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Tagged with “reality” (13)

  1. Conversations with Tyler: Neal Stephenson on Depictions of Reality

    If you want to speculate on the development of tech, no one has a better brain to pick than Neal Stephenson. Across more than a dozen books, he’s created vast story worlds driven by futuristic technologies that have both prophesied and even provoked real-world progress in crypto, social networks, and the creation of the web itself. Though Stephenson insists he’s more often wrong than right, his technical sharpness has even led to a half-joking suggestion that he might be Satoshi Nakamoto, the shadowy creator of bitcoin. His latest novel, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, involves a more literal sort of brain-picking, exploring what might happen when digitized brains can find a second existence in a virtual afterlife.

    So what’s the implicit theology of a simulated world? Might we be living in one, and does it even matter? Stephenson joins Tyler to discuss the book and more, including the future of physical surveillance, how clothing will evolve, the kind of freedom you could expect on a Mars colony, whether today’s media fragmentation is trending us towards dystopia, why the Apollo moon landings were communism’s greatest triumph, whether we’re in a permanent secular innovation starvation, Leibniz as a philosopher, Dickens and Heinlein as writers, and what storytelling has to do with giving good driving directions.

    http://cowenconvos.libsyn.com/neal-stephenson

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  2. BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Physics of Reality

    Melvyn Bragg examines the attempt to reconcile Quantum Theory and classical physics.

    Melvyn Bragg examines the physics of reality. When Quantum Mechanics was developed in the early 20th century reality changed forever. In the quantum world particles could be in two places at once, they disappeared for no reason and reappeared in unpredictable locations, they even acted differently according to whether we were watching them. It was so shocking that Erwin Schrodinger, one of the founders of Quantum Theory, said "I don’t like it and I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it." He even developed an experiment with a cat to show how absurd it was. Quantum Theory was absurd, it disagreed with the classical physics of Newton and Einstein and it clashed with our experience of the everyday world. Footballs do not disappear without reason, cats do not split into two and shoes do not act differently when we are not looking at them. Or do they? Eighty years later we are still debating whether the absurd might actually be true. But why are features of quantum physics not seen in our experience of everyday reality? Can the classical and quantum worlds be reconciled, and why should reality make sense to us? With Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, Oxford University; Fay Dowker, Lecturer in Theoretical Physics, Queen Mary, University of London; Tony Sudbery, Professor of Mathematics, University of York.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00548dl

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  3. Facebook and the last days of reality: futurist Mark Pesce - Conversations - ABC Radio

    Is our increasing immersion in the online world affecting our ability to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not?

    Mark is an inventor, writer and entrepreneur, with more than three decades experience in digital technology.

    He believes Facebook is constantly trying to shape the emotional state of its users, to make them happy to stay there longer.

    Mark says the world is increasingly being presented to us as we want to see it, rather than as it really is.

    Looking ahead, he is wondering whether we’re approaching the last days of reality.

    http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/conversations-mark-pesce/9354558

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  4. YANSS 090 – Questioning the nature of reality with cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman – You Are Not So Smart

    Back in the early 1900s, the German biologist Jakob Johann Baron von Uexküll couldn’t shake the implication that the inner lives of animals like jellyfish and sea urchins must be radically different from those of humans.

    Uexküll was fascinated by how meaty, squishy nervous systems gave rise to perception. Noting that the sense organs of sea creatures and arachnids could perceive things that ours could not, he realized that giant portions of reality must therefore be missing from their subjective experiences, which suggested that the same was true of us. In other words, most ticks can’t enjoy an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical because, among other reasons, they don’t have eyes. On the other hand, unlike ticks, most humans can’t smell butyric acid wafting on the breeze, and so no matter where you sit in the audience, smell isn’t an essential (or intended) element of a Broadway performance of Cats.

    Uexküll imagined that each animal’s subjective experience was confined to a private sensory world he called an umwelt. Each animal’s umwelt was different, he said, distinctive from that of another animal in the same environment, and each therefore was tuned to take in only a small portion of the total picture. Not that any animal would likely know that, which was Uexküll’s other big idea. Because no organism can perceive the totality of objective reality, each animal likely assumes that what it can perceive is all that can be perceived. Each umwelt is a private universe, fitted to its niche, and the subjective experiences of all of Earth’s creatures are like a sea filled with a panoply of bounded virtual realities floating past one another, each unaware that it is unaware.

    Like all ideas, Uexküll’s weren’t completely new. Philosophers had wondered about the differences in subjective and objective reality going back to Plato’s cave (and are still wondering). But even though Uexküll’s ideas weren’t strictly original, he brought them into a new academic silo – biology. In doing so, he generated lines of academic research into neuroscience and the nature of consciousness that are still going today.

    For instance, when the philosopher Thomas Nagel famously asked, “What is it like to be a bat?” he thought there was no answer to his question because it would be impossible to think in that way. Bat sonar, he said, is nothing like anything we possess, “and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine.” All one can do, said Nagel, is imagine what it would be like for a person, like yourself, to be a bat. Imagining what it would be like for a bat to be a bat is impossible. This was part of an overall criticism on the limits of reductionist thinking, and is, of course, still the subject of much debate.

