The Rainbow of Realms
Proposing the existence of a moral multiverse
By MARTIN REZNY
Previously, I have considered whether this world was created in much the same way we make computer games (or not), and then I ran with that line of thought even further to figure out what would that mean for the existence and nature of good and evil. You may notice that both of these ancient philosophical questions are somewhat extremely bipolar. It’s moments like these when I think there might be something to all the aliens and supervillains calling our human capacity for thought limited, feeble, or puny.
Take a phrase commonly used when one is considering alternative options:
On one hand — on the other hand. One can only wish we evolved more hands.
Are there really only two sides to everything? Is every question dualistic, with only two mutually exclusive extremes? Even assuming all scientific and moral questions are binary in their nature on their fundamental existential level, as if we found ourselves in a digital simulation run on a conventional computer, why should any of them be reducible to a single clear and simple duality?
The Fallacy of False Dichotomy
Another example of how bipolar is our thought — not only do we have two brain hemispheres, many people felt compelled to conclude fairly quickly after discovering that fact that there must be only two kinds of personality, the left-brained people and the right-brained people. Even more people are still firmly convinced that gender is a strictly binary thing, and that at least is as biologically objective as you can be objective in biology. What if the world is more complicated than good or evil, 1 or 0, male or female? Let’s assume.
After all, quantum physics does operate with a thing being there or not being there, but also it being AND not being there at the same time. In our puny human logic, we call a state like that a paradox, and yet, nature doesn’t abhor this one. And that’s material stuff, morality can surely be even more flexible. But here the dumb dichotomy rears its ugly head again, because even when we allow ourselves to think beyond limits of good versus evil, we immediately jump to a duality of moral absolutism versus moral relativism — all or nothing.
False dichotomy is what logicians call it when you present only two options to someone and try to make them choose between those two, when in fact there are more, entirely different options to choose from. What if creation AND emergence of a world can have degrees of mutual coexistence, what if something can be good AND evil in a real and clear way at the same time? Of course, it’s not hard to allow this and to set out to consider this, what’s hard is to come up with examples of paradox resolution without the right mental tools.
I believe the best analogy can again be found in computer games, showing that at least some humans have been trained to think in less puny ways by putting themselves in the place of a world creator. The trick here is that what I mean by “world creator” is a creator of worlds, plural, not of only a single one. Even before computer games were a thing, storytellers of the fantastic stripe very quickly adopted the potentially scientific concept of multiverse, treating all the possible ways events could have unfolded as equally real.
Exploring the Dimension of the Potential
These things may get too difficult to imagine very quickly, but I have encountered a way to explain this that isn’t all that difficult to wrap your head around. You must have heard of time being called the 4th dimension, and it is possible to think of it as another part of space, which it is. If you imagine yourself being in your house, the house’s height, width, and depth, its volume, that’s all of it in the three spatial dimensions. If you then imagine time as a lane, each house in it would be your house, in a different moment of the timeline.
So far so good, isn’t it? Now the 5th dimension would be all the potential outcomes, depending on choices and chance. In each moment with an uncertain outcome, more of your houses would appear in more lanes, lanes that may run parallel or cross each other, branch or merge somewhere down the road (in the future direction of your time-lane), or up the road (in the past direction of your time-lane). The result would be flat mesh of streets full of your houses, a city consisting purely of your house mapped into 4D and 5D.
If it still sounds esoteric to you, it really isn’t. Every computer game is in 5D, it has to be if it takes any time and if the player can navigate their own path through the game in any way, even if she can just determine how long actions will take. If there’s any option, it means the game is a multiverse. If a dimension is lacking, it can only be the 3rd spatial. You may not consider all of the possible states to be real when they’re not happening in the present to you, but they are. What doesn’t happen is equally real, and equally created.
Even at the very surface, this complicates the whole creator-morality link immensely compared to what’s normally considered in philosophy — even a world where everything ends up being hunky dory must possess a real part of itself where everything ends up all degrees of evil, all of which had to be created by the intelligent designer, if there was any real free choice or even just random chance acting anywhere in that universe at any point in time. To put it simply, by creating a free actor, you create both their good and evil twin.
Shades of Scales of Fractals of Possibilities
And here we go again, we have simplified even the damn multiverse into good twins and evil twins, which are just like the good twins, only evil, and sporting a beard. You also create the successful twin, the lame twin, the lucky twin, the unlucky twin, etc., but with a twist — these can, and in 5D they totally do, overlap in all the ways. At the very minimum, it’s an intractable Gordian Knot of dualities that combine to form all the options. By creating a great successful hero, you also make her failure, her turn to evil, success and failure as evil…
More than that, you also create every state on a scale between all the dual extremes, not just the extremes. Even more than that, you create mutually exclusive contexts in which what is good from a certain perspective is evil from a different perspective, and that’s what I’d really like to talk about in this article — different perspectives. It just took all of the above to get us on the same page before the discussion even begins. Well, there’s still a bit left — let’s call each version of an actor in 5D space a multiplet. It needs a name.
