Perception or Reality—Which is Better

Do we experience the world as it actually is, or as we need it to be?

Does natural selection really favor seeing reality as it is? Fortunately, we don’t have to wave our hands and guess; evolution is a mathematically precise theory. We can use the equations of evolution to check this out. We can have various organisms in artificial worlds compete and see which survive and which thrive, which sensory systems are more fit.

So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds. Some of the organisms see all of the reality, others see just part of the reality, and some see none of the reality, only fitness. Who wins?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but perception of reality goes extinct. In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality but are just tuned to fitness drive to extinction all the organisms that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor veridical, or accurate perceptions. Those perceptions of reality go extinct.

We’re inclined to think that perception is like a window on reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that this is an incorrect interpretation of our perceptions. Instead, reality is more like a 3D desktop that’s designed to hide the complexity of the real world and guide adaptive behavior. Space as you perceive it is your desktop. Physical objects are just the icons in that desktop.

Once we let go of our massively intuitive but massively false assumption about the nature of reality, it opens up new ways to think about life’s greatest mystery. I bet that reality will end up turning out to be more fascinating and unexpected than we’ve ever imagined.

The theory of evolution presents us with the ultimate dare: Dare to recognize that perception is not about seeing truth, it’s about having kids—Cognitive Scientist Donald Hoffman

TED talk HERE

So, do we experience the world as it actually is, or as we need it to be? It seems more and more that life is an illusion. Not of the hocus pocus kind, but as a means of survival —

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs escaping the faith trap.

80 thoughts on “Perception or Reality—Which is Better”

      1. This is an excellent presentation if you have a moment.

        Interesting.

        I wonder if Thomson plans to examine the bases of other widespread, irrational belief systems. I’m looking forward to “Why we believe in psychiatry – especially forensic psychiatry”, “Why we believe in neurobabbled just-so stories” and “Why New Atheists believe in straw-man deities easily dismissed with simplistic arguments”.

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        1. Thomson’s observations on what evolutionary patters were hijacked into religion really made sense
          For me. Where social cognitions that are today well known, have been counterfeited and maintained by religious supposition.

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          1. Thomson’s observations on what evolutionary patters were hijacked into religion really made sense

            I’d call them speculations rather than observations and considering how far religious explanations of behaviour and meaning pre-date evolutionary ones you’ve gotta ask who’s hijacking who here.

            I don’t think using social metaphors to model and explain complex phenomena is any more counterfeit than using technological artifacts as metaphors, as when religions talk about humans fashioned from clay or when mind scientists talk about brains as computers. There’s always going to be those who concretize the symbols, reify the metaphors and over-extend them in a way that enable some to exert power over others. But the only way to introduce new ideas is by building them upon old ones. You can see that clearly in the debt post-Enlightenment science owes pre-Enlightenment theology for it fundamental precepts. And you can see where some people will take it in the religion of scientism.

            There’s very little the forensic psychiatrist Thomson is saying about religion that I couldn’t equally apply to psychiatry in the way it leverages the sort of mechanistic thinking evolution has equipped us with for adaptive purposes into maladaptive ‘just-so’ mind science theologies of meaning and morality and justifications of authoritarianism and oppression. Don’t forget, it was the combination of perverted Darwinism, utilitarianism and early 20th century psychiatric dogmatism that gifted us the notion of ‘life unworthy of life’ that became the philosophical foundation for the Holocaust. I think even the worst examples of historical religious oppression would have a tough time topping that.

            The knowledge systems of psychiatry also have very little foundation in evidence-based science and offer no more in the way of reliable healing than a faith based revival meeting, but are able to exploit our innate tendencies to rationalise links where they don’t exist to create convincing stories of what we’re doing and what’s wrong with us. I think it likely Thomson would retort that I’m attacking a shallow caricature of psychiatry and not the ‘true’ psychiatry he espouses but I’d say the same to him about the sort of religion he’s purporting to explain away with speculative evolutionary psychology.

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            1. It’s as good as any other explanation. Social compliance must be a survivable trait or it wouldn’t be so persistent. Imagine if NOBODY cared what anyone thought about them? What you feel is an advantage to critical focus and thought is actually detrimental. It’s truly very liberating to not give a shit, but only for the person that holds that attitude. No one else can tolerate them.

