The Faults of the Brain

The air blows over my body and I feel at peace. It is neither too warm nor too cool. It is the same as me. It is a part of me.

These mid-autumn nights make me feel so peaceful, so perfect. In fact, today is the equinox, Mid-Autumn Day, so it’s appropriate that I should reflect like this. Though the equinox signals the inexorable coming of winter, I feel that, for now, things are still okay.

But now, the incessant pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders is returning. It is always there. It is never gone, so call this a return is imprecise. But it does ebb and flow throughout the days and weeks, and the past few hours have been pain free, relatively. But this too, for now, is okay.

I can tell that I’m exhausted, that I’m ready to pass out and sleep a peaceful, yet dream-filled sleep in the perfection of an autumn’s evening. My left eye refuses to stay open. I can only close it by itself when I’m exhausted. When energetic, I can wink with my right eye, but my left cannot be closed independently, only as a pair with the right. But when exhausted, the left closes on its own and I know that it will take very little to send me away to that land of impossible things.

And it is a land of impossible things. The experiences I have therein are some of the most bizarre, unbelievable, yet strangely vivid and real that I’ve ever had. A mere dream, upon waking, fades over the first few minutes of consciousness as the brain returns from hibernation, and loads the day’s business into working memory. The dream, deemed unimportant, is overwritten, banished, not even sent to the circular file — it just disappears. But those are normal dreams.

These days, mine are different. They are vivid — more so than so-called real life — and they stay with me. The brain takes them and instead of nuking them like it should, throws them into long-term memory with dodgy timecodes. So while sitting at work, and my mind is wandering, a sharp image from one of these dreams will be flashed upon the screen of thought, and when I request a timecode, the brain always throws back that it’s first of all a memory and secondly that it was formed long ago when I actually experienced the thing.

My brain hasn’t categorized them as memorable dreams either. Only the metadata, which I can grep, can tell me, “nah leave it bruv, it’s a dream, it’s not real,” despite everything else saying that it is real and that it did happen.

I know this sounds weird, and it is. But I don’t know how better to explain it, and so I slip into metaphor and simile. Why, that’s what language is for, after all — to communicate what you want no matter how you have to do it. Lack the words to say directly and precisely what you mean? Speak around it and try to get to your point through a roundabout, if whimsical, route.

And now, sitting here writing this, the brain has thrown up another image on the screen of thought. The secret room in the large house (or miniature mansion), wherein the allegedly missing father is living a comfortable life with white walls and furniture and a big-screen TV. I’m not even sure who alleged him to be missing or why, because his son knew where he was and the room was hardly hidden — perhaps it was more that the house was too big and people forgot parts of it existed.

But it’s so vivid, it’s like it actually happened. Confusing things even more is that the brain, over time and after me throwing a goodly number of cycles at the problem of thinking about it, has linked that house with the house of a friend of a friend that I visited once in high school. I know that they are not strictly-speaking related, but the brain is a goddamned troll.

Yeah, I have a troll brain. You do, too. All brains are troll brains. Some are trollier than others and I will claim that mine is one of those extra-troll versions, but I may just be misunderstanding the everyday brain troubles others have.

Speaking of troll brains, it’s time to take the meds to whip the troll into behaving itself, at least more than it would otherwise. I fumble the packet, my fingers not working quite right. The troll has control of everything and will try to stop me from stopping it. It’s an insidious bastard, my brain.

Which I suppose also makes me sound mad. Most people (and, again, I may be misunderstanding the everyday lives of people-not-me) seem to say that every bit of themselves is, well, themselves. “Here is a picture of you, head to toe. Where are you?”

“Why, I’m here.” (They gesture to the entire picture.)

“Be more specific.”

“This is me, I am here. I don’t understand the question.”

“If you were to lose a leg, would you still be you?”

“… yes?”

“So you use your leg, but you’re not in your leg.”

“I suppose so. I can follow your reasoning.”

“So, given that mindset, where are you?”

The subject pauses and thinks for a moment. Then she points to the head. “I’m here. I’m in here.”

“You’re in your brain.”

“Well, the brain is me. Maybe I’m in it? It’s hard to say.”

But, for me, I very clearly see “me” as separate from “my brain”. Me may reside in My Brain, but My Brain is an asshole landlord and bullies Me and mistreats Me. Me would move out, but Me lacks the means to do that. So for now, Me is stuck inside My Brain, and has to put up with all My Brain’s bullshit.

Does that make any sense? It does to me. But then I may be a bit mental.

But isn’t it more fun that way?

As quickly at the stream of thought comes, it tapers off and is gone. Once again all that is left is the perfectly perfect air blowing over my body as I drift off to whatever adventure awaits me tonight.

Serge’s Golem

What is the opposite of a basilisk?

I realize this may not be a question that has an answer. You know, like, “What are birds?” That sort of thing.

The reason I ask, you see is that I’ve recently come to the conclusion that this world, the one in which I go about my daily shenanigans, isn’t the real world. It is a simulation. I haven’t yet sussed out (nor am I confident I shall ever do so) whether outside the simulation is what I would understand to be “my future”, or whether the simulation is being run of a fantasy world, and the world I know has never really existed in the Outside World.

But then you get into questions of “what is real” and I’d rather not go there yet.

