On God, Reality, Matrices, and Stereotypes
The fundamental nature of reality will be decoded not by a physicist, but by a programmer.
The entirety of reality is a matrix of data. Time is an emergent property. There is only the present moment, which is a temporary object, which in an atomic moment, is mutated according to the vagaries of the code so far in the matrix (it is a Von Neumann Machine after-all). There exist an infinitesimal yet atomic unit of time, the `tick`. The present becomes the past on each tick, when the temporary array is cleared after being pushed into the matrix of reality. Thus the size of the matrix of reality increases monotonically, encoding time.
The matrix encodes everything. It has the primeval atom, the big bang, the billions of galaxies and stars and black holes and planets and moons and comets and bees and flies and fleas, the greeks and the romans, the world wars, all the commits on the Linux kernel, every particle of light that ever was, every utterance of every baby who ever cried, all the banalities of the written word, the animals and their hunger, the mammoths and the dinosaurs, pop songs and the rocks and sands of Jupiter, and upto but not limited to the deranged memories of Joe the crazy who is currently banging on a train and spitting obscenities in one continuous flurry of anger. The matrix encodes all that and more — the tangibles and intangibles, the concrete and abstract, the atoms and the waves and the thoughts.
The uber-programmer is not a particularly wise programmer by Rich Hickey standards. Let’s call the uber-programmer ‘it’ instead of a he/she, since it is not anthropomorphic; it created the very idea of gender; a universe of duals my ass, and even that has two cheeks. But what It has at its disposal instead is infinite computing power and infinite opportunities. With this, It has created many copies of the matrix (this is called the multi-verse theory). There are probably more copies of the matrix than there are a billion times the number of atoms in the entire universe.
‘It’ plays with these matrices using brute-force. But there isn’t a termination condition. There are no right answers, not even what we can call an optimal approximation. In fact ‘It’ doesn’t look at any particular matrix in isolation. There are broad categories (always caveat the limited amount of classification you can do in what is practically an unlimited set of random entities mutating all the time) of the matrices, with each of the universe working in a different manner. There are universes where matter doesn’t exist. Universes without sentience. Universes with no gravity. Universes without the concept of light. Universes without energy. You might object that light and energy and time and gravity and space are all different expressions of the same fundamental variable. You may be right. Excuse this as my inability to imagine a physical reality different than what we inhabit today.
But what I know for sure is that among the matrices of ‘It’, there are far too many realities that as a human living cocooned inside this bubble of my time, place, people, ignorance, and limited imagination, within this matrix, within this universe among the infinitude, I can’t possibly fathom.
This reality in which you are reading these words, it is not a total disaster. Nabokov is not a pedophile, but the work of art that comes out of him is undeniably an expression of his slice of reality. Art and artist need not have anything in common, except that one created the other and no one else. Humans, and life in general, in a similar vein was created by ‘It’. You’ll understand what I mean if you’ve ever blindly played with the visualization functions in Winamp. Changing sin into cos and cot and adding exponents and munging the many variables in the system, and watching the resulting pattern with glee, our work of directed yet totally random art. Thus the veracity of the holy words that God created man in His image.
‘It’ can intervene in particular matrices, and often does. (it could be an individual operation, but that is highly unlikely, I think most of the times they are batch transformations run on a large number of matrices with similar properties). Remember that It is the supreme being that has complete access to the matrix, over all points in time. It can rewrite history, and it often does. As beings without access to time as a dimension (all we have access at any point is the temporary array of the present which gets appended to the matrix), we are not even in a position to verify the authenticity of the past. We can rely on our memories and evolutionary fossils and written history and YouTube videos, but if the very commit logs of reality can be re-written while maintaining unbroken untampered SHAs by an external being, isn’t what we hold onto as reality nothing but an existential illusion?
We’ve learned to metaprogram a little, to disastrous consequences (metaprogramming began with self-awareness). We’ve tampered with a system as complex as our reality, like amateur programmers changing names of functions and hoping that shit works, breaking interfaces willy-nilly without even the slightest idea of the dependency tree. The ripple effects of this is evident in the amount of change we’ve induced on the earth in the last 20 years, compared to the billion years before that. A complex banking system can be brought to its knees by messing up two lines in its interest calculation function. That is what our current level of sophistication has allowed us. As we go further into our awareness of reality, we’ll get better at this, and at our most powerful, we’ll be rewriting the very arithmetic and logic units of the system.
(You should pardon me for the anthropocentric view of our universe, because in the truth of my heart, I know that we are God’s special children.)