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            2. But New Atheists clearly do give a shit.

              Like Thomson most were originally sucked in by a simplistic form of Christianity that replaced their infantile anchor to the order, security and authority of an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving biological father with a more distant and abstract heavenly one they could still fool themselves into believing in. When that became untenable they dumped Him for the God of Science, who retained all the authority, certainty and universality but with a more tangible basis for believing themselves among the Elect by virtue of their tertiary degrees. But to maintain not just their authority, but their faith, it’s necessary for them to constantly evangelise at the atheist peanut gallery with regards to their collective superiority in exactly the same way religious preachers do to their own followers. Check out all the breaks Thomson takes from sneering at the gullibility of his straw man religious believers to assure his audience that they’re cut from far more critical and intelligent cloth. It’s like the sequence in Life of Brian where Brian assures his adoring sycophants that they’re all individuals who need to work it out for themselves – except Brian was sincere.

              If New Atheists were really secure in their beliefs they wouldn’t need to insist on their superiority so loudly and so often.

              Darwinian evolution is a very powerful idea with a lot of explanatory power, but it’s no more the explanation for everything than the Bible is. When it’s a science rather than a religious belief it’s rooted firmly in evidence, whether archeological, biological, phylogenetic, paleontological, etc. When it’s not it becomes no more than a means of confirming our own biases, as with Social Darwinism and race science, just like any other self-reinforcing religious bigotry. It’s no coincidence the pioneering American psychiatrist, Samuel Cartwright, pulled together Darwinism, religion and psychiatry to claim that slavery was the natural state of the negro and those who wished to escape from it suffered the mental illness he dubbed ‘drapetomania’.

              Thomson’s evolutionary psychology as an ‘explanation’ for religious faith is more of the same. There’s no evidence beyond Thomson’s own prejudices as to what form early human psychology took. To Freud the sex drive explained everything. To Thomson it’s socialisation. That’s psychiatric progress for you, swinging from one simplistic, absolutist fad to another. And to make the evidence-free just-so stories propping them up seem credible it’s necessary for them to dumb down the phenomena they purport to explain to a cut-out caricature.

              Do you really believe Thomson’s cartoon suffices to explain religious awe, mysticism, the conversion experience, theophany, NDEs, sophisticated and abstract theologies and ontologies or even the dissolution of individuality into a faith community that are fundamental characteristics of so many religions?

              Thomson isn’t explaining away general belief in gods, he’s explaining away his own abandoned, childish belief in an infantile and infantalising god to a group of people who’ve let go the same kind of god only to grasp onto another absolutist, universalist faith system that uses different metaphors to ‘explain’ unfathomable mystery and complexity as something their minds can ‘understand’; including the mystery and complexity of the minds of others.

              Do you really think his ‘explanation’ even scratches the surface of why so many millions of people over so many thousands of years have come to believe in so many different kinds of gods – many of which I doubt Thomson is even capable of conceiving of?

              OTOH, do you think maybe what he’s saying is a very effective means of using stories to create yet another faith-based in-group by denigrating the out-group in a way that makes him and his co-religionists feel superior and special?

              It’s the forensic psychiatry shtick jim. They do the same thing from the expert witness box when they’re convincing a court they’ve solved the age-old conundrum of determinism vs free will and can state categorically whether a defendant’s actions were due to his evil intentions or defective brain chemistry and whether it was a one-off product of circumstance or an inherent flaw that will play out again if he’s given the opportunity. Just-so stories that massage the ego of the listener.

              People love to feel intellectually and morally superior and they aren’t too inclined to be critical when a designated expert starts explaining to them what makes them that way. It’s a trick common to cult leaders and con-artists of all stripes and not one I’d expect Thomson to try to unpack for his audience.

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            3. Well hell, I have no real idea. But, in my own journey I had the same conclusion a few years ago, that religion has masterfully played on human traits that were developed for other purposes. Purposes that may have now outlived their usefulness through religious hammering.
              Is it a coincidence that religion plays so thoroughly on this key principle, or maybe that the founders were very keen on the foibles of human psychology?

