Abstract Thought

Justicia Burns

I was 10 year old and I stood in my grandmother’s living room when I last believed that things would be okay. My aunt was checking on me, seeing if I was up to the challenges ahead of us. I said that I understood that the future would be difficult, but that “good would prevail” at the very end. That things were going to be okay.

24 hours later, I learned that things were not so simple, as I stood crying for all my little worth in my father’s embrace, after being told that my mother was now dead and I’d have to grow up without her. The ground shook and cracked and I fell, and beneath me, I saw hell opening in anticipation for the world to descend.

I have since lost my belief that ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or ‘evil’ if you will, are higher forces that exist on a higher level than our own conscience. Where before I found hope in the idea that there was a higher force driving us towards the everlasting happy end, I now recognize it for what it is: A good chunk of wishful thinking, made believable by the desperation of a mother’s child.
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Steiner’s Gate & Beyond

Steiner’s Gate is a relatively young animated series about time travel. And I’m going to discuss it here. This shit better interest you or you’re going to have a very boring time.

Why don’t I have any friends that nerd out over this stuff like I do? It’s really not all that complicated, and at the same time, endlessly fascinating. On top of that, creating science fiction gives a fantastic opportunity to discuss (yes, all included in Steiner’s Gate) depression, dependence, gender identity, age, and the psychology behind things like regret, loss and even murder.

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3. The shroud of Perception

I am reading a book about 50 basics of philosophy. I wouldn’t be me if I wouldn’t try and think further on the things I’m learning, and I intend to use this platform to do so. These posts will be easily recognizable as they are numbered and categorized under ‘Abstract Thought’, so you can ignore them accordingly.

Within the chapter ‘problems with knowledge’, the author of the book goes to explain the same problem with skepticism from a different angle. He brings up several comparisons philosophers like John Locke and René Descartes thought up, and then goes to explain why most of them are largely irrelevant because they aren’t perfect analogues. In their attempt to make a thought experiment easier to understand, they all made the same mistake of oversimplifying, making their argument easy to shoot from the sky.

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2. Plato’s Cave

I am reading a book about 50 basics of philosophy. I wouldn’t be me if I wouldn’t try and think further on the things I’m learning, and I intend to use this platform to do so. These posts will be easily recognizable as they are numbered and categorized under ‘Abstract Thought’, so you can ignore them accordingly.

Plato’s cave is an idea thought up by none other than Plato himself, in an attempt to visualize how our visions and thoughts relate to the outside world.

He compares our intellectual selves to prisoners, chained in a cave with their head held in place, so that they can only see shadows on the cave wall in front of them. Naturally they will assume that this is reality and all there is to it, seeing shadows dance on the surface.

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1. Brain on a Wire

I am reading a book about 50 basics of philosophy. I wouldn’t be me if I wouldn’t try and think further on the things I’m learning, and I intend to use this platform to do so. These posts will be easily recognisable as they are numbered and categorized under ‘Abstract Thought’, so you can ignore them accordingly.

The brain-on-a-wire is a thought experiment based on the philosophical ideas of Descartes and others, dubbed skepticism. It questions reality as we perceive it and suggests the theory that we are misguided.
Our brains could be hooked up to a supercomputer simulating a reality that has little or no correlation to "real life" outside the fake program we are living in. The chapter concludes that, since there is no way to check if this even could be true, it remains something that bothers philosophers to this day. We can only be sure of our own existence, if that, and everything else we just have to assume is reasonably correct.

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The Basics

Grrrreat. Another hippie telling me that I’m wrong because I might not be right.

My first roommate was a great guy, the sweetest man on the continent. He’d be playing didgeridoo with friends when I got home from work, and later on moved to his synth and drum computer to improvise melodies, using the same chords every time. He used headphones without me having to ask.

And he would ask existential questions. Most of which were unanswerable, but we’d have fun brainstorming anyway. But some questions had an answer, and I’d try and give it to him. Like the size of the universe. After a short conversation we concluded that it was not implausible that the universe was endless and stretched on forever.
But he would short-circuit over that.

“Yes… But what does ‘endless’ mean, really?”

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Matter Over Mind

After a monthly visit to the depths of Wikipedia, I learned that I am a materialist. Not in the classical sense, but in the sense that I strongly believe that a human being’s mind is the result of the structure inside their brain, coupled with things like hormones and oxygen intake, and nothing else. That every decision we make can be traced back to its roots and no matter how deeply we dig, we will never encounter the holy grail of countless religious and philosophical claims called, “The Soul”. Because it does not exist. (more…)


The Singularity Horizon

The singularity event, possible at least in theory, has a lot in common with childbirth.
The theory goes that there will come a moment that computers will become self-aware the hard way: through raw intelligence and computing power. That there will come a moment where they understand their own design and resulting capabilities, and grow a way to better themselves and repeat the process. The result is a snowball effect, where machines will grow incomprehensibly intelligent in a time span limited by circumstance and available resources.

They will first do so within the architecture that they are given: They can’t change their physical processors, but can change the software within to be more efficient. Eventually, they might figure out ways to manipulate matter with the tools they are given. If they are connected to the internet at that time, those tools are pretty much everything, and the computing power to their disposal is staggering.

Very soon, things will start happening far beyond our understanding. Our slow thinking will never be able to keep up and unless this new being will somehow adhere to some loyalty principle (unlikely) we are screwed before we can even comprehend what we’ve created.

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The Demon of Laplace

Well.

Today I finally found my Supertheory of Super-Everything and its continuation in something I did not write. Strangely, considering the theory is about order in its purest form (apparently called determinism), I stumbled upon it in an article about chaos in EOS magazine, my monthly nerdporn.

I read such articles on a regular basis because I find the grey zone between perceived reality and mathematics fascinating. All these articles on chaos are pretty much the same though, bringing up the butterfly effect and countless other anecdotes without getting down and dirty about it.

But this article had the following paragraph (in Dutch):

Faith in complete predictability peaked early 19th century. French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace was the main exponent. “Laplace’s Demon” was named after him: An intelligent, supernatural creature that knows the past and future of the universe down to the smallest detail, and knows no uncertainty.

Laplace said this creature could exist, at least in theory. If it knows every particle of matter and the forces working in on it, it could predict the future, from the movement of constellations down to the smallest atom, until the end of days. Radical determinism was born.

The creature wasn’t just named a “demon” on a whim, because a completely deterministic would leave no place for human free will. Every thing would be set in stone.

 

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David and the Mind

Do yourself a favor, click here. Relax, it’s Pink Floyd. Let it roll, perhaps you’ll see my point.

Dreaming of that face again.
It’s bright and blue and shimmering.
Grinning wide
And comforting me with it’s three warm and wild eyes.

I am under strong suspicion that Mr. Gilmour knows something the rest of us don’t. Pink Floyd is the popular end of a generation of experimentation with drugs, music and mental exploration that I’m glad came before my time. I can reap the benefits in the form of this kind of music and Ritalin, and not get hooked on LSD from the first minute, like I know I would.

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