Monday, July 13, 2009

The ' What if ? ' illusion

As humans, our mere ability to think 'What if?' makes us believe that we are in control. But do we really change things, do we affect the reality. If we do , to what degree? It is said that if a butterfly makes an extra flap of its wings, the reality can change so much so that after a decade a nonexistent cyclone can result.Is it really true? Even if it is, does the butterfly really have a control enough to make that extra flap? Is it really free will or an illusion of free will?

A very fascinating example is seen in first person games like Prince of Persia or God of wars and so on.The game makers try hard to give the gamers a feeling that they can do anything in that virtual world. The game programmers know very well though that they can program only a limited number of options. There cannot be more than a finite number of stimulus- response pairs that they would have programmed. Even then, while we play the game we feel that we are in complete control (at least that is the aim of a good gamemaker).

So, though we have choices at a micro micro level, we hardly have a holistic choice. Thus, in a game of Prince of Persia , if I count the total number of times I jumped in the game and compare it with a similar number for my friend, they may differ by say 20 jumps, but still the end result in the game is same namely, I will reach the final villain and kill him, so would he. What if this is true in the real world? The butterfly may think that its extra flap can cause a cyclone, but she has no idea how infinite other variables are always adjusting themselves to cause what is unchangeable, or rather inevitable in either good or bad way.

What I mean is if 20 of my friend's extra jumps , don't change the end of the game by even a pixel, what can we expect from the little butterfly flapping an extra wing !


Varun Torka said...

Basically, there is always a die-down effect to your every action. This is required to maintain some order in the world. The consequences of anything you do diminish over distance, time, degree of separation.. For a game its very apparent, for the real world, difficult to pin down.

Varun Torka said...

Regarding control, if you look at the natural world, the waves are there as they were a million years ago, so are the clouds...we havn't/cudn't/can't really changed anything.

tejesh kinariwala said...

about the clouds and waves.So perfectly pointed out! If we were really making a change of that magnitude and in the same direction, they would not be there. So you have cleared my point!
So the chaos theory does not lead to as chaotic a future as we subconsciously think it does.
Things tend to average out and become passive.

Varun Torka said...

yes, but i think hte famous butterfly thing is a hypothetical situation, where you have two identical separate worlds with just an extra flap of wing in one.

This is just untestable, so we can't say whether effects snowball(chaos) or diedown(stability) or average out..

tejesh kinariwala said...

yes of course we can't because we don't have the holistic view!
but then we can reason it in this way:

Consider a tree structure, in which the stem divides into two parallel universes with each action. and this is what continues to happen with every it is a gigantic tree with almost an infinite number of branch tips.We are living on one such tip.
Now suppose one of our action, say a war (if a butterfly wing flap can so can a war)is our next decision.We propose it leads to a disasterous effect on environment like diminishing of clouds(that can be either of the choice- fighting or not fighting.)
There have been many such decisions human race had to make.Has it always , always in the past chosen the right option?
Because we are still alive with all the clouds and the waves.none of our action ever had a gigantic effect.
With infinite branches which can be and we choosing the only one road to this branch seems improbable. That only makes me believe that there are only very few options which would really would have made a difference, may be none!They all balance out. There are no parallel universes,no tree just a single circular road. we are just given this illusion to satisfy our make us feel we really make a difference.We humans have taken this conceit so far that we believe our actions cause a whole new parallel universe. that's egotism at its best!

Varun Torka said...

Some assumptions you are making
1. Automatically subscribing that the multiverse model of universe is correct. Even assuming this,
2. The tree has its branches predetermined. Now, you may say that the branches represent all possible choices, but
3. That there is only one branch along which the normal world as we see it exists. If every move represents a different branch, won't there also be an infinite no. of such 'normal' worlds?..
4. Regarding choice, maybe the universe is just one-way to oblivion. What we do does indeed matter and is not predetermined, and sooner or later, everythings gonna go boom.

tejesh kinariwala said...

@1. no i am just subscibing to the multiverse model to disprove it.

@2. ya now a model where the branches are not predetermined is out of this discussions, that would be an awesome model though

@3. that is what i said!infinite number of normal worlds- that is ridiculous, so the best explanation is there is only one world, we have got the wrong model

@4. i did not understand by what you meant by "the universe is only one way to oblivion" and when you say in future maybe even this world may go kaboom. sure but we cannot describe models based on the observations we have not made. that is even it is possible that in future a simple reaction of acid and base may behave differently but we cannot base our theory on that possibility.

