Nov 30 2013

The Simulation Hypothesis and Religion: Part 4 – The Nature of God

In Part 1 (Animism) of my series on the Simulation Hypotheses and Religion I explored some means by which a simulated world, containing Artificial Intelligences called ‘humans’, might exhibit the characteristics of Animist belief; including ‘spirits’ and ‘supernatural connections’ between things. In Part 2 (The God Module) I looked at the role of and enabling factors for faith, especially faith when reality provides no explicit reinforcing factors for the underlying belief. In Part 3 (The Spirit and the Soul) I explored how the dual concepts of ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ might be enabled by the same simulation mechanisms underlying animism.

(If you haven’t read part 1, part 2, or part 3 yet, go and read them now. If you haven’t also read my essay ‘The Consequences of The Simulation Hypothesis‘ you might want to start there.)

Here in part 4 I am going into deeper and more dangerous waters; I am going to examine the very nature of god (or god(s) or God, if you prefer) in the context of a computer simulation. The thing is, there are a lot of ways you can look at godhood and the divine in that context and some, none, or all of them could be valid. Not to mention the fact many people of strong religious belief might find this discussion a bit dodgy (at best), so I must tread lightly. (Out of politeness if nothing else.)

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Nov 24 2013

The Simulation Hypothesis and Religion: Part 3 – The Spirit and the Soul

In Part 1 (Animism) of my series on the Simulation Hypotheses and Religion I explored some means by which a simulated world, containing Artificial Intelligences called ‘humans’, might exhibit the characteristics of Animist belief; including ‘spirits’ and ‘supernatural connections’ between things. In Part 2 (The God Module) I looked at the role of and enabling factors for faith, especially faith when reality provides no explicit reinforcing factors for the underlying belief.

(If you haven’t read part 1 or part 2 yet, go and read them now. If you haven’t also read my essay ‘The Consequences of The Simulation Hypothesis‘ you might want to start there.)

Here in part 3 I am going to explore the concepts of ‘Spirit’ and ‘Soul’, specifically those concepts as applied to human beings and other living things. In part 1 of this series I went into detail about how the concept of a spirit could be enabled by an implementation of ‘reality as a simulation’. I won’t expand on that much here, except to the extent to which people have spirits and the ways those spirits could outlast the human ‘physical’ body in a simulation. Exploring the concept of souls, however, takes us in a different direction.

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Oct 27 2013

Gallery: Stop Watching Us Rally

I have a new image gallery up of pictures I took at the Stop Watching Us rally yesterday.

 

 

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Oct 24 2013

My (infamous) Chili Recipe

Tonight is my mother’s birthday. When I called her on the phone to wish her a happy birthday tonight the only thing she wanted for a birthday present was my chili recipe. The one everyone raves about.

There are some small problems with that. First off, as I told her, it isn’t so much a recipe as a way of life. Secondly, It really isn’t a recipe anyway. I’ve tried to write it up before and on paper it looks nothing like the dance of meat, beans, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and spices that are my chili.

But my mother asked. I need to do my best. So I’ll try again.

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Oct 20 2013

Review: Spider Woman’s Daughter, by Anne Hillerman

If, like me, you enjoy off-beat mysteries with unusual settings the name ‘Hillerman’ is probably a familiar one. As in Tony Hillerman, the author of the Leaphorn and Chee novels set on the Navaho Nation in the American Southwest.

The Leaphorn and Chee stories are some of my favorites; with strong characters, good solid mysteries, and tough resolutions requiring everything the protagonists have to make through it to the end. And the setting! The Southwest itself is one of the characters I mentioned; for Hillerman invested the locations with personality and linked his human characters strongly to them. A couple of years ago, driving up what used to be HWY 666 (now 491), I got a personal look at the beautiful Navaho land and it felt as if the rock formations and mountains were old friends.

Yeah, I really enjoyed those books. But Tony Hillerman passed away some time ago and it seemed unlikely there would be any more. What I didn’t know was Hillerman had a daughter; Anne Hillerman. A writer herself, if not of fiction, Anne apparently decided she was good enough to take up her father’s mantle and continue the storyline of Leaphorn and Chee. But is she?

Her first novel “Spider Woman’s Daughter” provides an interesting answer. Yes, it is a first novel with some first novel problems, but it is clear she got some very good editing. It is also clear she made some good choices.

The first good choice is using ‘Bernie’ Manuelito as the major viewpoint character. All of Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee novels were first person (except for some third-person scene setting) and he would jump the POV around between his protagonists as he told the story in bits and chunks, often giving the reader a better idea of the big picture than his characters. Anne Hillerman used a similar strategy, but focused on Bernie with some use of Bernie’s husband Jim Chee’s POV. Although her father had used Bernie for a POV before, it was rare and short.

This means Anne was starting a new chapter in the storytelling, where the story teller is a woman, by focusing on the one woman detective character in the stories; and one her father had given short-shrift. It was a gutsy move and an effective one.

The second good choice was shooting Joe Leaphorn in the first few pages of the story, putting him in the hospital where his condition deteriorates. This meant not only was Leaphorn himself a part of the central mystery, but also meant Leaphorn–the great detective of Tony Hillerman’s stories who always figures it out–was in no condition to do the figuring.

Once again, both gutsy and effective. Forcing Bernie and Chee to man up (or woman up) and solve the mystery on their lonesome. (Well, aside from the usual FBI interferences, police procedures, and family issues.)