    The siblings of these notions appear in the writings of everyone from Timothy Leary with his “reality tunnels” to J.J. Gibson’s “ecological optics” to psychologist Charles Tart and his “consensus trances.” From the Wachowski’s Matrix to Kant’s “noumenon” to Daniel Dennett’s “conscious robots,” we’ve been wondering about these questions for a very long time. You too, I suspect, have stumbled on these problems, asking something along the lines of “do we all see the same colors?” at some point. The answer, by the way, is no.

    The assumption in most of these musings is that we humans are unique because we can escape our umwelten. We have reason, philosophy, science, and physics which free us from the prison of our limited human perceptions. We can use tools to extend our senses, to see the background radiation left behind by the big bang or hear the ultrasonic laughter of ticklish mice. Sure, the table seems solid enough when we knock on it, and if you were still trapped in your umwelt, you wouldn’t think otherwise, but now you know it is actually mostly empty space thanks to your understanding of protons and electrons. We assume that more layers of truth reveal themselves to us with each successive paradigm shift.

    In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart podcast, we sit down with a scientist who is challenging these assumptions.

    Donald Hoffman, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California with a background in artificial intelligence, game theory, and evolutionary biology has developed a new theory of consciousness that, should it prove true, would rearrange our understanding of not only the mind and the brain, but physics itself.

    “I agree up to a point,” said Hoffman, “that different organisms are in effectively different perceptual worlds, but where I disagree is that these worlds are seeing different parts of the truth. I don’t think they are seeing the truth at all.”

    Hoffman wondered if evolution truly favored veridical minds, so he and his graduate students created computer models of natural selection that included accurate perceptions of reality as a variable.

    “We simulated hundreds of thousands of random worlds and put organisms in those worlds that could see all of the truth, part of the truth, or none of the truth,” explained Hoffman. “What we found in our simulations was that organisms that saw reality as-it-is could never outcompete organisms that saw none of reality and were just tuned to fitness, as long as they were of equal complexity.”

    The implication, Hoffman said, is that an organism that can see the truth will never be favored by natural selection. This suggests that literally nothing we can conceive of can be said to represent objective reality, not even atoms, molecules, or physical laws. Physics and chemistry are still inside the umwelt. There’s no escape.

    “If our perceptual systems evolved by natural selection, then the probability that we see reality as it actually is, in any way, is zero. Precisely zero,” said Hoffman.

    Well aware that these ideas come across as woo, Hoffman welcomes challenges from his peers and other interested parties, and in the interview you’ll hear what they’ve said so far and how you can investigate these concepts for yourself.

    Also in the show, Hoffman explains his ideas in detail in addition to discussing the bicameral mind, artificial intelligence, and the hard problem of consciousness in this mindbending episode about how we make sense of our world, our existence, and ourselves.

    https://youarenotsosmart.com/2016/12/02/yanss-090-questioning-the-nature-of-reality-with-cognitive-scientist-donald-hoffman/

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  5. How To Save The World, One Video Game At A Time : NPR

    Every week, people across the globe spend 3 billion hours playing video games, but that isn’t enough for Jane McGonigal. She says video games can help solve some of the world’s biggest problems —€” and we really should be playing more.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/04/11/135248010/how-to-save-the-world-one-video-game-at-a-time

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  6. Jane McGonigal: How Video Games Can Make a Better World

    Can problems like poverty and climate change by fixed through games? Visionary game designer Jane McGonigal thinks they can. With more than 174 million gamers in the United States, McGonigal explores how we can save the world through the power of gaming. McGonigal is helping pioneer the fasting-growing genre of games that turns gameplay to achieve socially positive outcomes.

    This program was recorded in collaboration with the Commonwealth Club of California, on January 24, 2011.

    Jane McGonigal is the director of games research and development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California. She has created and deployed games and missions in more than 30 countries on six continents. She specializes in games that help gamers enjoy their real lives more — and games that challenge players to tackle real-world problems, through planetary-scale collaboration.

    McGonigal is the author of the newly released book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

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  7. Brian Greene: A Physicist Explains ‘The Hidden Reality’ Of Parallel Universes : NPR

    It is possible that there are many other universes that exist parallel to our universe. Theoretical physicist Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe, explains how that’s possible in the new book, The Hidden Reality.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/01/24/132932268/a-physicist-explains-why-parallel-universes-may-exist?&sc=tumblr

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  8. Science & The City: What Time Is It?

    Famed screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and theoretical physicist Brian Greene dissect time as we know it. What is the smallest unit of time, and what does it look like? For starters, you should stop looking at the clock, and start looking at the universe.

    http://www.nyas.org/Publications/Media/PodcastDetail.aspx?cid=f3f02313-c697-49da-b298-9b00f2e3d541

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  9. To The Best of Our Knowledge: Reality

    Jonathan Lethem has created an alternate NY City circa 2004, with astronauts lost in space, aging child stars and a tiger stalking the Upper East Side. Chuck Klosterman reexamines the Unabomber’s Manifesto and thinks there are some interesting ideas in his writing. V. Vale is republishing author J. G. Ballard, considered a science fiction writer, but self-described as "picturing the psychology of the future." Brent Silby describes a view that suggests that our ‘reality’ is a simulation being run in a massive computer.

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