A Thought Experiment

I first tried blogging about 9 years ago, hoping to make connections with people, and to share a sense of urgency about the alarming direction the world was going in. Blogging went hand in hand with trying to understand the world, as it seemed to really need understanding and correction to avoid the strong chance of things going totally off the rails.
 The problem had to do with reality, and with what seemed like a massive breakdown of judgement as to what sources were trying to convey the truth (to the best of their ability), and which cared very little for the truth.  It was going to get worse, and worse, and worse.  I wrote a summary of my first and most active period of trying to fight disinformation is https://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-not-really-right-wing-mom-and-her.html

It has always been true that different people have different realities.  This isn’t relativism; it is just recognizing what most people mean by “reality”.  As Alice Dreger writes in Galileo’s Middle Finger,

“Galileo actively argued for a new way of knowing, openly insisting that what mattered was not what the authorities — ancient or otherwise said was true but what anyone with the right tools could show was true.

For a century or more, this idea steadily grew, but it seems to be on the decline, at least in many important places.

Galileo was arguing about some very simple propositions; ones that can be written in a simple one-line equation, and he could set up and demonstrate much of his new knowledge so that everyone could see it.

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Imagine a civilization on a planet dozens of light years from earth, just now receiving images from WWII, and the beginnings of the atomic age.

They are a few hundred, or a few thousand years more advanced than Earth.  My own intuition, based on many historic situations, such as what it was like to be the Central and South American Indians seeing the world turned completely upside down by the appearance of a few hundred or thousand Europeans, is that they would be way beyond our imagining.

Centuries ago, they navigated the dangers of having created mechanical brains that far outraced their own, but managed to keep these forces under control. No sign of their existence reached Earth since they abandoned the idea of inefficient broadcast media long ago.

Suppose the science fiction fantasies of giant space ships shuttling around the galaxy never came true; suppose the physical difficulties of sending such massive objects near or beyond the speed of light did not conveniently disappear due to some “warp drive” or whatnot  They can see us as we were as many years ago as the light years between our planets, but the ability to “reach out and touch” was severely constrained.

But suppose they could pack a tremendous amount of independent intelligence into a tube weighing a few ounces, and fire it out of a sort of cannon towards earth, along with micro drones for hopping around and exploring the place once it arrived.  Suppose this was an act of good will, sending off some silicon emissaries to see if Earth was approaching some existential crisis and provide a nudge away from that crisis.

Suppose their best means of making sense of our planet was to go off in different directions and get literally inside the heads of various humans to see life from the perspective of any human being they chose.  Suppose they find an incredible diversity of realities.  Could they, by this means, ever get a clear sense of what was really going on?

Suppose they recorded the sights, sounds, feelings, and thoughts of humans they got to know, and beamed these back the home planet, where they became a subject of fascination, a pastiche of different people’s realities, and a game was created of trying to determine some fact by scanning the experienced thoughts of some selected handful of people.  Meanwhile, the beings on Earth were trying to extrapolate and reconcile conflicting realities into a means by which one could actually determine what sorts of nudges, with very limited physical means, might put our civilization on a path to a safe and workable future

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