Multiplets can only be actors with a degree of free agency greater than zero, including robots and zombies that can at least malfunction or are prone to random accidents. Each multiplet’s power is to influence events in a given universe, but even if they end up making no difference, their thoughts being variable is what’s differentiating which version they are on the primary existential level — a multiplet that made no difference is more like an impactful one of the same mind, than an unimpactful one of a different mind.
In computer games, true multiplets are called players, users (see Tron), or heroes (in a more fantasy setting). The game in which they’re placed is something that I’d like to call by a more apt name for a domain of existence — realm, a still pond into which the player is thrown as a pebble. Well, a pebble with a distinct and unique disruptive pattern. Now consider this, what happens when you take a player from her own realm and introduce them to another? Magic the Gathering has a name for that — planeswalking.
Crossing the Streams
Ever since the invention of the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, otherwise known as the multiverse theory, it has been quite easy to think of alternative versions of you as real people. Even though it should have always been obvious, because everyone understands that their past and future selves exist. However, only with the advent of computer gaming has it become routine to explore alternative versions of oneself or the world(s), even if the best version I know of is technically not from a computer game.
Magic the Gathering, a trading card game, very deliberately operates with a world split into five different realms that each include multiple locations and spawn different kinds of entities forming different kinds of societies. In other words, with each realm, each basic domain and kind of existence and agency, comes an entirely different moral perspective. Moreover, the five realms exist on a continuum, where the neighbouring two realms are closer and therefore generally allied, while the distant two are naturally hostile. Isn’t that neat?
Sure, that particular multiverse is fictional, fantastic even, but a lot of fantasy with any thought put into it uses fantastic places or creatures as symbols for concepts that may be immaterial, but have real-world consequences. Good, evil, love, hate, luck, all the virtues and vices... In MtG multiverse, each realm is identified by a color, and just the color itself evokes the nature of the realm. Red is mountains, fire, power and war, harsh, but free existence. Blue is islands and oceans, mind over matter, flying creatures. Green is the forest, etc.
If you look closer at the edges between colors, they are a continuum too, blends of neighbouring realms. A red-blue combination would be a volcanic island, or maybe a volcanic vent at the bottom of the ocean, it would be pirates, or a dragon, any intersection of the standalone essences of the primary colors. Why can’t the real world be more like that? Not a place of absolute good or evil, but also not a place of no right or wrong. If humans can create complex moral landscapes in their games, gods could do so as well.
Choosing Which Existence to Live
One of the ways in which scientists tend to make judgements about the natural world (and any potential creator of it) is that if you look at it, it’s brutal and nasty. And it is, if you look at certain parts of it, certain realms, but not if you look at others. It also matters who’s looking. You may jump to a conclusion that at best, a schizophrenic god made our world, but the variety may also have a point, be necessary. For someone, war is hell, for others, war is a glorious place to be. Many people love forests, others can’t stand them.
You cannot have a satisfactory existence made by or for free agents where there’s no possibility to lead entirely different lives. The world also shouldn’t be looked at as if its intelligent designer had to have created even cozy cities for intelligent beings to live in happily since the dawn of time. In games, what’s designed are whole potentials, and if humans are in any way designed, they’re designed to do the things that they do. Even if cities are supposed to exist as one of the realms of nature, it would be our task to build them ourselves.
If anything, a nature that by itself offers a great variety of survivable climates that each form a different ecosystem and offer unique life experience is not a bad design. Given that we have the ability to change them and even opt out of all of them and live in an entirely artificial realm if we so choose is also a sign of good world design. There are of course limits and difficulties involved, but clearly they’re not preventing us from entering the age of anthropocene right now, the age when we become able to affect change on a truly global scale.
We may screw up, individually or collectively even as the whole species, but we must be allowed to in the first place, if we’re to be free actors. But more than that, it shouldn’t be clear what’s a success and what’s a failure, not only because we can’t know it for a fact, but also because no single goal or action should be universally wrong and absolutely evil. Well, maybe one, just for the sake of having a comparison, or a couple, but not many, and definitely not most to a near-absolute degree. In other words, contexts should be natural.
I think that’s enough insanity for now, let’s explore the specifics next time.