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            4. I think we can both agree with Hoffman to at least some degree that evolution hasn’t equipped us to perceive reality. So the question then becomes not whether our evolved perceptions tell us the ‘truth’ but whether an evolutionary trait is adaptive to the organism in its current environment or maladaptive. So it isn’t whether believing in gods reflects reality but whether it’s useful for individuals and their societies. History seems to suggest it is.

              So yeah, there’s gonna be genetic and memetic traits we’ve picked up down through the ages that are ‘useful deceptions’ rather than truths and others that make us vulnerable to useless deceptions if our (biological, social or ideological) predators have gotten the adaptive jump on us.

              There’s some people – including New Atheists like Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett – who argue both free will and consciousness are ‘useful deceptions’, so for another New Atheist like Thomson to argue against religion by claiming we’re inclined to see agency where it doesn’t exist misses the point. If there’s no free will, all perceptions of agency are false. The fact is physicalist science is particularly ill-equipped to make determinations of agency or consciousness because (a) it’s about objective reality and consciousness is entirely subjective and (b) it’s about cause and effect and agency implies at least some effects not entirely defined by prior causes. So whether our perceptions of agency and consciousness in ourselves, others, natural phenomena or the universe itself are ‘true’ or not isn’t really a question for physicalist science as we currently know it.

              But what mostly gets me about Thomson is his manipulative presentation. If he’s really got a case, how about he sticks to arguing it instead of playing to the egos of his audience?

              Stephen Law has been flogging the same arguments as Thomson for decades but without so much manipulation. He also has a better grasp of the scope and limitations of his arguments, though he still takes his final conclusion way too far by insisting that since we’ve got inbuilt tendencies to see beings where none exist then there’s no gods. Like most New Atheists he’s also seriously limited by his poor knowledge of the subjects he criticises. For example his famous ‘Evil God Challenge’ thought experiment betrays not just his shallow understanding of the ‘problem of evil’ but also his ignorance of almost all religions in history except the last 2500 years or so of the Abrahamic ones. But at least he doesn’t abuse his knowledge of human psychological vulnerabilities to try to pull a fast one on his audience.

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            5. “No one else can tolerate them.”

              But that’s the beauty of it: they don’t give a shit about that either. 🙂

              And given a choice, I’d much rather be around those who lack such social concerns and live for themselves than those who spend their lives trying to seek approval from others.

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            6. Well, we see that impasse even here when two or three gather (in his name) in that light, no middle ground is ever agreed upon. While at the same time the most successful high achievers are introverts—this should tell us something.

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            7. . While at the same time the most successful high achievers are introverts—this should tell us something.

              Well, speaking as a geeky autistic introvert it seems to me that’s only really true if you accept the highly individualistic and often anti-social view of ‘success’ promoted in the US.

              I’d rather be ‘successful’ like Mohandas Gandhi or Emma Goldman than ‘successful’ like Howard Hughes or Elon Musk, though I’m psychologically better equipped for the latter than the former.

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            8. Perhaps. However, in this instance I was thinking of that stanza in Rickey Nelson’s “Garden Party” that goes:

              “But it’s all right now
              I learned my lesson well
              You see, ya can’t please everyone
              So ya got to please yourself”

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    1. evolution works toward more individuality, not group think…

      Try telling that to bees, ants and termites.

      Evolution ‘works towards’ optimising environmental adaptation, nothing more. There is no grand plan guiding it.

      However if you consider the development of ever higher-level organisation of single celled into multi-celled organisms and of isolated organisms into swarms, shoals, herds, packs, tribes, societies, etc, you could make a case that evolution on this planet shows a consistent trend towards loss of individuation towards greater group integration.

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      1. The need for mutual aid can be seen in that, not necessarily the integration into a group as much as unavoidable autonomy that is created in the chaos and order of nature, the natural tendency toward more differentiation and new ideas, new experiments, new creatures and forms of life is also undeniable.

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        1. The perception may be this way, “ the natural tendency toward more differentiation but it really isn’t that way. The ego staking a claim on independent thinking is not reality. There is no independent thought in a group setting. Even philology demonstrates this. Just based in a few sentences they can tell where and when you lived.

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          1. If tried hard enough, anything could seem cryptic, or connected, or have connectivity, but really, there must be independent thought for there to be thought at all, there is always resting gradient and potentials, both socio-cultural and internal, and there is also completely different and new not only thought but imagining as well. (infinitum is imaginary)especially in the willingness to wonder and the advent of any sort of new invention or differing thought. Could compare to about anything, surely, but is very much different and capable of adaptation and change. Newness exists.

