Friday, February 26, 2016

Experience is Experience, but can one ever substitue for the other?

To say that we are going to have to be really careful about how we go about instituting ever more high fidelity representations of what we can imagine, processed through calculations, and then interfaced with the brain in ever more clever ways, is something that ought to be obvious, but isn't always; mostly, I think, because the temptation to go full tilt Bozo down that path is often overpowering. How could it not be. Completely interactive reality printing for the brain? It's a wet dream's wet dream.

That this would then pose serious addiction possibilities goes without saying, but perhaps more insidious is this horrifying assumption that the creation of these calculations, and whatever linkage methodologies to the brain thus employed, might be so high fidelity as to be in any way an equivalent to experience mediated via the mechanisms evolution selected for us is hubris of unbelievable proportions.

Just because we can start from the notion that all we are talking about, when we discuss experience, is energy exchange by the various layers of abstraction we call molecules, atoms, and the sub parts of atoms, doesn't automatically make artificial pathways to experience exactly the same, let alone provide the same essentials, as what billions of years of trial and error has created.  This too ought to be obvious but that's where the hubris comes in. In becoming very adept at seeing what outside stimulus creates in the context of electrochemical transmission inside our bodies we think, in typical mechanistic simplicity, that this is all there is to experience. Duplicate the message that we see in the brain body interlink and we have created a de facto copy of what natural occurrence would have done. What else is the left to talk about, right?

What about all of the exchange channels we cannot measure fully, even if, absurd or not, we have identified all of the channels in the first place? What kinds of exchange occur outside of filtered consciousness. Outside of all objectified interpretation? So much of what the "Simpletons of the Brain" work with occur below conscious thought. Do the brain waves we can measure now reflect all of that? Can we measure all of the chemicals involved with feeling to the degree of precision that might be necessary? Remembering that the very act of observation, and how we go about it, affect the results?

One of the best ways I've come up with in considering this is to imagine that we have come into possession of holodeck technology as depicted in Star Trek Next Generation. Suppose further that, instead of bringing along a huge array of plant and animal life with us for the purely recreational usage of, we instead choose to simply spend time in recreated park environments; all in quite extensive detail. Would the transporter, and photonic mix master thus engaged give us all of the energies of interaction that the original provided? Would you want to be your sanity on it, not to mention your complete physiological well being? Do you really think that billions of years of life spent awash in a soup of unimaginably complex energy interactions could be duplicated down to the last sub atomic particle? It is, after all, the small inputs in complex systems, that can have the largest effects.

And yet, even before we have gotten anywhere even close to Trek technology, we begin to consider that VR would be a way to allow the poor to have a good life. It certainly might give them a much more enjoyable distraction, but a better life? Can the people making these proposals even begin to consider this in good conscience? Any more than they would in giving poor people heroine? When I hear things like this the urge to start slapping people repeatedly is hard to resist.  

One of my favorite, private sayings is: Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to receive, our fictions. It isn't like we're all that good at keeping reality and fiction separated now. But who cares about that when you can pretend to have what ever your mind can conceive of, and in the highest fidelity that money can buy. And so what if money itself is involved, with new realms of averice that might be in play.  Why would there be any need to think about whether this will be for our best benefit or not? There won't be any worries. We'll be much too pleasantly distracted to care.

VR Will Make Life Better—Or Just Be an Opiate for the Masses

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