I will go ahead and say I will require something a bit stronger in these trying times, I don’t know about anyone else.
This is my review of Bulleit Burboun.
The impetus for today’s mindfuck is this article from the Atlantic but published for free here. The theory comes from this this Professor of Cognitive Science that explains the reality you are perceiving is not necessarily real.
Where the hell was this guy in 2016? Might have helped a few people cope…
In all seriousness the interview in the article is very interesting.
The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions — mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.
Suppose in reality there’s a resource, like water, and you can quantify how much of it there is in an objective order — very little water, medium amount of water, a lot of water. Now suppose your fitness function is linear, so a little water gives you a little fitness, medium water gives you medium fitness, and lots of water gives you lots of fitness — in that case, the organism that sees the truth about the water in the world can win, but only because the fitness function happens to align with the true structure in reality. Generically, in the real world, that will never be the case. Something much more natural is a bell curve — say, too little water you die of thirst, but too much water you drown, and only somewhere in between is good for survival. Now the fitness function doesn’t match the structure in the real world. And that’s enough to send truth to extinction. For example, an organism tuned to fitness might see small and large quantities of some resource as, say, red, to indicate low fitness, whereas they might see intermediate quantities as green, to indicate high fitness. Its perceptions will be tuned to fitness, but not to truth. It won’t see any distinction between small and large — it only sees red — even though such a distinction exists in reality.
He then goes on to explain how your senses can be telling you what you need to understand about your environment but that doesn’t necessarily make it real. This is similar to the “Mad Genius” argument Descartes is often credited with. To put succinctly, Descartes’ thought experiment is part of the premise behind The Matrix: the machines control humanity by stimulating their brains electrically in a way an individual can experience everyday life in virtual world and not know it because their senses are stimulated in the same way to be interpreted as reality by their brains.
Even for a less absurd example, he uses a computer icon as an example of your perception not being in line with reality. This is probably too long to quote here so I won’t. Another example I think works is that of the biological adaptation of mimicry. Here certain animals evolve in a manner they appear identical to one another except one is significantly more dangerous than the other. Certain species of reptiles mimic others that are poisonous. The monarch and viceroy butterfly are another example but they mimic each other to ward off different predators because they each taste terrible to different predators. It is as Werner Heisenberg says, “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”
No matter how you want to think of it, the real truth is evolution is the process of survival. In the hunter-gatherer didn’t need to understand the true nature of his existence. If you consider the same evolutionary apparatus that brought you consciousness is the same one that allows a rodent, an leek, or a flatworm to flourish in spite of not having the same mental capacity. They developed to a point where it isn’t needed for survival. If survival is the only goal you don’t necessarily have to consider the why. In which case if there is some other reality where something is pulling our strings, keeping us trapped of in a false reality does it really matter? This reality is the best we got.
Unless this reality also includes this bourbon, then we can certainty do better. Honestly, I thought it would be cool with the glass.