Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dreams and Philosophy

I just watched batman the animated series, Perchance to Dream. In there, batman had a dream which gave him all he wanted: He was Bruce Wayne, marring Selina(Catwoman), having both his parents, and not Batman! At first he was confused and refused to accept this world, thinking that everything was all wrong. Then as he realised this is all he wanted and able to temporary explain away his previous life, he accepted this dream life, and was going to live happily ever after but for a giltch in the dream. Then the usual batman managed to wake up again and take down the mad hatter who did this to him.
This is an interesting situation which is repeated all over again, in various ways. Have you ever dream a dream so real that if you don't wake up, you'll never know you're dreaming? The matrix was one of the popular movies which explored this concept. We can also imagine that the future maybe so advanced that the main form of entertainment is to escape into that dream state, with your bodily needs tendered by robots automaticly. This concept has all been explored by movies and novels. The question that I want to ask and explore is this: If bruce wayne hadn't find out about the glitch, or if there wasn't a glitch, Would he be justified to stay on in his dream world? Should he just stay there?

The answer will depend on many factors.
  • First situation:
  1. The dream world is real (defined in point 3), identical in every respect to the real world.
  2. The dreamer has no knowledge of another world or any difference between the dream world and the real world.
  3. All the other participants including the laws of Physics, Maths, and Everything and record making (memory) in the dream world would in any practical sense behave as they would have in the real world.
  4. The dreamer may or may not have a way to tranverse between the worlds. ( not important as the dreamer has no idea that he's dreaming)
  • Example: In the multiverse, there's infinitely many Universes, so anything that may happen, can happen, will happen in one of the Universes, not only one but for every possible permuation of action, quantum fluctuations, and decisions, there will be an infinitely many Universes alike in every single aspect. So suppose there's a way for the mind to travel to one of the other Universe and interchange instantaneously, then in the "real" sense you're not in your own "real universe" but in another Universe.
But is this a good defintion of real? What is real anyway? I'll explore that later on. For now, I'll test the concept of "real" by practicality. If the Universe is exactly the same as your original one, which by definition it is, then by all accounts, there's no way of detecting any difference whether you're back in your own Universe or you're in another one, or you're switching to many Universes Instantaneously right now. So what's the point of asking whether this is the real Universe? You won't by any chance meet any duplicate of yourself, and any Universe you left will be filled by another you, the same you but not you.
In case you're worried or scared or confused, don't because in every practical sense, you're in the real Universe, so keep on living and keep on reading. This is hypothetical, you'll have no way of testing or knowing whether the Universe works this way or not. (Even suicide wouldn't answer the question as there's no guarantee that you'll get the answer, but I guarantee you that there won't be anyone to learn it in that case) So RELAX, even if this is true, it won't make the slightest difference in the way your leacturer is going to finish that chapter tomorrow morning or that the eggs in your pot will cook in less than a minute. You'll live! Just as before. No big.

  • Second:
  1. The dream world is real (same definition as above), but different, some parts of it or all parts of it will either favour the dreamer's long wanted cravings, or are against it or are indifferent to the dreamer.
  2. There's two sub cases: The dreamer knows there's something different from the world he is used to. Or the dreamer accepts the world as he know it, perhaps by having amnesia in the transit between worlds.
  3. There's two more subcases here: There's a way to go back or; There's isn't. These are further divided into 2 more cases, the dreamer knows about going back or ; He doesn't.
  4. So having listed down 8 cases in conbinations, I'll try to give an example and treatment for each one.
    • The dreamer knows there's something different, There's a way back, and the dreamer knows it.: This is the situation of time travellers or dimensions travellers. Micheal Crithton in his book had conbined both in Timeline, a book which I had just finished reading. In his novel, there's an technology that transport a group of scientist to the past by bringing them into another Universe. The past of the present Universe was influced by another Universe travelling into ours. This rules out changing history. But that is another topic on time travelling.
So back to our situation, we see no Problem here. The "dreamer" is fully aware of the "dream" world he is in, He is in full control of his choice of worlds, and he is perfectly justified in choosing to stay or to go back. In fact in the book, one of the characters decided to live in the past even if there's no way of going back. As to the case where the world is hostile, like Jumanji, The dreamer will just have to play by the rules and try to survive or find a way out hopefully. Perhaps the problem maybe timing, Like A Sound Of Thunder, the Scientists will have to correct the timeline in time or else it can be the case of no way back and don't even know there's a difference.