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            1. Well, following the research and premise of the post, perceiving actual reality is detrimental to fitness. If you actually could direct your change as result of knowing, being smarter than your organism, it would be to your detriment. Moving in any direction is fine. Knowing is problematic in nearly every scenario. I like the idea of having some control, but I don’t think I do. There is no way to account for all the variables in any given option.

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            2. While you cannot account for all variables, knowledge isn’t in detriment to growth and stabilization, as well as evolution of a creature or being, in fact it is obviously necessary. New information, especially, is necessary to growth and knowing the information is necessary to adaptation to that growth?

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            3. That would be true if the new information were as false as the old information. Different is not growth—but forever anthropocentric. New hypothesis changes our directions, but for every perceived advance we seem to balance it out. Take IT for instance; is there more knowledge or wisdom today than before? This information boon is creating idiots even farther from reality than before, which is good for fitness. I think you can see that without having to even work at it. No?
              Unless the correlation doesn’t really fit his model and is just coincidental in the hundreds of thousands of simulations.

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            4. really, there must be independent thought for there to be thought at all,

              I think you’d need to clearly define ‘thought’ before making a claim like that.

              It’s clear hive and colonial organisms are capable of making fairly complex decisions that emerge from their group interactions that would be beyond the capacity of individuals within the group. In these cases ‘thoughts’ are slower and are transmitted by pheromones or adenosines rather than the monoamines more often employed as neurotransmitters within multicellular organisms, but does than make them any less ‘thoughtful’?

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            5. nociception, you already knew the mouse would climb that wall, would scale the severance values of decision and reconcile will with the need to escape something and re-condition thought to a newness unimagined, and leap or claw and bite to the other side of something. There is very little actual explanation of the physiological constructs of the process in catacholamines intensity and intrinsic (absolved?) value in the conversions of electrical to chemical and chemical to electrical signaling and conversion. Constant. Change.

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            6. The evolution of the function itself would play an integral role in the actuality of the individuation and relevance of thought and free will, structure and function, not necessarily reaction, sir.

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        2. Well, I think hive insects are pretty clearly more specialised and less autonomous than their solitary ancestors. Pack animals such as wild dogs also seem less autonomous than solitary predators such as cats (other than lions). And both mammal and primate group formation for mutual aid looks to have co-evolved with the loss of autonomy and extended duration of dependence of their young.

          There have been over 20 independent evolutionary paths from single-celled to multi-celled organisms. Nearly all are known to have started with either the aggregation of single celled organisms into colonial organisms – with a corresponding loss of autonomy in the single-celled contributors – or with fusions at the cellular level (e.g. the incorporation of blue-green algae cells into cyanobacteria that led to photosynthesising plants) in which all the autonomy of contributing ancestors was lost.

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          1. Ah, blues.

            Aggregation to formulate, not necessarily of that which is presumed to be absolutely connected or connective. Every action has equal and opposite reaction, not necessarily function…

            Reptilian or monkey brains, the non-conformists in nature that have gone extinct are as plentiful as those whom have survived.

            Green/blue preception is an interesting concept especially in the idea of being color blind: could say the most plentiful color is… (hexagonal)

            Pascal drew himself beneath the water too, but i think that’s unfair…

            a cause of only contribution or newness and gradient potentials?

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            1. I’m sorry if I lack your immense understandings, dear sir, I think that it is much more obvious in contrast, that we evolved to become more individual, like from an ameaba to more specific and invested organisms, than to become more generalized, in that sense. microbiologically.

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    1. But how can us sleepy-heads tell who is ‘awakened’ and who is faking it?
      Is hearing about ‘reality’ comparable to realising it?
      Maybe best to try to wake yourself up rather than hanging on the words of those claiming to have already done so.

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      1. Ha ha yeah I have ben personally burnt in that journey of looking up to special individuals, so I avoid self-proclaimed “enlightened” people like the plague. There are however some folks who simply ask questions, explore a territory, challenge assumptions, are tentative and honest about their insights. I appreciate this attitude a lot. I guess this is what I meant in my earlier post.

