...what is going on here!
I'm happy with these essays, and think that they pose a proper
threat to any dogmatic understanding of what the "really-Real"
is all about, including that account of things brought forward
by the Scientific Realist, who thinks in terms of "ultimately
real" building blocks such as electrons, protons, Psi-mesons,
and the like. There are no such things. Bishop Berkeley was
correct in this respect.
I'm also confident that, with the proliferation and
technological perfection of the devices we have called "reality
chambers," more and more people will be spending most of their
time in them, much to their delight. These people will enjoy
"real" experiences. Some of them may enjoy machine-generated
"real" experiences throughout their entire lifetimes.
And so, if it was a polyvalent understanding of
reality-for-persons that we wished to make room for, I think
that job is done. Not by me, but by philosophers of Idealist
persuasion, who have bent their backs over the years hoping to
give a good account of what their increasingly-accomplished
scientist and engineer colleagues have brought about. Who would
have imagined, 250 years ago, that a significant percentage of
the population of planet Earth might one day be retired into
energy-efficient mausoleums in which fabulous and accomplished
lives might be led, in a new realm called cyberspace? It never
occured to me, until recently.
With all this said, I think I have said too much, in suggesting
that with a few tons of electrically-excited silicon dioxide,
animated in accordance with the inspired instructions of a new
society of computer programmers and support personnel, we will
have explained (or re-created as artists) all there is on our
plates to account for.
It's my "last man on earth not plugged in to a reality
simulator" who bothers me most. You remember him. He was the one
who attended to the millions of "synthies" lying prone behind
tiny quartz windows, enjoying millions of synthetic experiences
coordinated by computers. He hated them for the wrong reasons,
and I took some satisfaction in that.
However, he could do something that I do from time to time, and
that is to walk out into his back yard, and look up into the
sky. He sees stars when he does that, as do I. He sees something
very much greater than the computers, and the tons of memory
chips, and the accomplishments of thousands of computer
programmers and support personnel who managed to make machines
deliver sensations and idea-constructs to central nervous
systems in a manner which would create in those central nervous
systems the conviction that certain events and occurrances were
happening to them in a real world.
Something else is going on here, as I gaze upwards into the
night sky, and I don't feel ashamed to say that I don't know
what it is. My "last man on Earth not plugged in to a reality
simulator," doesn't know either, although he thinks he does.
I reproach him for that, and wonder if I shouldn't try to write
another paragraph or two, tomorrow, hoping to make that argument
a bit more clearly still.
© 1993, Gilbert Scott Markle.