...what is going on here!
I'm happy with these essays, and think that they pose a proper threat to any dogmatic understanding of what the "really-Real" is all about, including that account of things brought forward by the Scientific Realist, who thinks in terms of "ultimately real" building blocks such as electrons, protons, Psi-mesons, and the like. There are no such things. Bishop Berkeley was correct in this respect.
I'm also confident that, with the proliferation and technological perfection of the devices we have called "reality chambers," more and more people will be spending most of their time in them, much to their delight. These people will enjoy "real" experiences. Some of them may enjoy machine-generated "real" experiences throughout their entire lifetimes.
And so, if it was a polyvalent understanding of reality-for-persons that we wished to make room for, I think that job is done. Not by me, but by philosophers of Idealist persuasion, who have bent their backs over the years hoping to give a good account of what their increasingly-accomplished scientist and engineer colleagues have brought about. Who would have imagined, 250 years ago, that a significant percentage of the population of planet Earth might one day be retired into energy-efficient mausoleums in which fabulous and accomplished lives might be led, in a new realm called cyberspace? It never occured to me, until recently.
With all this said, I think I have said too much, in suggesting that with a few tons of electrically-excited silicon dioxide, animated in accordance with the inspired instructions of a new society of computer programmers and support personnel, we will have explained (or re-created as artists) all there is on our plates to account for.
It's my "last man on earth not plugged in to a reality simulator" who bothers me most. You remember him. He was the one who attended to the millions of "synthies" lying prone behind tiny quartz windows, enjoying millions of synthetic experiences coordinated by computers. He hated them for the wrong reasons, and I took some satisfaction in that.
However, he could do something that I do from time to time, and that is to walk out into his back yard, and look up into the sky. He sees stars when he does that, as do I. He sees something very much greater than the computers, and the tons of memory chips, and the accomplishments of thousands of computer programmers and support personnel who managed to make machines deliver sensations and idea-constructs to central nervous systems in a manner which would create in those central nervous systems the conviction that certain events and occurrances were happening to them in a real world.
Something else is going on here, as I gaze upwards into the night sky, and I don't feel ashamed to say that I don't know what it is. My "last man on Earth not plugged in to a reality simulator," doesn't know either, although he thinks he does.
I reproach him for that, and wonder if I shouldn't try to write another paragraph or two, tomorrow, hoping to make that argument a bit more clearly still.
© 1993, Gilbert Scott Markle.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.