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  1. Thanks for this. I have read chunks of Don Hoffman and FBT; not having a math background, I kinda went along with the thesis which I find very fascinating in any case! I am also interested in Don Hoffman because he is interested in finding a “psychological reality” through meditation. I guess he may be approaching through the lens of eliminating bias in the mind? Not completely sure. But very interesting again. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and the follow as well. It’s a fascinating topic and what initially drove me to investigate these various discoveries was my religion was at odds with discovery on nearly every level. I found it amusing that god would use deception to test his gadgets. It seems real and all, but is it?
      I’d be more inclined to think the fall of man came when they named the animals and entered into a fixed and measured existence, because that is the exact opposite of reality.

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      1. I guess most religions are (consciously or unconsciously) profoundly anthropocentric and thus can’t get a handle on things from an “objective” or Darwinian angle. Humans inevitable emerge as the centre of the story and the illusion-building begins anew. And that human centredness is perhaps the “fixed and measured” existence you mention.

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        1. Good point, and probably true for any type of believer, but what I am referring to really, is that we now divide and measure ourselves and everything around us as separate things, yet the world is not living that way, nor existing that way.

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          1. The way I’m understanding you is: reality, or the universe, or creation or whatever, exists in an undivided form, whereas humans exist and relate to their world (and each other) in a divided fashion. Does this approximate to what you’re saying?

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            1. That’s exactly it. Let’s look at from a scientific pov as well. Let’s just assume for a minute the Big Bang is how it is. Are you separate from that or are you still the Big Bang, way out on the fringes still banging?
              Even if consciousness were an emergent property of geology, hot gas, and time, that would still be an extension of a singularity.
              In a religious sense, there is nothing that is not god. Nothing happens that isn’t happening to itself. Why do you suppose finding god is so impossible? God would have nothing to compare itself to, to relate to, to bring awareness to. No sensation outside of itself. God would not know it is god for it alone exists. This is you. This is what every awakened form realizes when the search within is complete. There is nothing to discover because you’re it.
              It also solves the problem of evil…

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    1. Have you ever noticed how physically unproductive people get after they do crack the code? There may be something to Hoffman’s model and the eastern mystic—seclusion or teaching. If it were too effective we’d bring on our own extinction. Without someone to care for them they don’t last long physically, sometimes going weeks without eating. What do you think of that connection?

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      1. what extinction?? extinction of a dream? do you care to keep a dream going, once you wake up?

        have a Merry Christmas!! 😊🌲

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    2. you were bored (maybe) and created a game for yourself. so tell me, what will you do when you break this code?

      Hack myself a much flashier avatar than the one I’m playing with now.

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      1. tell me about it! and i’m securing myself a ‘womb with a view’ next time. i want to see everything from inside out.

        Merry Christmas to you! pls don’t shoot Santa, he hasn’t shown his face here yet.🎅

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        1. Merry Christmas to you! pls don’t shoot Santa

          I’m not that greedy. The children can have their toys (or the good ones at least).

          I’m just after a bit of venison for Christmas dinner. That one with the glowing nose makes a good target …

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  2. Great stuff, Jim, super interesting (and oh, so counter-intuitive!) I actually watched this Ted Talk some months ago and was completely fascinated by it! Our conscience-ness actually “calibrates” reality to protect us, basically from ourselves; our own inability to discern reality accurately or correctly. If anyone hasn’t seen it you really should watch it. It is an insight into a way of perceiving our “reality” you have probably never thought of and it is fascinating.

    Really interesting, Jim, thank you!

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    1. Thank you. I like how common speech has clues to what is going on here as well. Like the word information; as I noted to Cabrogal—information, In formation, in form. It takes a conscious ob-server for it to app-ear. Lol

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      1. I would disagree. People are met with things they can’t handle all the time. Man can be tempted more than he can bear as atheism illustrates—and suicide.

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      2. Maybe part of why we’re only met with circumstances we can handle

        Or is it just that those met with circumstance they can’t handle don’t get to write smug articles about it afterwards?

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      1. Yeah, I find it more entertaining than convincing though.

        Mostly I posted it because I think it provides an illustration of how different reality might be to anything evolution has equipped us to conceive of. And because I like the smell of frying neurons.

