Monday, 19 September 2016

Arguing Conscious Realism to Absurdity

Back in Fine Tuning Towards Ignorance, I presented a scenario in which a fat dormouse (Chubby Loir) was saved by a crack in a barn wall, because he could squeeze through, while Tiddles the cat could not.  I want to revisit that scenario in light of the notion of "conscious realism".  If conscious realism were true, then there would be no objective, observer-independent reality and my representation of reality could be different to your representation of reality.  Now I naturally think this is bollocks, but let's pretend that it wasn't bollocks.  Let's also anthropomorphise Chubby Loir and Tiddles to the extent that they become conscious agents (unnecessarily for most of us, I hope, since these beings have previously been given to very human-like thought processes, and consciousness is not necessarily limited to humans).

Imagine then that they are both particularly pessimistic in their outlook.  Chubby Loir has been sighted by Tiddles and thinks to himself: "Just my luck, I'm going to be eaten now, but I might as well attempt to survive, even though I know it won't be successful."  Tiddles thinks to herself:  "That's a tasty looking dormouse, I almost certainly won't catch it, but I've got nothing else on the agenda, so I'll have a go anyway."  And the chase begins, with both running half-heartedly towards the barn.

Now I don't know whether, in the "conscious realism" paradigm, our attitudes affect our subjective realities, but something apparently will so the pessimism of Chubby and Tiddles can stand in place of whatever the actual mechanism is that permits their realities to differ.

As they approach the barn, they both see a crack, but their subjective realities with respect to the crack differ.  Chubby sees that it is too small for him to wriggle through but Tiddles sees that it is wide enough for Chubby to run through easily, but far too small for her to follow.  So, we reach the absurdity.  Chubby stops, convinced that certain death will follow, because he can't get through the crack while Tiddles stops, and watches as Chubby runs through the crack and escapes.  So we'd have two contradictory "realities", one in which Chubby escapes and one in which Tiddles (who does not belong to Schrödinger, by the way) eats him.

Donald Hoffman, the author of this madness, might argue that in his conception of "conscious realism" beings evolve so as to achieve fitness which is not necessarily consistent with reality, and the scenario I describe is inconsistent with fitness because Chubby gives up on trying the crack and Tiddles fails to eat him.  But even if their perceptions of reality are consistent with a more optimistic fitness, we could still have Chubby seeing that he could get through the crack and escape and Tiddles seeing that the crack is sufficiently large for her to get through and slay Chubby.  Two contradictory realities again.

Of course, it is possible for either of them to make a mistake.  Chubby could misjudge the crack and end up stuck in there, with his enormous bottom poking out, ready for Tiddles to drag him out and devour him.  Or Tiddles could either misjudge the crack as too small when it wasn't or end up getting stuck there herself, so that she ends up getting munched on by a fox.  But in both of these cases, this was because their perceptions of reality were inconsistent with an actual objective reality.  And youtube is replete with "fail videos" in which people misjudge objective reality - in which their own personal subjective realities were wrong, and we can only say they were wrong because there were objective realities against which we can compare them.  The objective realities into which they ran face first, or against which they crushed their (usually) adolescent manhood, or onto which they painfully fell.

(I could only bear about two minutes of the last compilation linked, so I didn't watch the others - watch at your own peril.  While I'm clearly more empathetic than I normally let on, I note that a number of the victims were idiots who managed to hurt themselves with what appears to be some forethought and are, therefore, possibly prime candidates for judicial culling from the gene pool.  I'm hoping that there were no actual culling events recorded.)

Anyways, you could call this the YouTube Argument Against the Madness that is Conscious Realism.

You're welcome.

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