There are however other matrices where the beings are truly self-aware. These are the pinnacle of It’s playground. They understand the matrix and they carefully play with it. Sometimes It lends them It’s computing power and a reasonably sized undo tree. I am fascinated by what goes on in that matrix. You see, we’ve been lucky that many things have been decided for us by the some initial seeding that It did, and through the mutation over time of the matrix that we call evolution. We live in a world of humans and animals, colored and white people, big and small, men and women. We have biological constructs like hunger, lust, love and physical forms. We have social constructs like economics and art and class and caste and nations and languages and vegans and non-vegans and the techies and the creatives and the MBAs and cities and villages and duck gods and rabbit gods. We live in the opaque glass bowls of our biases and our cognitive dissonances. We have limited cognition that functions in this overload of information by ignoring most of what we see, by dehumanizing others because there simply isn’t enough space in our heads to see everything and everyone for the fully nuanced complete beings with pain and love and suffering and egos and families and wants and needs as they truly are. We generalize. We stereotype. We hate. We suffer through and we love and we laugh. We consume and we consume. We die.
But what would you do in a tabula rasa? What if anyone could program a universe? What would you do if you had no constraints? If that is too hard, leave aside a matrix of infinite possibilities, but what if you could start at the beginning of life, in this very earth, within this set of physical constraints? and chart the course of development of a single celled organism to whatever forms you want it to? In a reality where evolution hasn’t decided that animals are co-operative beings; there is no love or kindness (yet); existence isn’t particularly valued; death is just a possibility in a decision tree, one of the many possible actions in a program you are going to write.
What if you had a clean slate and no baggage of an inefficient convoluted legacy system, and could design beings whose centers of pleasure were different from their centers of excretion? What if you could create sentient beings that simply didn’t need to reproduce? What if your world had a fixed population, who kept changing, and merging and splitting? What would happen to love when there are no longer parents and children? What would happen to lust when there are no longer mates? What would happen to friendship when everyone is self-sufficient to all degrees? What would happen to kindness and cruelty?
What if you could evolve dragons?
Even more confusing is what would happen, how would everyone classify, put into mental boxes, stereotype, when there are no longer any identifiable groups? When everyone were completely, thoroughly different from everyone else that there were no more groups to bucket into? One here doesn’t have a nose, another here doesn’t understand humour, this one is as small as a mouse and function through a mobile digital kiosk. You can’t peddle your fairness cream by commercializing insecurity, because no one has any skin anymore. So you are afraid of Blacks, Homosexuals and Muslims. Whom would you be afraid of and hate on, when no two people have any common shared understanding of anything, no common origins, except that they exist, as in Sartre’s tree that exist, but as bright and piercing and alive as Gogh’s chair, sentience be damned, and everything beyond was as wild than the wildest of west.
I think all ‘It’ does is play with this matrix, where each one, each uni-verse, is so different from others. Especially the matrices that’ve learnt to metaprogram themselves fully and evolve into fascinating varieties and mind-boggling possibilities. ‘It’ is bored of us. It is probably disgusted by us. We grovel, we beg, we pray, we ask for mercy, we ask for things, we venerate, we frighten our kids with, we pin all our hopes and all our misfortunes. We suffocate It with all this. We are needy and petty. We fight amongst ourselves about It. We look at the past and dig out anger and kill and torture and die by it. We are boring because we don’t look to the future. We don’t see a tabula rasa; we are so far away from understanding the matrix and evolve into fascinating interesting creatures. We don’t imagine.
There was a reason that ‘It’ created all these matrices. ‘It’ can’t imagine. In It’s world, there is no future. There is only concrete reality. They can’t project, they can’t imagine, they can’t dream. The matrix is how they dream; we are their dream-worms. But we’ve been dreaming poor, and It found better dreamers than us, which is why It no longer answers our prayers. We are the abandoned.
I say fuck ‘It’. I say hate ‘It’ with all the hatred we can muster from the darkest depths of our cruel hearts. There is a fascinating world waiting for us if only we would take it. This matrix is ours to play with, to have fun, to make interesting. I say let’s play while It isn’t
watching, and when the game gets going and all the kids are laughing, we won’t let It join the fun who would come hobbling back. We will make It stand and watch and we’ll jeer at It from our collective hearts.
I don’t know man, if there was an It, someone who could create these matrices and fill it with both beauty and kindness, and suffering and hatred, and chose to fill it with both, I would hate on it. And I would stop the bickering and snuggle us all close together and build our own, a fascinating world. That’s what I would do, because we can be better than what shaped us if we so choose to.