“A single ego is an incredibly narrow view from which to perceive the universe.”
—Robert Anton Wilson
I am finding more and more that when referring to Reality I add a lower-case “r” and quotation marks: “reality.”
As in: Reality Tunnels, a term invented by psychologist Timothy Leary and expanded upon by author Robert Anton Wilson. The concept that we all have our own unique conception of what reality is, the result of the subjectivity of our senses plus the possibly “plastic” and equally subjective nature of the universe itself (as continually demonstrated by quantum physics). This means that there might be “infinite” realities, “real” to the people who experience them.
Is this a good thing?
I mean, really…really, if this concept of Reality Tunnels turns out to be the correct one, that means we’re in for quite a mess, doesn’t it?
I’m thinking of this article by Henry Farrell in The Boston Review, speaking to the possibility that of all the different dystopian theories regarding the future—George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World—it is sci-fi author Philip K. Dick who might have been the most correct.
Dick’s work often dealt with the idea of not only multiple realities…but absolutely fake realities perceived as real. He postulated a world in which people could no long tell the difference between the two (or three, or four, or infinite #).
“These obsessions had some of their roots in Dick’s complex and ever-evolving personal mythology (in which it was perfectly plausible that the ‘real’ world was a fake, and that we were all living in Palestine sometime in the first century AD). Yet they were also based on a keen interest in the processes through which reality is socially constructed. Dick believed that we all live in a world where ‘spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups—and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into heads of the reader.'”
So the Internet—and, certainly, AI, as it gets exponentially more advanced—helps feed into this sense of non-reality, multiple realities, and cynically constructed “fake” (notice I again use the quotation marks) realities.
But this then can all be “weaponized” by this or that political party or ideology or religion to manipulate the masses—and this indeed has already happened in spades. Hence, the prompting of the new call to have one standardized Truth that responsible citizens all follow. And this call would make sense, doesn’t it? You would want everybody to believe that the Earth is round and so on and so on—to have this “baseline reality.”
Of course…that “baseline reality” itself could in theory be “weaponized” and used as a tool for propaganda.
And it all sort of boils back down to one’s own subjective perception of reality. In the final analysis, no matter how much you are invested in the Collective—that last “gasp” of interacting in the present world, before you die to it, is going to be all about your particular perspective of things.
In which case…these multiple “fake realities” we encounter not only in the form of online bots and AI personalities, but simply just in our entertainment and daydreams (constructed fantasy worlds)…it all creates, chimera-like, this vast “soup” of personal “reality” that haunts our dreams and recontexualizes fragile memory.
No “baseline reality,” no matter how well sourced and well-intentioned, can eclipse that.