  • The dreamer knows there's something different, There's a way back, but the dreamer don't know it or don't know how. This is the situation where batman is in, and Alan in Jumanji before the kids played it, and most of the situations in movies including Matrix. I'll take an example from the Justice League. There's a villain who could make anyone dream of any dream that will make the dreamer as happy as can be. In particular, Superman had all he ever wanted, a wive, a child, a good planet to live in a dream world! But he does know it's different somehow, and tried to go back, because his friends need him. Ok not a very good example.
Anyway, Superman's actions are justified, even if you don't know whether you can go back or not, it's worth a shot to go back because you'll have to. Because it's a dream, a lie. Batman had "bravely" jumped down from a high tower once he knew with certainity that he was dreaming but didn't know how to go back. Philosophically, should someone do this? Should someone risk death at a chance to wake up? This is a deeply unsettling question with many moral impacts. Originally I want to take this up and discuss it, but as this is taking too long a time.

  • There's no way back covering all 4 cases. There's really not much point discussing these, there's no solution, only consolations.
So this is the main point, the dreamer may try, he may know that he's in dream world and knows there no way back. Then this is the worst nightmare or Permanent Universe shift, or best dream... depending. Anyway he had to get used to the place he's in. Like Robinson Crusoe, this is the case where adaptations are necessary. If he doesn't know there's no way out, then it can be a false hope, or as the previous example showed, a risk that batman took. It may work in his world, but don't do that in the Matrix ok?

He may not know he's in the dream world, then lucky him. All he had to do is to keep on living there. There's an example of this in a short time travel story of how a slight change in the distance past can affect all evolution so greatly that we don't even notice we changed, we'll just take for granted that we're suddently fishes that talks, cause that's the way it always was always is and always will be. Scary huh? Not so if you don't know. No point talking about knowing how to go back.

  • The dreamer don't know there's a difference, there's a way back and the dreamer may or may not know it. If the dreamer doesn't know there's a difference, there's no motivation to go back. Say like Tarzan, he didn't knew that there's a species called humans so he contented to live his whole life in the Jungle, with the Gorillas. It doesn't matter to him whether he can go back or not because there's nothing there to go back to in the first place. Until he met Jane of course.
So in this case, there's nothing much of a Problem here, Tarzan's happy. And that's what it matters does it?

  • Third:
  1. The dream world is not real, it is personal, just like a normal dream.
  2. The dream looks real through, or this wouldn't be worth to discuss.
  • The question here then is : if a dream is so real, that if you don't wake up, you won't know it's a dream, should you wake up? Assuming all the future technologies to maintain your body.
Now it is worth to define the concept of real. What is real? Is real things you can sense by all 5 senses? But not everything can be sensed by all 5 senses. Quarks for one is deduced, yet there're as real as you're. Is real just something that existed? But then fake things exist too, Are forgeries real? Are lies real? Are thoughts real? Ok maybe real is the things that everyone can sense or agree upon. So are you're private thoughts real?
I think that all of these are partially true, partially not. So I'll adapt the working view or operative definition or practicality of the concept of reality. When used with thoughts, whatever that's in your mind is real to you, but only as real as you allow it to be. Whatever everyone can agree upon is real to everyone. Since there's forgeries and lies that exist, real when used against them must be separated from the concept of true. Forgeries and lies are real, but they're not true things. Here I shall define true as whatever that the laws of nature allows it to work. Lies are not true because they don't work in the real world but truth does. Imagine: I am not affected by gravity. This sentence exist, it is real, but not true. When used against perception, reality is whatever you perceived. But you can perceive lies too, so there's the true/real distiction again. Here perceived means using all 6 senses, including your mind. So indirectly we can deduce the existance of quarks in our mind. It is with our imagination that we "see" them. That makes all the abstact concepts to be real too but not necessary true. When compared to Illussions, real is defined by Physics! Real Image is one that can be captured on Screen, Virtual one is one that can't. But the Virtual world is every bit as real as the real world, ust different kind of reality.
So when you're dreaming, you're dream world is every bit as real to you. When you're awake, you can agree on reality with others.
When you dream, all achievements will be gone once you wake up; If you're awake, the achievements is shared, still temporary but shared.
Ultimately, the question reduces to whether do you want to be real only to yourself or do you want to share?

I for one want to share.

No comments: