I’ve been contemplating my navel again while firmly anchored to an event horizon. Gazing intently as it were at the conflux of swirling redefinitions of reality at work presently. A real battle appears to be brewing between the forces of order and chaos over the nature of matter and energy. Well perhaps not the nature, that implies sensible truth, but definitely the desire to wield the power to define the undisputed declarative narrative. On the surface I think you could make the case that science is having a Reformation moment due to the gospel according to quantum mechanics, but it goes beyond that, ego centric rational thinking is having an identity crisis due to the power of observation, and by extension then, the role of imagination and intuition in our daily lives.
This past weekend, for example, the news feeds were abuzz again with the simulated universe theory, reaching new ecstatic heights on Tuesday due to a New Yorker piece, DID THE OSCARS JUST PROVE THAT WE ARE LIVING IN A COMPUTER SIMULATION? by Adam Gopnik. The cultural impact of the Matrix on Generation X aside, Silicon Valley has been pushing for a new digital religion to breach the rift between Star Wars and Star Trek devotees for decades. Ultimate geek truth found in that strange zen state that produces art worthy lines of code, that legendary, rare, fleeting transcendent state where intuition and reason merge and work effortlessly together to meet a deadline. Cue Deckard’s unicorn.
It is strange to me that the simulated universe theory is viewed with such novelty. Classical Greeks were well versed after all and you could make a case that in terms of religion, the whole soul/body dichotomy is a simulated universe exercise. And yet we are still drawn to it like moths to a flame after all this time. I think psychologically, this speaks to the the nature of the mind but also of an escapism vector of the argument. Not random chance (or god forbid you personally) is responsible for you dropping out of high school and now at 40 you’re working the drive thru at Wendy’s, but the simulation. Not random chance or impulse control caused you to lose millions of shareholder funds and bankrupt your corporation, it was the simulation. No doubt a stress test designed to see how you reacted… you… a narcissist’s paradise where even god is studying you. The simulated universe becomes the ultimate reality bender, the beverage of choice to dull the pain of existence away, where god or the master programmer may make you suffer but at least he cares enough to design a simulation with you in it and personally needles you from time to time. That makes you special, at least to Jung’s tyrannical unactualized demiurge.
In that sense, I’ve always felt the simulated universe theory is the ultimate rationalization for hope and fear. The Dark City from the movie by the same name. If you can only become aware and level yourself up to some mystical point, you can escape the maze and the lab, become the programmer. It is a nice gnostic dream but it fails to account for this world, whether real or simulated where sovereigns already keep us in their simulation, their planned economy, where they extract productivity and reclaim wealth through those carrots and sticks. One only has to look at biology and the natural world to understand how much the modern ‘human’ world is a simulation, and what a rat maze it is, and how much we will distort reality in order to get that reward and avoid that punishment. For myself, to then elevate the entire world, the entire universe to such simulated levels, with the associated repeated patterns of controllers is just an attempt to rationalize an existence that feels at odds with your self, that other part of you, you’re aware of, that lies outside the ego. It is an attempt to rationalize powerlessness in the face of encroaching control at all levels of your personal existence. You might say from this perspective the ego is the vessel through which sovereignty exerts tyranny over the self. Given that, I’d like to look at the terms from the title of today’s piece from an exercise is rationalization point of view.
Which brings me first to influencing machines. A psychoanalyst Viktor Tausk wrote an interesting piece in 1919 entitled On the Origin of the “Influencing Machine” in Schizophrenia. From the wiki:
The schizophrenic influencing machine is a machine of mystical nature. The patients are able to give only vague hints of its construction. It consists of boxes, cranks, levers, wheels, buttons, wires, batteries, and the like. Patients endeavor to discover the construction of the apparatus by means of their technical knowledge, and it appears that with the progressive popularization of the sciences, all the forces known to technology are utilized to explain the functioning of the apparatus. All the discoveries of mankind, however, are regarded as inadequate to explain the marvelous powers of this machine, by which the patients feel themselves persecuted.
The main effects of the influencing machine are the following:
- It makes the patient see pictures. When this is the case, the machine is generally a magic lantern or cinematograph. The pictures are seen on a single plane, on walls or windowpanes, and unlike typical visual hallucinations are not three-dimensional.
- It produces, as well as removes, thoughts and feelings by means of waves or rays or mysterious forces which the patient’s knowledge of physics is inadequate to explain. In such cases, the machine is often called a “suggestion-apparatus.” Its construction cannot be explained, but its function consists in the transmission or “draining off” of thoughts and feelings by one or several persecutors.
- It produces motor phenomena in the body, erections and seminal emissions, that are intended to deprive the patient of his male potency and weaken him. This is accomplished either by means of suggestion or by air-currents, electricity, magnetism, or X-rays.
- It creates sensations that in part cannot be described, because they are strange to the patient himself, and that in part are sensed as electrical, magnetic, or due to air-currents.
- It is also responsible for other occurrences in the patient’s body, such as cutaneous eruptions, abscesses, or other pathological processes.
I’ve always felt the simulated universe theory borders on an Influencing Machine type of delusion. If you go down that rabbit hole, well that way lies madness, even if it provides truth. Why even absent minded philosophers have to anchor themselves to event horizons before playing in that sandbox…least their rabbit holes sprout rabbit holes ad infinitum . Back to the movie of Dark City, you might say William Hurt’s detective reached enlightenment to his condition as he tumbled into space but it was a very brief transcendence to be sure. From a psychological perspective, this is akin to losing identity in an attempt to breach the divide between that 2% of the ego centric brain and the rest of the 98%. You might have that moment of clarity, but you lose your identity in the process as those self-aware loops are reconnected and are submerged back into the whole.
Which round about brings us to Nietzsche of course, all roads lead to Rome and Nietzsche. Our second term, the concept of simulacrum was also a favorite of the Greek philosophers, Plato’s fallen material world after all, a simulacrum. I’m going to quote another wiki to save time:
The simulacrum has long been of interest to philosophers. In his Sophist, Plato speaks of two kinds of image making. The first is a faithful reproduction, attempted to copy precisely the original. The second is intentionally distorted in order to make the copy appear correct to viewers. He gives the example of Greek statuary, which was crafted larger on the top than on the bottom so that viewers on the ground would see it correctly. If they could view it in scale, they would realize it was malformed. This example from the visual arts serves as a metaphor for the philosophical arts and the tendency of some philosophers to distort truth so that it appears accurate unless viewed from the proper angle.Nietzsche addresses the concept of simulacrum (but does not use the term) in the Twilight of the Idols, suggesting that most philosophers, by ignoring the reliable input of their senses and resorting to the constructs of language and reason, arrive at a distorted copy of reality.
Postmodernist French social theoristJean Baudrillard argues that a simulacrum is not a copy of the real, but becomes truth in its own right: the hyperreal. Where Plato saw two types of representation—faithful and intentionally distorted (simulacrum)—Baudrillard sees four: (1) basic reflection of reality; (2) perversion of reality; (3) pretence of reality (where there is no model); and (4) simulacrum, which “bears no relation to any reality whatsoever”. In Baudrillard’s concept, like Nietzsche’s, simulacra are perceived as negative, but another modern philosopher who addressed the topic, Gilles Deleuze, takes a different view, seeing simulacra as the avenue by which an accepted ideal or “privileged position” could be “challenged and overturned”. Deleuze defines simulacra as “those systems in which different relates to different by means of difference itself. What is essential is that we find in these systems no prior identity, no internal resemblance“.
Alain Badiou, in speaking with reference to Nazism about Evil, writes, “fidelity to a simulacrum, unlike fidelity to an event, regulates its break with the situation not by the universality of the void, but by the closed particularity of an abstract set … (the ‘Germans’ or the ‘Aryans’)”.
It is hard to get around the negative connotations of simulacrum, Nietzsche makes a good case, but it gets you back to the rabbit hole and influencing machines, and the power of mass delusions driven by the nature of language itself. The very process we go about defining the unknown by borrowing loaded terms that best match what we are trying to express but is nevertheless bound by previous explorations, that process is a long one, and a flawed one as if we have to redefine a concrete term to include new meaning, moving a concept from an an all encompassing vague place holder ‘god’ name to a defined state rewriting the slate and state as it were of the term in our minds.
Perhaps another attempt at rationalization, but I find Deleuze’s take, an almost as good as it gets, it is what it is take, combined with a rebel’s call to action a solution to the picture of existential depression Nietzsche painted very refreshing. A quantum take on the diehold that basically answers back if reality is corrupted because of our use of language and definition, let’s overturn it and rebuild and keep doing it until we have something better. It might not resemble the original at all, but it is better than what we had in the first place. Real imitation as it were if you think about it. Deleuze echoing back to Shestov and the philosophy of despair. Despair being integral to rebooting self-determination (an antidote to hope) and finding in that moment anything is possible including redefining ideals. A Jungian interpretation akin to suddenly Leviathan being no longer monster but guppy and the murky depths he dwells in, now reflective mirrors.
Which brings us to the third term for today, diehold. Looking up diehold online is an interesting task, hard to find a definition for the term. I remember encountering it while gobbling up philosophy in high school, (I’ve certainly used it over the years thinking it was a common term with meaning defined) and I am almost certain I ran across it when studying Descartes, but I can’t seem to find such a reference currently. On top of that, there is a gentleman that takes credit for the invention of the term. But for me, diehold was just another term for the golden realm, godhead, the storage place of ideals. I like to think of it as more of an energy well now, potential energy storage nexus before matter/energy conversion.
Which is interesting because like I said above, I did encounter someone who defines the term and takes the credit for its invention. I’m familiar with the author because in the 10th grade I read, not a philosophy book per se, but an alt-science gem entitled Reality Revealed: The Theory of Multidimensional Reality, a book that was novel to me at the time, and perhaps this is indeed where I first encountered diehold. Apparently the author
This is an example of just one rabbit hole Silicon Valley and quantum mechanics opened up when bringing forth the digital world we now dwell in and by extension echoes back to the warning from Nietzsche’s madman in his parable I discussed the other day. Think for a moment how little separates the line of thinking from the paranoid schizophrenic and his influencing machine and the new gods of silicon valley telling us we probably live in a simulation and are in that Dark City or Matrix being experimented on by an intelligence just beyond our comprehension. As we embrace digital avatars playing gods in virtual worlds we have to pause and ask are we not simulacra of someone playing us. One wonders if god plays out of work coach potatoes addicted to playing video games in which said person is god like in order to understand man and vice versa for us to understand god… but to this absent minded philosopher it seems a moot point. Whether real or simulated, it is what it is. At the end of the day, make the most of what time you have, have that internal rebellion that frees you from as many chains of external tyranny as you can, and most of all, don’t be afraid to redefine the natural of your own reality. Don’t just borrow terms from other people’s dictionaries, even god’s, without understanding what they mean to you personally. Too often we go through life with these boxes or containers of ideas without opening them up and exploring what lies within. And perhaps to borrow from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, be an individual by knowing you aren’t in the greater scheme of things. Well that’s enough of my random ramblings for today.