        They kinda lose me at the first hurdle. It seems more than likely that communication is information. It even seems passing probable that cognition is information. But I don’t think it follows that just because everything we think and say is made of information that reality is too. Though the theory has an advantage over potential rivals in that no-one would be able to describe an alternative that isn’t also rooted in information. Otherwise they couldn’t explain it.

        I’m not real impressed with the way they worked consciousness into it either – though I’d really love to believe consciousness is a fundamental element of reality. They present the views of Wheeler and Wilczek if they’re the consensus interpretation of quantum mechanics by physicists. They’re not.

        Most quantum physicists would agree measurement is needed to collapse the waveform, but only a small proportion of them would go along with the claim that waveform collapse is a step in the creation of reality (as opposed to our way of measuring it) and even fewer would still insist that the measurement requires a conscious component to collapse the waveform. In fact experiments have been carried out suggesting that isn’t the case.

        Empirically it’s tautological to say consciousness creates reality. Empirical reality is that which can be perceived through the senses and without consciousness there’s no perception. But rationally it’s hard to imagine a mechanism whereby consciousness could create objective reality. Consciousness is inherently subjective. If it’s a vital component of reality then there is no objective reality.

        But what really makes it hard for me to swallow the premises of the video is the pitch for money at the end. It’s a marketing campaign, and we all know how trustworthy they are.

        So if I send them my five bucks they’re gonna discover the Theory of Everything, unlock unlimited, cheap energy and use it to abolish world poverty. How very LA.

        Probably there’s a bunch of everything theorisers in Langley telling the Federal government that if they send them five trillion bucks they’ll discover the Theory of Everything first, unlock unlimited expensive energy and use it to annihilate the other guy before he discovers it and gets us first.

        Personally I’m hanging onto my money until a team from Seattle says that if I send them the price of a lid of weed they’ll discover the Theory of Everything and unlock the secret of getting stoned in eight dimensions.

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        1. “But rationally it’s hard to imagine a mechanism whereby consciousness could create objective reality.”

          I certainly agree with that. One could also argue that if consciousness was necessary for reality to exist, reality would never come into being because no consciousness had yet arisen to observe it. The argument that certain aspects of reality require consciousness to exist or they wouldn’t exist, which ultimately is what some of these people are arguing, is just plain silly. The implications of something like that are blatantly ridiculous. It would imply, for one thing, that the laws of physics are local, and dependent on a single observer witnessing what was going on. Fundamental forces would act in different ways outside of some arbitrary localized sphere of reference centered on a particular observer. And that simply doesn’t happen.

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          1. Of course it’s hard to imagine considering the linear programming, the fact that you can only think of one thing at a time, and then without consciousness, how would anything be known to exist?
            Could it be we are acutely aware of what matters for survival, and the rest is hidden from view? Evolution and math say yes, that is exactly what’s happening. Imagine if you had to comprehend all the lines of code on your Mac in order to see an image on the screen. All we truly see are the icons. Same as in “real” life.

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          2. Fundamental forces would act in different ways outside of some arbitrary localized sphere of reference centered on a particular observer. And that simply doesn’t happen.

            I’m not sure how we could say it doesn’t happen. In order to check we’d have to observe it, then …

            With regards to whether reality gives rise to consciousness, consciousness gave rise to reality or they’re mutually dependent on each other I’m agnostic and I don’t think quantum theory offers much in the way of insights. What I can say is I’ve never observed a reality without my consciousness, so I can’t say there’s an objective one that exists independent of it.

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          3. Really, this gets close to the nub of why I’m an ontological anti-realist (which is to say I don’t think we can ever develop a conceptual framework that would explain – or even make sense of – reality).

            As Hoffman points out, there’s no reason to think we’d have evolved the wherewithal to do it, though I think there’s reasons social animals like us might have evolved a compulsion to pretend to do it well enough to fool others and perhaps ourselves. Convincing people you’ve got the inside dope has its benefits.

            Also science is a tool that presupposes an objective reality. It seeks to remove subjectivity from its measurements or to account for it and remove it from its hypotheses (usually). I think that’s probably futile and subjectivity will, by necessity, keep slipping back in and ‘contaminating’ the results. It doesn’t mean there is no objective reality, just that we can’t get to it.

            To truly objectify reality and thereby make it a subject of scientific study we’d have to step outside it to take up an external observation point. Tricky.