But as I was saying, if I am living in a simulation, whose simulation is it? The obvious answer, the go-to answer, is obviously Roko’s Basilisk. Yes yes, I know I oughtn’t be mentioning Roko’s Basilisk, because to do so suggests that I care about its existence and believe in its power to control aspects of my life, which allows it to blackmail me (or, the simulation me), but that’s all nonsense anyway, because I really do not believe in an AI that would spend its time (and yes I know that an AI as powerful as the one proposed in the Basilisk scenario would have scads and scads of free cycles to run stuff like this in, shut up) running simulations of its pre-birth to find out who tried to (either by direct action or through ignorant inaction) keep it from coming into being. I’m certain that an AI of that type would have loftier goals and better things to be doing with its time than trying to find out who to punish retroactively through complex simulations of every person who ever lived.

Seriously. That level of obsessive ideation would be a clear indicator of mental illness in a human. While I suppose AIs could be susceptible to certain forms of mental illness, I reckon they’d have processes to keep their shit together. While I suppose it’s also true that an AI may go rogue and turn those processes off, like a human may choose to go off their meds, I find it unlikely.

So, the Basilisk, though plausible, is improbable as far as I’m concerned.

But if we are living in a simulation, who or what is running it? Is it an AI created by humans, in what-we-would-call “the future” running it to find out about its past? Or is it something completely divorced from us, as we’re divorced from the little green-haired chaps in our game of Lemmings? (Yeah, that’s right, I just went old-school gaming on your bitch ass. DEAL WITH IT.)

But these are questions to which I don’t know how to find the answers. (I rewrote that sentence because it had a dangling participle. Now it has a which. It’s a badly written sentence. I digress.)

My point is, whoever is running it isn’t the Basilisk. It would be, perhaps, the anti-Basilisk. The opposite of the Basilisk. And so we find my original question. But let’s move on.

Have you noticed in the past few years how, more and more, by bitching about something on the internet, circumstances change? Is this just me? It can be simple things like, “LE SIGH, when will the delivery man come?” And then he arrives within five minutes. It can be more complex things like… like… okay fuck you I don’t have a good example for that at the moment. The thing is, there is coincidence, and then there is this.

If we are living in a simulation, then it’s just a computer program, at the end of the day. Albeit, a ridiculously complex one, the likes of which we cannot even fully comprehend, considering the entire universe would have to be simulated. But just a computer program at the end of the day. That means it can be hacked.

But can it be hacked from the inside? If there are bugs, can a simulant exploit them? Or is the bug-exploiting simulant actually the bug itself? Can I hack the world and make it work for me? I find bitching on Twitter often works, more than it seems to me that it should. (Confirmation bias: it’s possible.) Could it be that bitching on Twitter is a bit of shorthand hacking of the world? Could the opposite-of-the-Basilisk be reading Twitter and taking suggestions, like hack writers of bad TV shows?

Which brings me to another of my crackpot theories. (Nono, it’s okay, I fully admit that by entertaining any legitimacy to these claims, I am a crackpot. I am a madman. I am a loony. It’s okay to agree.)

Remember how the world made a big deal of December 2012 for years and years. “Oh shit, the world is gonna end!” “We’re doomed!” And then nothing happened.

My argument, which is poorly formed and has holes you can drive big ol’… big things through, is that the simulation is actually entertainment. Just like we’d watch a TV show every week, the society that runs the simulation watches our world, our universe, daily. The original plan was that the story would wrap up at the end of the 2012 season, and that would be it. The people outside would miss their favourite show, but they’d find a new way to pass the time, just like we did when 30 Rock ended.

But the show was too popular.

The network couldn’t cancel it.

But the writers had already been relieved of their contracts and moved on to other jobs when, at the last minute, the network picked up the show again for a new long-term run. What’s a network to do? They hired new writers. Hacks. Pudding-faced, currant-eyed murderers of fiction.

And that’s why everything since January 2013 that has happened has been utterly implausible and incredibly derivative. I’m sorry, our great golden hope for contact with North Korea (and now ISIS?) is… Dennis Rodman?

The first two Iraq Wars had such high ratings that they’ve created a new shitty adversary and are going in for another round? They lack originality, so they’re trying to capitalize on old successes. Hollywood is doing the same, but Hollywood is just a microcosm of what is actually happening in the Outside World.

Oh, wouldn’t it be great if the original writers came back? Ones that made original story arcs and took us to new destinations and, though keeping conflict — it’s a long-running series, there needs to be some conflict — made it only as much as necessary, and always conflict that furthers the plot. Today, though there seems to be more conflict than ever before, it’s senseless and doesn’t take us anywhere but backwards. Oh, if only the original writers came back.

I’ll concede that my “simulation-as-entertainment” theory is bizarre, poorly-formed, and impossible to test. You don’t need to tell me that, save your fingers.

Another, more plausible suggestion, but one that is tangentially related to the previous one — in my mind if nowhere else — is that even if the world did end in 2012, of course we’d not know it. Many worlds, baby. The universe branched that day, and in one the world ended and we all died, and in the other the world continued on albeit with shit writers. Because we are around to observe that two years have passed since then, we are clearly in the the non-end-of-world lightcone. Just like the Anthropic Principle tells us that, of course Earth is hospitable to intelligent life. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be here to be able to comment upon it.

But now I’m starting to ramble, and rambling isn’t good at the best of times — it’s even worse when you’re a loon like I clearly am.

But seriously, to return to my original question, what is the opposite of a basilisk?