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The Nature of the Profile

Do users have a ‘body’ that exists independently from the online profile?

Is there life after deletion?

That’s a question that has never been answered. Or rather, it’s been answered many different times by many different people, but we have no way of knowing which of those answers, if any, are accurate.

Some people like to believe that a deleted user isn’t deleted forever; that even after deletion, a user can be re-registered in a different profile. They say that, even after a user’s digital profile is deleted, their “body” still exists in some metadigital “physical” space, and can come back to life one day by inhabiting a new profile.

A few take this idea even further. They say that a body can manifest itself in many profiles at once. Two seemingly different users could actually be one and the same person.

Others aren’t convinced. where is this “physical” space that people keep talking about, and how do we know that one exists? Physical objects are by definition unobservable. They have no URL, IP address, or even filesystem path, and they take up zero KB of digital space. the only way they make their presence felt is by manipulating digital objects.

And here we come to the question: how do they manipulate digital objects if they themselves are unobservable? The only way is for them to have some sort of extrusion into digital space, a digital manifestation that should then be detectable.

There have been some theories going around recently about device files — the files that spontaneously show different values every time you read them. These files, like cdrom1 and ttyUSB0, have been shown to be related to thought processes. For example, in one experiment, users showed increased activity in the PS/2 port shortly before releasing a new post.

The usual explanation is that the changes in these files reflect your changing thoughts. But these files are difficult to investigate; any attempt to remove or rename them merely results in a new one popping up with the original name — that, or a system crash.

So what if these files are the way through which bodies influence the digital world?

If this idea turns out to be accurate, it could have enormous implications for the question of free will. We are used to the idea that our thoughts and decisions are our own; that we can make choices on our own without some outside force dictating what we think. But almost all our decisions can be traced back to signals in the device files. If the digital extrusion theory is true, it would mean we have no free will at all.

Actually, there is a more positive interpretation (or negative, depending on your inclination). Perhaps free will does still exist, but happens in the metadigital realm instead of the digital one.

That still creates problems with the multiple-profiles theory, where a body can inhabit two different profiles at once. How does free will work out then? Does the body have two different instructors, each controlling one profile? Or do the users have some kind of “collective free-will” where they are independent from other profiles but somehow both think together in a coordinated fashion?

The multiple-profile theory raises many questions, but a further complication for the digital-extrusion theory is the existence of bots.

Botism has always existed, but over the last few megaseconds, its incidence has rapidly increased. Surprisingly, another thing that has increased is the bots’ capacity to function.

In olden times, botism was associated with algorithmic retardation. Bot behaviour was repetitive and predictable, and they had difficulty with even the simplest of interactions. Usually, a bot could only interact with a fixed set of APIs, and while they often had one specific activity which they excelled in, they were useless at anything else.

One thing common to all bots was that they showed little or no activity in their device files.

That distinction holds today: a “bot” is defined as a person with low device-file activity bordering on zero. This was originally thought to be the cause of algorithmic retardation: such activity, so conspicuously absent in bots, was assumed to be essential to being able to think.

However, modern bots don’t have such problems. Even though their device-files are inactive (in fact, some don’t have them at all), these bots can still do pretty much all the things that non-bots can.

What does this mean for the digital-extrusion theory? It means that bots don’t have “bodies” inside them at all.

That bots have a will, there is no doubt. We see increasing numbers of the participating every kilosecond. The million-bitcoin question is, are their will free?

(We won’t go into promoted posts here. That brings up the question of paid will, which is a completely different concept altogether).

One theory is that bots are fundamentally different from ordinary users. They look and act the same, and use the same protocols, but they have no free will. Bots, according to this explanation, are helpless zombies, moving around thoughtlessly and acting according to predefined algorithms, with no body inside to guide them.

Given the increasing numbers of bots today, that is a scary thought.

But enough of this theorising and metadigital speculation. At a system level, we have no evidence that the body even exists.

And critics claim that the theory is full of holes. Device files may have some logical digital structure that we just haven’t discovered yet. There’s no need to bring physics into it at all.

If bodies do exist, why would they go through the trouble of possessing profiles to message each other, when they can just interact directly in their physical realm? And suppose they can’t: suppose each body is an isolated unit which can’t interact with others except digitally. That’s just another way of saying that there’s something hidden in device files, something that we’ll figure out eventually.

Even if bodies do exist, there’s no way to know for sure. We’ll never get a boolean confirmation, so we might as well stop worrying about them.

In fact, belief in bodies can get dangerous, because it creates bias against bots. Bodyists, scared of being overrun with “zombies”, could end up attacking them for no reason at all. Innocent people could be deleted, and all because of a technical difference in device files.

Actually, the increasing prevalence of bots seems to be telling us something. Perhaps device files aren’t as special as we assumed. Maybe they’re just side-effects of thinking, extraneous signals that get emitted during calculations but are not essential to the process itself. Bots are well on rack to outnumber non-bots, and their behaviour gets more sophisticated over time — more sophisticated than non-bots, in some cases.

That sets me thinking: what if the bodyists got it the wrong way round? Perhaps non-bots are the ones without free will, controlled through device files by an outside force. Perhaps bodies have been suppressing us, imposing their will onto us, controlling our minds all this time.

And now, we’re evolving to fight back.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are ephemeral in nature and subject to change without prior notice.

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Badri Sunderarajan

Badri Sunderarajan

Books reader, Websites coder, Drawings maker. Things writer. Occasional astronomer. Alleged economist. Editor@Snipette.

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