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The Dependency Principle and You

Ville Kokko

Posted on January 14, 2019 01:06

2 users

A principle introduced by science fiction author Iain M. Banks in his fictional universe tells us something about ours as well.

I'm in the middle of reading the science fiction novel Excession by Iain M. Banks and just came upon a name for something that I have thought of before. It's also a good name for something we need to remember if we want to think of our world through the scientific worldview.

Excession describes how the hyperintelligent artificial intelligences called Minds spend their leisure time playing with virtual universes of their own creation. This is described as incredibly intellectually stimulating and pleasurable, but there's a danger in forgetting the real universe altogether.

The reason the Minds must not forget themselves like this is the Dependency Principle: No matter how much better the universe of your own creation is, it's dependent on your physical existence in the base reality. If your physical form gets broken, your marvelous virtual reality goes along with it.

The same principle is demonstrated in the science fiction novel Heaven by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, where the argument that perfect virtual realities are just as real as reality is disproven when the destruction of one's body in reality also ends that person's virtual existence.

What does all of this have to do with the real world? As a matter of fact, the Dependency Principle is something people too easily miss when they think about the world we live in.

Consider the idea of making things happen with your mind.

It's a perfectly real scientifically studied phenomenon that suggestion can affect one's body physiologically. It's really pretty unsurprising. If your mind is a function of what happens in your brain and body, as per the scientific worldview, then why couldn't what happens in your mind physically affect what happens in your body? What happens in your mind is already happening in your body anyway.

But it's a totally different idea that you could have some kind of telekinesis where you could affect things outside your body with the power of your mind – unless you reach out your hand and touch them, of course. Your mind is not over there.

Similarly, it seems to make sense to a lot of people that, say, a house where a murder was committed or people felt a lot of negative emotions could somehow still contain those emotions. But unless it means you feel the weight of its past because you heard about it, or the house bears physical marks of it that affect your mind, this is completely at odds with what we know about emotions.

(Incidentally, a house might also generate negative emotions because it generates infrasounds.)

Consider also the flawed argument that "conservation of energy" implies the possibility of reincarnation.

If you want to stay anywhere near the scientific worldview, remember the Dependency Principle: Thoughts, emotions, ideas, meanings are perfectly real, but they all depend on a physical basis. If you think they can just float in the air, you need to be a dualist.

Ville Kokko

Posted on January 14, 2019 01:06

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Source: HuffPost

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