            If subjectivity and consciousness are inherent in reality it may be possible to gain some kind of personal insight into it, but I don’t see how we could symbolise it linguistically, mathematically or cognitively to pass it onto others. If our subjective consciousnesses are separate how could we objectify them enough to transmit them? If they’re shared we don’t need to as we all ‘know’ as much about it as anyone – to say anything about it would just be talking to ourselves.

            So when I say I’m an ontological anti-realist I’m not saying I don’t believe in objective reality, just that there’s no way of coming up with a theory that could explain it if it exists or even to determine whether it exists.

            It seems to me the popularity of ontological realism is due partly to psychological need for solidity and certainty and partly to intellectual hubris; though imagining my own minority opinion to be more ‘correct’ is also pretty damned hubristic.

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  3. First of all, I guess, you have to believe that the little organisms you create are seeing the reality outside of the computer program, which is probably impossible because you are not writing a program that allows them to see outside the program. I think your basic concepts are flawed, but that is just me.
    Further, trying to say anything about reality by trying to write a program about reality is boxed by your ability to see what reality there is. Science can only see that reality is is constructed to see. So the program is written with the same limitations. You cannot program for a reality beyond your own sight of it.
    But I’m sure even I would enjoy watching all your little computer-constructed organisms running around your computer-constructed version of reality. But would that guarantee it would tell me about my own reality? I posit that it would not, because I would be incapable of writing a program for the reality that I think I am in.
    So, sorry, Jim, but you have given me nothing that I can sink my reality-teeth into. We just don’t know enough to do that, and unless we learn to get feedback from behind the veil of death, if there is anything to get feedback from, we cannot ever know enough to declare what reality truly looks like.
    But we certainly love to try, don’t we… ❤

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    1. Is it possible to crack the code? To de-cipher reality through mathematics? Of course anything is possible once you look at it the right way. Some people stumble across it and it scares the hell out of them, while to others it is a quest and an interesting one that gives a life perspective.
      All games are meant to be beaten. This is a great game!

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      1. I’m not sure how it plays out, but it seems on one hand science and technology will carry us right over the edge. If what he’s saying is true, if we could all learn to see the whole, underlying cloth through education, method, mysticism, or math, would it lead to our extinction as well? It this what former high civilizations of the past found out?
        How do you like the holiday season in Israel, btw?

        Liked by 3 people

        1. well in most of Israel, there’s no sense that it’s Christmas… and Chanukah (the holiday that you would definitely notice here in Israel) came early this year – it began in late November so it’s long over.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Well, if you accept our education, method, mysticism and math are also products of how we evolved I don’t see how they’re likely to lead us to the promised land of True Reality.

          would it lead to our extinction as well?

          According to Russell, all mathematics is ultimately tautological. So if it’s possible to describe the entire universe with a single, elegant formula maybe the whole thing would disappear up its own recursive redundancy. That’s essentially the premise of Greg Egan’s novel Distress.

          Empathy, love and other delusions

          Liked by 3 people

    1. Maybe we’ve been missing our own cues all along. As much as we do evolution, we certainly can’t see it. This is a fascinating approach to the oldest problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I always liked the example of the human eye having a blind spot. Any real engineer would be fired for this stupid design, but turns out we have a blind spot because of the design of our eye. Yet our brain “stitches” a seamless image so perfect that we don’t even notice it. So can I accept that we perceive reality in a way that doesn’t necessarily mean 100% accuracy to reality? Yes.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Yeah, I love the way the creationists and intelligent design enthusiasts often resort to the eye as something that ‘proves’ a designer because it’s all too complex to have come about via the ‘random chance’ of evolution.

          Never mind that we’ve got living examples of every iteration of eye evolution from a cluster of photosensitive cells onward. What about the fact that our eyeballs are inside out, with photo-receptor cells pointing away from the iris, the optic nerve fibres emerging from their fronts, clustering together into a single optic nerve then plunging through the retina on the way to the brain, creating the blind spot from the hole?
          If there’s a designer he doesn’t sound so intelligent to me.

          OTOH, cephalopod eyes never went through an evolutionary inversion and everything points in a sensible, efficient direction. Not sure if octopi are smarter than we are but their god is smarter than ours.

          Liked by 4 people

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