Another good choice is imbued in the mystery itself. I’m not going to give you any spoilers, but the mystery is built on one of her father’s earlier novels; continuing a story once thought over and done.

Perhaps not such a gutsy choice, but still an effective one; tying her Leaphorn and Chee story into her father’s oeuvre and establishing its place in the meta-story and character arcs of the Leaphorn and Chee series.

I could nitpick a little about cardboard antagonists and some red herrings that were a little too red. But I won’t. I could claim she pulled off the tough ending well enough for a good mention, but you need to decide that for yourself. Let me instead simply say: if you like Tony Hillerman’s work there is a good chance you will enjoy Anne Hillerman’s “Spider Woman’s Daughter”.

I did.

Oct 20 2013

Rally in Dee Cee for Pri-va-cy

Next Saturday, Oct 26 2013, there is going to be a rally in Washington D.C. against Domestic Spying and the NSA. I don’t know how many people are going to be there, but one of them will be me.

stopwatching.us

stopwatching.us

Yes, rather apolitical me. Never before have I been confronted with something I feel strongly enough about to do something like this. I mean, I often agreed with protestors and those gathering together million-man-marches (no matter if they actually got a million people or not). I just didn’t feel strongly enough about it to give up a weekend and spend some dollars to agree in person.

But this is different. Those other causes were important! I’m glad people stood up for them. But here we are dealing with a cancer in our body politic that, if metastasizes, might mean the end of democracy in the U.S.A.

I’m not exaggerating. Think about the kind of power the NSA’s database would put into the hands of someone entirely without scruples. Think about carefully applied blackmail and what it could do to the politics of our country.

Some people think we are already on that road. Whether or not this is the case, the tools have been built; only the hand to wield them is required before we could never trust our (already tottering) democratic institutions again. I love this country too much to stand by and watch that happen.

How about you? Want to do what you can while you still can? Join us! Or, if you can’t, at least join a half million others and sign the StopWatching.us petition.

Oct 13 2013

The Simulation Hypothesis and Religion: Part 2 – The God Module

In Part 1 (Animism) of my series on the Simulation Hypotheses and Religion I explored some means by which a simulated world, containing Artificial Intelligences called ‘humans’, might exhibit the characteristics of Animist belief; including ‘spirits’ and ‘supernatural connections’ between things.

(If you haven’t read part 1 yet, go and read it now. If you haven’t also read my essay ‘The Consequences of The Simulation Hypothesis‘ you might want to start there.)

Here in part 2 I am going to explore a significant difference between believing in spirits and believing in gods. In fact I think there are at least two major differences and they boil down to ‘side-effects versus intent’ and ‘reason versus faith’. I also think those two differences combine into a third factor I call ‘the god module’.

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Oct 06 2013

The Simulation Hypothesis and Religion: Part 1 – Animism

Earlier I explored some of the consequences of The Simulation Hypothesis. In that essay I quickly glossed over the possibility that our world’s religions might exist because we live in a simulation designed as a ‘God Game‘:

Think about it, much of mythology makes all of us out as NPCs (Non Player Characters) in a great godly game anyway; so what if that were actually the case? What if there used to be a whole bunch of players fooling with humanity like kids might poke an ant hill and now only one is still doing so seriously?

Here I’m going to take a deeper dive into the relationship between the Simulation Hypothesis and Religion and I am going to start with the most primitive religious belief of all – Animism; the belief that everything around you, from inanimate objects to plants and insects and other living things, has a spiritual essence.

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Sep 29 2013

Moving over Slashdot Journal posts

Read my blog via RSS and wonder why a bunch of posts from 2002 are showing up? Well, sorry about that. but it is a result of my trying to get all my scattered Internet writing under one roof.

Previously I moved over my LiveJournal posts by exporting everything from LiveJournal and then importing them into WordPress. This after I tried moving them more selectively by hand and realized what a pain in the ass it was.

Before I kept the LiveJournal and after I kept a hand-coded proto-blog I kept a sort-of-a-blog using the ‘Journal’ feature of Slashdot. I only posted to my Slashdot Journal in 2002 and 2003, but still managed to build up quite a number of posts there. Sadly, there is no way for me to export those posts as I did with LJ, so I am back to moving them over by hand the hard way.

I started doing it today and hope to work on it a little bit every week until the Slashdot Journal is all moved over. After that I will start updating this blog with some of my older stuff, eventually even cherry picking the best Usenet articles I wrote back in the 1990′s. I also will put up some of my old short stories and articles eventually.

So, like I said, sorry about that if you are reading this via RSS. On the other hand, here is your chance to read some older writings of mine that might still be worth your eyetracks. And the spiders can go nuts, as usual.

Sep 21 2013

The Consequences of The Simulation Hypothesis

The Wikipedia article for the Simulation Hypothesis is crisp and to the point:

The simulation hypothesis (simulation argument or simulism) proposes that reality is a simulation and those affected are generally unaware of this. The concept is reminiscent of René Descartes‘ Evil Genius but posits a more futuristic simulated reality.

Later, the article describes a number of types of reality simulation, focusing on the mechanics – things like ‘Physical Simulation’ and ‘Brain-in-a-Vat’. But, for me, the why might be a little more important than the how because the why determines the rules of the simulation. Still the how has its own consequences and both the rules and the side-effects of the simulation are important things to consider.

Why?

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