S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Only a glimpse

We "see through the glass darkly." We catch glimpses of truths we don't understand, things we think we remember but don't know how or why, and fleeting snatches of important thoughts that float away. It is only a glimpse, however.

Can you imagine? Lots of people are very interested in the idea of virtual worlds. I am mystified and a bit scared of what what seems to be there, because it is, in a way, too hard to hold on to such a reality. I see that through my own experiences, and through the eyes of others.

One of the ways I grab onto reality is to put things together in order to make sense of them. My very first blog "friend," Bucky named me the "queen of synthesis," and here I am, at it again. The following three items are about imagination and what it can do to stretch our concept of what is real and what is not.
Conceptual reality is a philosophical mystery to most of us. It is not imaginary. "cscs" at TPMCafe wrote, "Chances Are, We're Just A Simulation" (8/14/07). The post garnered 169 comments over a two-day period. I was not one of them. I was far too intimidated by the rarity of the atmospheric in the discussion. To quote the author,
Fascinating and thought-provoking piece in the Science section of the Times today, on the philosophy of reality. Oxford's Nick Bostrom has calculated the probability of our reality simply being a highly involved computer simulation, and, it turns out, the chances are actually pretty good.

. . . So, basically, we're going to either be extinct before we ever reach the "posthuman" stage; or that we will reach it, but not run simulations (which is extremely unlikely, as we already are, with, or example, the advent of the popular Sims video games); or, finally, the number of simulations that will be run with future computing power will vastly outnumber the biological "reality" version of life, so much that, statistically speaking, yes, we're probably living in a simulation right now.
I often write about the virtual world, the electronic blogosphere. It is seen as a community to those of us who read and write blogs. One of the members I regularly visit is Grant McCracken of This Blog Sits at . . . His post about his experience with virtual world congruence is the perfect illustration of one of these glimpses: It is titled, "Social networks and the virtual world," and I quote from it:
There were virtual worlds in the West before the advent on the Internet.

. . . The virtual worlds of the late 20th and 21st world are something else again. It is now routine to have someone we know from the blogging world or a role-playing game appear before us as flesh and blood. And when this happens it always seems to me like a scene from the movies in which a character moves from one dimension to the next, materializing as he goes.

. . . So today, I am going to meet a couple of people for lunch in Manhattan who are friends of a virtual friend. . .

Eventually, we'll learn to live in a new kind of social universe that consists of virtual and actual worlds living side by side. We'll learn to negotiate sudden transitions back and forth. I guess eventually, we will have a protocol for negotiating these very odd social situations, but for the moment it's all improv.
As we sleep the outside world remains, but our internal world is is being changed by our dreams. And we may not be as disconnected from the world outside as we imagined. Earlier this the New York Times' Benedict Carey wrote a fascinating story about an intriguing sleep study: "Study Uncovers Memory Aid: A Scent During Sleep." To quote,
Scientists studying how sleep affects memory have found that the whiff of a familiar scent can help a slumbering brain better remember things that it learned the evening before. The smell of roses — delivered to people’s nostrils as they studied and, later, as they slept — improved their performance on a memory test by about 13 percent.

The new study, appearing today in the journal Science, is the first rigorous test of the effect of odor on human memory during sleep. The results, whether or not they can help students cram for tests, clarify the picture of what the sleeping brain does with newly learned material and help illuminate what it takes for this process to succeed.

Researchers have long known that sleep is crucial to laying down new memories, and studies in the 1980s and ’90s showed that exposing the sleeping brain to certain cues — the sound of clicking, for instance — could enhance the process. But it is only in recent years that scientists have begun to understand how this is possible.
Our imaginations grow through these expanding glimpses of reality. Through my words on this page I, Carol, am a simulation to you the reader. If you are a regular reader, I am also a blog "friend," a member of your virtual community. And we all are at the frontier of exciting new things to learn about who we are and what we are about, asleep and awake, virtual or actual.
My links:
Cross posted at The Reaction.
My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Good Second Mondays is about my "Chinese sister"
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