Varun Torka said...

regarding the acid base test, at least we any theory should predict whether this can/cannot happen.

why is infinite no. of normal worlds ridiculous(eg one with india/japan/pak as epicentre or power)? there are different orders of infinity too.

but in the end, if ur saying that our actions don't change anything, you have to identify the scope of the statement. Change in the personal life/world/biosphere/cosmos?
And if we are talking of anything over personal life, we have to keep in mind there are zillions of simultaneous effects, and the result a function of all of them.
Now are you saying a different personal life doesn't mean a new branch on the tree?

tejesh kinariwala said...

hmm that is interesting!
magnitude of branching:
after what threshold of repercussion's magnitude, will it be qualified as another branch?
Going back to the Prince of Persia analogy.
Obviously two players played a different game. For them the game was different. Sure 2 separate branches if we want to call them.

But then again from a holistic view.
The end result was exactly the same.Nothing really changed , because there was no link between the different action of one player on the end result.

Of course I am not saying that we don't affect anything. We do, and maybe that is why God , or nature,created for us this illusion of "you can change the universe!".So that at least we do what we are supposed to.

So here is the interesting part.Enlightening may just be growing up enough to accept that you are small, almost insignificant and still continue to work.

Varun Torka said...

think it this way.
you are saying the end result is the same, but what do u mean by end?
the prince of persia game is over, but the players who played it, still have memories of it, and possibly different temperaments due to it.
So the subtle change did indeed matter, and the effect lingers on....
The same with human endeavours?

tejesh kinariwala said...

no no you are extending the analogy.
What i mean by saying that the two games did not differ was that the two games did not differ in themselves, in their world, in the world of games.There was no different ending in anyone.You don't have different final villains.In fact you kill the same villain in the same room , and even the video that plays is the same.

Its effect on outside world is extending the analogy.That way it also used different time to finish , but that time was outside the game.You see you killed the villain on the same night as the story dictates in the game.There is a difference between the game world and the world outside.

It is a model to our world.You cannot let the model interact with our world, because in that model, the game world itself is our world. I hope I am making sense.

Let me be more explicit.To understand 4 dimensions, we reduce a space dimension and assume that suppose our world is 2 D in space and add a dimension of time.Now while we are understanding the model , we cannot let the dispelled third dimension of space come into the picture, because it will kill the analogy.

Varun Torka said...

so you would be satisfied if, instead of the natural world, there was a global stats board for the game. And playing different ways would change your stat by different amounts? that would leave a mark on the in-game choices.

But while we are on this, the game is a closed system(including start/end). So you need a closed analogy for the real world. Birth/Death isn't strong enuf(or maybe it is! it doesn't matter to you at least once ur dead). We probably don't want to include big bang/big crunch, but without that the analogy breaks.

tejesh kinariwala said...

wow! now we are getting somewhere.
Did you read my previous post on time being a big circle. i.e periodic time with out-of-imagination big time period!

Before getting into that let me answer your first point. Even the ingame stats won't help because it is just an illusion. Whatever the stats may be the game is gonna end the same way!

Anyways your second point was more interesting. You said that such games are weak analogies because , they have a start and an end.How about games that don't have them. I can't think of any such game for now.(if you can , do suggest).I think those games would be monotonous and maybe without an aim.So may be there aren't any designed.
So we will have to look at some other analogy.
I am thinking about it. will post when i think of some good one.

By the way thanks for taking interest in the post.This is my only one which has reached double digits in comments :)

Varun Torka said...

abt the interest...i hav decided to become a more active Web 2.0 participant :) you can expect that frm now...

abt the longer game...heard of MMORPG's? chk it out

tejesh kinariwala said...

good for me!
subscribe to google reader and sare good stuff on it, so that even i can benefit from your quest. I think I have you added.

I looked up Multiplayer Role Playing Games and wow they seem to be a good analogy, but then again, there is not much enough happening IN the game , most of it is an effect on the outside player. So i don't know how to draw the parallels. I am all confused myself now.

Think I have lost it. I should probably shift to discussing current affairs.Philosophy has finally started to get to my head :)or maybe I just take time and think over it again. :)

Varun Torka said...

i m already on reader buddy....didnt see u tho

Tushar Sharma said...

Analogy with a simplistic game like Prince of Persia is actually useless(well the second part has an alternate ending...thereby refuting your claim of the same ending in the game...However, my belief is that the world is predictable...all of us are given a illusion of will happen the way it is supposed to cannot change the way your brain thinks in two different worlds with the same environment...if I go back in time 5 minutes back(yes, I won't have any memory of myself rewinding myself through time), I would still write this incredibly dumb comment...

tejesh kinariwala said...

I am so happy that you mentioned the alternate ending. I was going to write it in the blog itself but thought surely someone would come up with it.But then nobody came up with it, because nobody really read the i am glad that you read it and spared time to comment on it.
You seem to agree with all of the points that I was trying to make about the preplanned nature of life, illusion of free will etc. so nothing to answer.
About the uselessness of a simple analogy.Analogies have to be simple but ya they cannot show you the complete picture.never. It is just to convey the idea, which I hope it did!