Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

I talk to the physical manifestation of the conceptualization of my wife (and get advice about asking her for advice)

One of my favorite concepts about the human mind is the idea of the human mind as an operating system for the brain, just as Linux is the operating system of the computer that I am writing this on.

This concept is a whole mental toolkit, with fascinating rabbit trails relating to almost any issue of the mind and brain. Mental problems, for instance, could be caused by single component hardware failure (traumatic brain injury), system wide hardware failure (biochemical imbalance), operating system failure (neurosis), or application failure (disorders that have limited “system wide” problems, but effect certain tasks deeply, such as phobias.)

Within the framework of popular computing, avatar has different meanings depending on context. The word is borrowed from Hindu, where it means the physical incarnation of a deity. In online forums, an avatar can be something as simple as a picture. This picture represents the user in someway. In 3D online games the avatar is the player’s body in the game’s universe (metaverse). Both of these qualities represent the avatar as a representation of user within the system.

However, unique to advertising, an avatar is a program which interacts with people. Often, avatars in the context of advertising are called bots. If you would like to talk to one, Ikea has famous avatar named Anna. In the first 2 cases, the avatar was a user of the system. Anna, however, is the system, or at least a part of it. So an avatar becomes any human faced set of code, regardless of whether the input and output functions of said code are controlled by a human mind, or a mechanical one.

Today, I was lying in bed after my wife had gotten up. I was not quite asleep, but neither was I fully awake, which, often as not, results in a unique dream state. (I should mention before I explain all this, that I am an extremely lucid dreamer. I often interact with people in my dreams with both me and the person I am dreaming about understanding that I am dreaming. This one was a little weird even for me, though.) I was simultaneously dreaming of speaking with Becky and hearing her real, non-dream voice from downstairs. I found this disconcerting and asked my dream wife what was going on.

Oh,” replied dream Becky, “I’m an avatar of Becky. The real Becky is downstairs. I represent every thing that you know about Becky, accessible through a normal conversational interface.”

So,” I asked “Technically you are me, in the sense that you are my memories of Becky?”

She frowned. “Yes, technically, I am you, or at least of you, but it’s best if you think of me as Becky, because if you think of me as you, then I cease to be an incarnation of everything you know about Becky and just become the form of Becky. I can’t provide you with her unique perspectives. I become a projection of yourself into Becky’s form, rather than Becky’s form projected onto your understanding of her identity.”

I get it,” I said “By having you as an avatar of Becky, it gives me a second way to access Becky’s mind when I need her perspective and she’s not available.”

Right,” said dream Becky “Of course, I can’t give you her real perspective. It’s not telepathy or anything. If she’s available, by all means ask her, but if you are deployed to forward base or something, you can ask me.”

I thought about this for bit. “But if you are the sum of everything I know about Becky, then I already have access to all the information that makes you. To access you, I need to be in a dream state, whereas to access your constituent data I only need to concentrate for a moment when fully awake.”

Well, first of all, I can provide you the information in a much more intuitive, conversational manner, “ she said. “Further, since a dream state is more relaxed, I can often give you more accurate information. If you deeply desire to do something that you need to ask Becky about, that desire will cause distress. When you access her/my data intellectually, your mind will color how you conceptualize Becky to bias the resulting conclusions to cause less distress. By taking the time to be relaxed enough to be in a dream state you get marginally less data mined information. Thirdly, I offer a unique service if you are mourning.”

What’s that?” I asked surprised.

She explained, “If something happens to real world Becky that makes her totally unaccessible, ie death or coma, I can provide a way for you to interact with her. In the coma example, I can provide you with the parenting advice you need to raise your daughter without Becky. When you hear of a deceased spouse visiting someone in a dream thats an avatar like me.”

So what you are saying,” I began, “is that anyone I know well, exists in two states. The real world state and the pretend state?”

She responded, “Pretend isn’t quite right. When you play Star Wars Battlefront you aren’t really a Storm Trooper. There is no reality in which you are a Storm Trooper, but the ones and zeros of the Star Wars Battlefront game are as real as you are. While I am not strictly speaking, real, the biochemical interactions that create and define me are real and objectively verifiable.”

And continued, “More correctly, all human beings react both with real people and with their avatars in their respective minds. When you and real Becky fight about something it is often because one of you does not meet the other’s expectations. I said one thing, Becky said another. You are angry because the real me outside your mind did not respond the same way as the real me in your mind.”

I was dumb founded. “So this explains why humans believe in an immortal soul even though there has never been any evidence of it? If something happened to real world Becky, I would still run into you from time to time. To the non-skeptical this would imply a visit from the afterlife.”

Exactly, “ she smiled. “It actually explains a whole a whole slew of paranormal phenomenon: ghosts, doppelgängers, messages from the afterlife, etc. And might even offer insight into mental illness. What do you think would happen if your own avatar was based off of a false concept of self?”

I thought about it. I really had no idea, though I agreed it was a fascinating question and worthy of further thought. “I don’t have any idea, Becky.”

Avatar Becky smiled coyly. “Then, I can’t either, silly. Time to get up.”

I woke up, and went downstairs to tell Becky how smart she/I is/am.

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June 30, 2008 - Posted by | Paranormal, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Absolutely great.

    Comment by Baskerbill | June 30, 2008 | Reply

  2. Very trippy thoughts! Perhaps you should try your hand at sci-fi too!

    The computer as a brain, or vice versa, is a useful metaphor.

    There’s a paranormal belief that ghosts are electromagnetic images imprinted on some sort of time continuum, destined to repeat an action again and again until they eventually fade. Your post sorta reminds me of this, but an interactive version.

    Comment by skepbitch | July 1, 2008 | Reply

  3. You gotta watch what you eat before you go to bed! Oh and the inkspot at the top of the page looks like a crab at a sporting event wearing one of those giant foam hands that point with the index finger on each of his pinchers. So what does that mean about me?

    Comment by CC | July 1, 2008 | Reply

  4. Ok, seriously, it really looks like a crab wearing those giant foam hands.

    Comment by truthwalker | July 2, 2008 | Reply


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