Of course, I don't mean that literally. But there are so many stupid panic headlines out there about how "Google is making us stupid" and "the Internet causes malady X" that basically you wouldn't be here reading this right now if I hadn't pandered to the lowest possible sensationalism.
Anyway, it could be that the Internet fosters a tendency in people to blur reality with fantasy.
But the true message of this post is: "The Matrix was not real; it was a movie."
Oh come on, Pete, you really think you have to tell people this?
People who actually, literally think The Matrix is real:
- Wiki page on simulated reality
- Digg.com: "Why we're probably living in The Matrix.", 1,513 upvotes
- "Dr. Doug" says "The Matrix has you."
- New Matrixism (there's denominations of it)
- Wiki on Matrixism - yes, they're serious, this isn't like Pastafarianism.
- "The Matrix - Nature of Reality" on DavidIcke.com. Not surprising, is it?
- "Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?" Actual Oxford University professor publishing in Philosophical Quarterly Key quote: "We are almost certainly living in a computer simulation."
- io9 article cites math and quantum physics to back up Matrixism, citing Prof. Bostrum.
- Rapture-Ready: "The Matrix is real"
There's piles of this stuff. This isn't a joke. This isn't a vast surrealist prank. This isn't even a fringe movement. This is Oxford "professor" Nick Bostrum we're talking about here; he's won prizes for his
philosophy pile-of-horse-shit and everything. It may seem far-fetched to think that this could one day turn into an established religion, but how far-fetched are Xenu and the volcano-demons? Proponents cite philosophers going back to Plato himself and religions such as Buddhism. In fact, this is nothing more than a modern version of Solipsism, another ridiculous philosophy taken seriously.
And that is one problem with the Internet: It encourages solipsism.
It's just too easy for someone with a loose grasp on reality already to view the whole world through a filter of the Internet. If we're all just words and images on a screen to these people, and we all "go away" when they close their web browser, then it encourages the same kind of schizophrenic reasoning that would lead one to think that the voices in one's head are real, detached entities or that the TV set is talking directly out of the screen to them.
There's really nothing special about the Internet; it is just one more form of media. But there is one key difference: The Internet provides validation for everyone, no matter how loony their idea is. You may not find a book or TV show that caters to your brand of crazy delusion, and if you do, it's a one-way communication. The interactive nature of the Internet allows any two or more people to formulate their own shared delusion and then validate each other repeatedly.
Thus, the Internet spreads crazy as easily as it spreads fact. And counter to the arguments out there as to whether the Internet is making us all smarter / dumber, the Internet is actually just a magnifying glass applied to the sum total of human intellect. If that intellect is rotten, then the Internet gives you back rottenness a thousand-fold.
Take a look at this: Solipsism syndrome, a condition that affects astronauts:
"Periods of extended isolation may predispose people to this condition. In particular, the syndrome has been identified as a potential concern for individuals living in space for extended periods of time.
Individuals experiencing solipsism syndrome feel that the world is not 'real' in the sense of being external to their own minds. The syndrome is characterized by feelings of loneliness, detachment and indifference to the outside world."
An astronaut is only isolated for several months, in a space capsule or station. They have contact with Earth only through transmitted media. If an astronaut can "go solipsist" after just this brief period of time, what of the thousands of people living their lives with the Internet for their only window on the world, without face-to-face human contact? As the meme goes, "forever alone"
Well, no need to panic, right? What harm can a few nuts do?
They can steer the debate of computer science.
You see, before you have a Matrix, you have to have a sentient computer. So we're seeing a revitalizing of the superstition that actual AI can be real. Here we have our annual college grad crop coming out of school clutching their minty fresh comp sci degrees, and they're asserting with dead positive certainty that real AI is just around the corner any day now. No, not just a convincing simulation. A real, sentient, feeling, loving, hating, alive AI. An AI that will have its own will, be a superior intellect to our own, need to be held in check by the three laws of robotics, and might blow up in a temper tantrum and imprison humanity in the world of Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. C-3PO and HAL 9000 and all.
Part of this derives from a mechanistic view of humanity. If you accept that human's brains are nothing but biological circuitry, then it becomes a simple matter of hooking up logic gates in a perfect replica of a brain and turning it on and saying "hello".
Part of this is just Apple Siri hype. Posted by the hive of collective pig-ignorance that is Wired magazine, may it burn to the ground. Another part is interviews in fantard gaming magazines like this doofus who thinks that programming bots in Quake qualifies him to boldly predict that we'll have "advanced R2D2 and C3P0 type of AI in our lifetime" "Almost surely... and better." Ah, yeah, Quake's a nice game and all that... but way to make an ass of yourself.
I needn't point out the various factions that believe - or did believe - that strong AI is possible. That's old hat. You've been hearing it for years.
Here's why "strong AI" is, and always shall be, bogus: You can never program a computer to have free will. Computers are just a pile of sand with electricity running through them, a series of interconnected logic gates through which electronic pulses flow like water. We can't get these things to pick an actual random number; they have to rely on some external source, such as the decimal value of a running clock or the current state of RAM, to get any entropy at all. As long as computers go on being silicon pipes with currents of electricity running through them, we can't even appropriate a simulated AI without pulling cunning tricks.
It's the same problem as inventing a faucet that would "decide" when to turn itself on and off.
It isn't a matter of what clever programming language we invent, or how big we make the computer, or how much of a warm tone we give Apple's Siri voice synthesizer. It's never going to say "I love you" and really mean it. No inanimate object, to this date, has ever been shown to have free will.
So the Matrixists and strong-AI-believers go "Aha! We don't have free will either!"
Strong AI can't have free will? Fine then, neither do we! Because we're in a simulated reality! Wah ha ha ha!
This is also a very old idea, that of determinism, and what I was pointing to earlier as "a mechanistic view of humanity". The fact that everything, all the way down to bacteria, shows some concept of free will, seems to escape this school of pseudo-science. In fact, it could be argued that if we had no free will, we'd never be able to come up with ideas like "determinism"!
These two ideas ("We're living in the Matrix" and "We're really just meat machines with the illusion of free will.") form a circle of poisonous delusion that validate each the other without having recourse to a single, provable fact outside their own loop.
Therefore, it is a classic case of Sagan's Invisible Dragon. If one postulates that a magic dragon exists which you cannot prove or disprove by an increasingly ridiculous happenstance of immunity to experimental methods of discovery, then the lack of ability to disprove it does not validate its existence. Similarly, we can't disprove that we live in The Matrix because any experiment we conducted would have to be conducted within The Matrix. And we can't prove that we have free will because any result would just prove that we delude ourselves into believing we have free will.
We can't prove that we're not all dreaming in a coma, either. But I have news for you:
WE AREN'T ALL DREAMING IN A COMA ANYWAY.
This message brought to you by The One. Please stop eating pills, no matter what color they are.
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