’ And if you really like someone then that means subjectively to you they are ‘better’ than others. And don’t you want someone who’s better? The only way to get that is to know what it is you want. And being honest about it. If you look at the world as objective then you might not ask out a girl because you see her as ‘beneath’ you. But if she’s someone you might really have a good time with then she might be perfect for you. Why would you deny that to be with someone who has traits that you don’t actually necessarily value as much?

The minute you look at the world and see objective hierarchies of ‘better’ and ‘worse’ you risk sacrificing what you really want for what you perceive is ‘better,’ but is actually an illusion from which you should free yourself. You can apply this to jobs, dating, places you live, stuff you own, vacations you take, etc. Do what makes you happy as opposed to what you think is the right thing. Don’t vacation at Monte Carlo and eat caviar unless that’s what you really want to do. But if you’d rather go to New Orleans and eat crawdads, do that. Don’t judge others or yourself as ‘better’ or ‘worse’ by any standard other than your honest desires.

Chase the Fun Rather Than Run from the Fear

I’m a bit of a ‘fraidy cat sometimes. I think I’ve lived a lot of my life afraid of failure. I’ve feared not having enough money, not having enough friends, not being smart, not being liked, etc. To my credit I have worked to conquer those fears. I have a lot of amazing friends. I live in L.A. I teach improv at two respected theatres. I have a lot going for me. But I think because my motivation has been primarily fear, I have missed out on some things that would have been good to experience.

First of all, I rarely ever feel satisfied. Why? Who knows for sure, but my guess is because no matter how far I am from fear, I still know it’s back there. Maybe I’m miles away from a particular fear, but I always know it’s headed toward me and therefore I can never rest. It’s like being chased by a single zombie. I know it moves way slower than me, so I can always stay ahead of it, but it’s still there. The best thing to do would be to kill it. Or if that’s not possible, at least see it as something less intense like a bee.

Running away from something necessarily has caused me to look backwards a lot. That’s no way to run. Run toward something. Runners tend to go faster when they’re in competition with other runners as opposed to running alone*. Another problem I have is comparing myself to other runners. I can’t look at it like a race. I need to look at it more like running in a herd. We’ll all get there, but some are just gonna be ahead of me. That’s okay.

It’s hard to stop and enjoy things when I’m worried about something behind me. I have had way less fun as an adult as I think I should have, because I was always worried about working harder to get ahead. And certainly I’m glad that some people do that (like Newton, Einstein, Martin Luther King, etc.), but even those people seemed to be chasing a passion. Einstein needed to solve his equations. It gave him life and energy. Me on the other hand has done a lot of things in hopes that I could find happiness later rather than feeling any during the process. Running from my fear has not allowed me to stop and enjoy the view and there are some amazing things to see along the way.

My direction has been dictated by something other than me. If I could go back in time, I’d double major in film and physics. Why? Not because I have an idea of a job in mind that those combinations of degrees would get me, but rather those two things interest me more than most anything else. And I would love to spend four years learning about things I love. And I bet that process would allow me to make discoveries about myself that I likely missed out in college, because I was fixed on the outcome. The outcome – as I reasoned it – would get me a job which would alleviate the worry of not being successful. Terrible.

My mother taught me a lesson I took to heart, “Do your homework now and then you can play later without worrying about it.” I still think this is a good lesson, but I mapped it onto life in a way that robs the lesson from it’s intent. The intent is to help you to get your work done so you can relax and enjoy part of your day without the splinter of the worry about needing to do work later. At least I think that’s what it is. I applied that lesson to my whole life. Meaning I would buckle down and do whatever I needed to (my adult homework) now and then after I got cast on a sitcom or a touring troupe or something like that then I could relax. But homework is a short term achievable goal. Getting cast in something is not always in one’s control at all or a short process.

I got cast in a lot of things that are fairly impressive. But I never got the touring gig I wanted. I never got the stage I wanted. AS of yet, I’ve not gotten a commercial or a TV show or anything like that. It’s too much to expect me to buckle down and do my homework forever. Life needs to be lived and worked. I’ve done a lot of the working, but not a lot of the living. There’s a balance (yin and yang anyone?) that I did not live in. And that’s probably why I would ‘waste’ my time off by just sitting in front of Netflix for hours and hours on end. Sure, the shows I watch are awesome, but I also long for that relaxing escape so much, because I let my work life become nearly void of fun. And I’m a freakin’ actor. Most of my ‘work’ in my adult life has been either teaching performers or performing myself. How in the world did I manage to turn that into work?

I’m proud of myself for being able to do it, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I should have. My new goal is to chase the fun. What do I love about performing? Chase that. What do I love about writing? Chase that. When I need money, I’ll do a job I don’t like if I have to. But I won’t feel defeated by it, but rather look at it as short term homework. I’ll do it for a little while and play the rest of the day. And hopefully later on I’ll turn my fun into my paying gigs. As many have said before, “Love what you do and you’ll never work another day in your life.” How can I ever expect to do that if I don’t chase the fun and realize that there’s fun to be had in the here and now. I don’t need to be a millionaire (I still wanna be) to have fun. I can have a blast doing a free improv show.

So, my shift in life is going to be focusing more on what’s fun and what’s in front of me rather than worry about what (if anything) is coming to get me. There may be boogeymen in the closet, but until they come out, I can’t really worry about them. It’s hindering my sleep. I picture my new life as a greyhound on a track chasing after that thing the pull in front of them. Dunno what it is for them, but for me it’s the representation of fun.

Thanks, y’all!
Rich

*-Article to back that statement: http://tinyurl.com/n6r6jva