Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spectus and Ferox

Spectus: Sometimes I feel nostalgic when I ponder about all those things that I will not be able to live.

Ferox: Life is finite and so is the amount of things you can do in that interval of time.

Spectus: That is not what I mean. I mean that sometimes I think of the many other things I could have done in my life, but I will not do because certain decisions in life will exclude others of being possible.

Ferox: Why do you worry about that? They are things that will never be.

Spectus: But they could be... if I so choose.

Ferox: Ah... and what is the point?

Spectus: The point is that out of many instances of my life, I can just live one. I can't help thinking about how would my life be if my choices and actions were different.

Ferox: I see. Well, I don't know what to say... I don't think it's important to consider such matters. There's nothing you can do about it, they are out of our reach.

Spectus: I know. Yet I wonder, why is it like that?

Ferox: You are going nowhere. This is the way things are. That is how nature works.

Spectus: But still, those questions wander in my mind. They pop up involuntarily, to put it in some way. I don't control that. It's like my brain is wired in such a way that it happens like that. I guess you could say the same about that phenomenon, that that is the way in which nature works.

Ferox: Yes, I would say that.


After a short silence Spectus looks perturbed.


Spectus: But then, Ferox, forgive me to go on with this, I know you are a more practical thinker; but don't you feel that there is something missing here? like we are missing the point?

Ferox: What point?

Spectus: Let me explain. You said that I can only live one life based on my choices and decisions, it does not matter whatsoever that I have thoughts about the many other possibilities. In nature, only one choice is realized. I am part of
nature, those thoughts live in my brain. So, is it not like those thoughts are some sort of realization of the other choices? As if those possibilities that will never be had some level of existence in my brain when I think about them.

Ferox: Hmm, thoughts don't seem to have a life of their own. They don't exist if you don't exist. As opposed to the real world that exists independently of yourself.

Spectus: Is that so?

Ferox: Of course it is! Why? Are you challenging even that?

Spectus: I don't know. It seems to me that when we are so used to something we take it as an incontrovertible fact. What if the reality that we experience is just some particular way of seeing things? It's like staring at a static object always from the same position. We always see the same. But as soon as we change the point of view---literally---other features of the object become visible.

Ferox: Hmm...

Spectus: What I'm saying is that we perceive an external world through our senses. And that, my friend, it's the only possible way for us to know about that external world. The images, sounds, flavors, colors, etc. all the attributes you can think of an object and that are stored in your memory, rely on the complex structure of your nervous system; from the perception, analysis and storage in memory. All human beings possess those capabilities. Now, the questions is, could we experience reality in a different way if our nervous system, for instance, had a different design? Is it even possible to have a different design? and if it's possible, how would that reality be? Would the laws of physics be the same but written in terms of other "observable" quantities?

Ferox: You blow my mind... I have absolutely no idea. Do you think there are answers to such questions?

Spectus: I don't know. Maybe the answers lie ahead, in the future. When we gather more knowledge and more experience.

A small pause...

We have gained an enormous amount of knowledge about how nature works, to the point that physics has managed to reduce all phenomena in nature to a few fundamental interactions. But those interactions and the theories made to account for them, are made based in our own perception of the reality. I think that in the future, the theories of physics will be regarded as the way of explaining nature according to human perception. I've started to think that we can not consider a fundamental law as universal. I would say that it is universal to account for the phenomena that we experience. Thus, we can not consider a physical theory as independent of its creator. The next step in the path of fundamental theories will be a set of knowledge that relates the outer world and how it is conceived in the mind of the observer. In other words, it would be a theory of the external world and the conscious processes of its creation. A theory about the creation of theories! Would this give us a theory of consciousness? I don't know. But I feel that it points in that direction.

Ferox: I admit I don't delve very often into these issues, but I can't deny that they are very interesting. It makes me wonder where does it end, if it ends. Are we going to quest answers forever?

Spectus: I don't know... Let's get back to reality for now.
...
What's the tally?

Ferox: Oh, we are just starting.
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