Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ruminations on the Silver Key

"I dreamed last night that I was a butterfly. Or am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man?"

"No, you just log on regularly to ButterfliesOnline.Com"

First off, The Silver Key.

Hinduism, Platonism, certain modes of Buddhism, Hare Krishnaism, Gnosticism, and The Matrix all suggest that the world we experience via our senses is not the real one. They suggest that beyond the veil of what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell is a wholly different plane of reality. DesCartes postulated the possibility of the existence of a demon whose purpose it is to decive us as to the nature of reality. Further, most assert that this other reality is somehow fundamentally different. It is more real, or more important. Only an enlightened or illuminated few are able to perceive this world; lesser lights may feel there is something more to reality than they are able to know. But the goal of these philosophies is to attempt to break through and find out what one can about this true reality.

The theory of hyperreality also posits that the world we live in exists somewhere between the real and the virtually real. Disney serves up reality that is more real than the real thing. Joe Dowling wants fake red cabbages that look more like red cabbages than actual, real red cabbages. The milk in the pictures on the front of cereal boxes is Elmer's glue and water; it looks more like milk than milk. The symbol representing a thing is more real than the real thing [much more on this later].

Meanwhile, it has become fashionable in certain circles to decry "virtual world" web experiences and those who use them. Whether it's World of Warcraft, Second Life, or the world wide web as a whole, the recurring cry is "get a life!" Granted, this level of virtual reality is not total - although immersive, there is no way at present of mistaking WoW for sensory input in the real world. One biological body sends out signals to the mind: hunger, thirst, fatigue. Although there are those few persons who - considered psychologically unbalanced by many - confuse the importance of the two planes of exisistence, life goes on, at becomes easy to sense which is the more fundamental mode. Death is trivial in WoW, it is not in the human existence.

What puzzles me, then, is why choose? What makes some planes of reality more "real" than others? Why are some modes superior to others, and why choose? If we as a species accomplish a jump to a true virtual reality (or a multiverse of virtual realities), does that represent an expansion of ourselves, or a diminishment? Is enlightenment just a realization that all reality is virtual?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As virtual realities begin to contain more immediate visceral reality your questions may become more apt. As it is, Second Life atavars cannot come close to mimicing life since one has to *choose* an animation that does not happen automatically. There is no sensory feedback beyond visual, except a limited auditory input. The separation is easy to maintain...or is it? There are certainly emotional responses that are as real as if they happened in First Life.
Interesting questions.